Henry Slesar's contributions to season four of Alfred Hitchcock Presents came to an end in May 1959 with "A Night With the Boys," based on his short story "A Fist Full of Money." Slesar's short stories had been adapted four times in season three and four times in season four; he had not yet begun writing teleplays, something that would change with season five.
"A Fist Full of Money" by Henry Slesar and Jay Folb first appeared in the February 1959 issue of Playboy. The story concerns Irv Randall, a young married man who plays poker with his colleagues from work and loses his entire week's pay to Smalley, whose "easy smile" begins to irritate him. Walking home and wondering how to break the news to his wife, Frances, he tears his clothes and smears dirt on his face to make it look like he was mugged.
He arrives home and his wife is concerned about his welfare, but he is surprised when she insists that they call the police. He makes the call and is again surprised when the police ask him to come to the station house right away. At Precinct 23, Irv is shown a young man, a suspect in the mugging. Irv reports that he lost ninety-six dollars and they give him ninety-two dollars that the boy was carrying. Irv's unspoken guilt about framing an innocent man is assuaged when the detective asks him not to press charges.
Next morning, at the office, Irv worries about having taken the young man's money. He is about to call the police and come clean when he discovers that Smalley had been mugged the night before and had not bothered to report the crime!
The story was adapted for television by Bernard C. Schoenfeld and broadcast under the title "A Night With the Boys" late in season four of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, on Sunday, May 10, 1959. As was often the case with Slesar's stories, the print source was quite camera-ready, and the televised version is not significantly different.
The second scene is what makes this episode memorable: Irv walks home along a wonderfully shadowy Universal Studios city street, accompanied by ominous music on the soundtrack. He stops in front of a pawn shop and looks at his own ring and watch; a beat cop accosts him and warns him about the danger posed by hoodlums in the neighborhood. This provides the spark of the idea to fake his own mugging, and he hides in a vacant lot to tear his clothes, spread dirt on himself, and even cut his cheek with a sharp object he picks up.
While Irv's self-doubt and lack of confidence continue after he returns home, he does not go so far as to nearly telephone the police to confess in the morning. Instead, he goes to Smalley's house and discovers the man beaten from an unreported mugging the night before.
This was the first episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to be directed by Brahm; he also directed five episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, twelve episodes of The Twilight Zone, twelve episodes of Thriller, and two episodes of The Outer Limits. Brahm (1893-1982) is arguably the director responsible for the most atmospheric episodes of classic, black and white TV shows; other episodes in this series directed by him and previously discussed include "Final Performance," "Madame Mystery," and "The Cuckoo Clock," all three with either stories or teleplays by Robert Bloch.
|Joe De Santis|
Bernard C. Schoenfeld (1907-1980) wrote the script for "A Night With the Boys"; he also adapted Slesar's "The Right Price" for television.
Portraying Irv Randall is classically handsome John Smith (1931-1995), who was born Robert Errol Van Orden but changed his name to John Smith at the suggestion of his agent, joking that he would be the only one in the business with the otherwise common name. He was in movies from 1944 to 1972 and on TV from 1953 to 1978. He was a regular on Cimarron City (1958-1959) and Laramie (1959-1963). This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock series.
As the unlikeable Smalley, Sam Buffington (1931-1960) is reminiscent of the character actor Roger C. Carmel. Buffington had a brief career in movies and on TV starting in 1957. He appeared in Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) and appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times before taking his own life at age 28.
Finally, Joe DeSantis (1909-1989) is a recognizable character actor who plays the police lieutenant, and Buzz Martin (1939- ) plays Whitey, the young hood who may or may not be a mugger.
"A Night With the Boys" is available on DVD and may be viewed online here.