"On the Nose" was the third tale by Henry Slesar to be adapted for broadcast on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The story on which it is based bears the title "Something Short of Murder!" This title has nothing to do with the plot and sounds like it was tacked on by the editor of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, where it appeared in the November 1957 issue under the pen name of O.H. Leslie.
The story begins as Fran Holland calls her bookie, Phil Cooney, to place a bet on a horse. He refuses to accept, insisting that she first pay him the twenty five dollars she owes. Cooney tells Fran that he will pay her a visit. She looks in the mirror and sees "a young face still, with all the marks of the years concentrated around her eyes. Her hair was jutting in too many directions . . ."
Cooney arrives and wants his money today, threatening to return at six o'clock to ask her husband for it. Fran fears that such a visit would result in her husband's being disappointed in her; she is addicted to gambling and wonders "how could she face that scene again?" Fran has even pawned her engagement ring to support her habit. She scours her apartment but can only find a few dollars in change. Struck with an idea, she walks to the bus stop and pretends to be out of money for bus fare. Fifteen cents at a time, she convinces strangers to give her coins. By three o'clock she has almost fifteen dollars.
Before she can collect any more money, however, a man accosts her and, thinking he is with the police, she goes with him in his car. She soon discovers that he has other intentions and is not a policeman She manages to escape from the car and he crashes; she takes ten dollars from his wallet while he is unconscious. Beating the six o'clock deadline, she pays Cooney what she owes. On returning home, her friend Lila tells her that her husband called: he had to fly to Chicago at the last minute and will not be home tonight. Having learned no lesson from her ordeal, Fran calls Cooney to put five dollars on a horse named Chicago Flyer!
"Something Short of Murder!" is an entertaining story that (like "The Day of the Execution") was snapped up by the producers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, filmed, and broadcast on February 16, 1958. Irving Elman wrote the teleplay, which is a faithful adaptation of the Slesar's story. The TV show opens with a scene at the breakfast table, as Fran's husband Ed notices that her watch is missing and tells her that he will leave her if she starts gambling again. Ed never appears in the short story, but this added scene takes something that was told on the page and dramatizes it onscreen. In scene two, we see Fran's friend Lila; this scene is also new to the story, again dramatizing something that was only referred to on the page. Here, Lila arrives at Fran's apartment and boasts about having won the daily double the day before--"two hundred and sixty eight bucks!"
Jan Sterling (1921-2004) is perfectly cast as Fran; she is a little hard-edged and past her prime, pretty but no longer young. She was 36 years old when "On the Nose" was filmed and her prior film roles included Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951) and The High and the Mighty (1954), for which she received an Academy Award nomination. She appeared in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and another of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. One subtle touch that enhances "On the Nose" is Fran's hairdo, which recalls the hot roller style popular in the 1940s. The fact that Fran still wears it in 1958 suggests that she is behind the times and clinging to a past where she was young and pretty.
Another character actor who makes the most of her brief time onscreen is Linda Watkins (1908-1976), who plays Fran's friend Lila. She appeared twice on the Hitchcock series, three times on Thriller, and also was seen in the memorable made for TV movie, Bad Ronald (1974).
The score in "On the Nose" is notable in the scene where Fran realizes she has a deadline to raise the money to pay Cooney. There is a phrase that sounds like a chiming clock, followed by ominous music that reflects Fran's mood. These episodes were scored with stock music from the studio vault and this episode does not even have a credit for a music supervisor.
Carl Betz (1921-1978), who would soon become famous as Donna Reed's husband on The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966), makes an early appearance as the man who is not a policeman. His handsome, rugged features make him a natural as someone pretending to be a policeman; the revelation that he is actually a con man and a masher is all the more surprising due to his winning smile.
"On the Nose" is available on DVD here or may be viewed online here.