Nearly 30 years old, Larry Fabrizio wants to marry his girlfriend Angie, but she doubts his ability to make money. This is the setup for Henry Slesar's short story, "Trust Me, Mr. Paschetti," which was first published in the June 1959 issue of the men's adventure pulp, Man's World. Larry quits his job working for Patsy's wire joint, which pays $150 a week, and visits the offices of Paschetti Import Co. in downtown Manhattan, where he meets Mr. Paschetti, who had come to America years before with Larry's father, Tony.
Tony lived an honest life while Mr. Paschetti made it big in the import business. Larry is hired at a salary of $75 an hour, which surprises Angie. Larry assures her that he is "thinking about the future" and plans to bide his time before robbing Paschetti and leaving the country with Angie at his side. Larry works for Mr. Paschetti and begins to earn his trust. Eventually, when a big deal comes along, Larry telephones both Paschetti and his business partner and tricks them into making a change in plans by imitating their voices on the telephone.
Is Paschetti truly fooled by Larry's telephone call or is he testing the young man's loyalty? Slesar's story is subtle enough that one could read it either way. Is it a coincidence that, when Paschetti gives Larry the envelope with the money to take on his own, he makes a speech about Larry's mother and says a kind word about his father? A reader of Slesar's tricky tale could believe that it is an elaborate game of cross and double-cross, with Paschetti setting Larry up at the same time that Larry thinks he is tricking Paschetti. Does Larry intend to take the money back before Paschetti makes his surprising confession about his relationship to Larry's mother? These questions add depth to what is, on the surface, a straightforward crime story with a twist at the end.
One may assume that Slesar's agent had trouble selling this story, since his stories were, by 1959, appearing regularly in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, the premiere digests for mystery and crime fiction of the day. "Trust Me, Mr. Paschetti" appeared instead in Man's World, one of the lurid men's adventure pulps that were prevalent from the late 1950s into the 1970s. A review of the table of contents shows the sort of fare that accompanied Slesar's story in the June 1959 issue: "Col. Kennedy's Half-Nude Half-Caste Nanny" and "The Girl in Private Devereux' Combat Boots" were two of the titles.
Slesar's track record with the producers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents must have led to this story's being been sold to the show for adaptation, since it is doubtful that Joan Harrison often looked to publications such as Man's World for material. Slesar adapted his own story and retitled it "The Money"; it was first broadcast on NBC on Tuesday, November 29, 1960, right before "The Fatal Impulse" on Thriller that same evening.
|Will Kuluva and Wolfe Barzell (Miklos)|
The most likely reason for the change has to do with the popular TV series, The Untouchables, which had started airing regularly a year before and which was in its second season when "The Money" premiered. The Untouchables, set in the Great Depression, portrayed numerous mobsters as being of Italian-American descent and was met with howls of protest from Italian-American groups, who did not like its depiction of their group in a negative light. One may assume that the producers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents asked Slesar to change the heritage of his characters so as not to cause additional offense to a large cohort of viewers.
|The Chetnik flag|
Slesar's choice of new surnames is interesting and not likely to be unintentional. Chetnik, Larry's surname in the teleplay, is the name of a Serbian paramilitary organization of the first half of the twentieth century. Bregornick sounds similarly eastern European, and Miklos is a Hungarian name. Slesar thus suggests a vague foreign minority group operating on the fringes of the law without resorting to stereotypes of Italian Americans.
The other item of interest in "The Money" is the direction by Alan Crosland, Jr. (1918-2001), the busy director who did a great deal of work in episodic TV from the 1950s to the 1970s and who was the son of director Alan Crosland, who directed Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer (1927). Alan Crosland, Jr., directed 16 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and three of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, along with episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.
|Four shot with Larry in foreground|
In "The Money," Crosland's direction is impressive, with extensive camera movement and careful thought given to placement of characters within the frame to express unspoken thoughts and relationships. The show opens with a shot where the camera is placed behind the sofa in Angie's apartment. Angie gets up after having been lying on top of Larry, and the camera swings around to the left as Larry sits up, ending in a shot with him in the foreground and her in the rear. She is also reflected in a mirror, and her two faces are above his, showing her place as the dominant partner in the relationship. Crosland's mobile camera follows Larry across the room and the director does not just rely on the usual series of close-ups and two-shots that mark the standard progression of a TV show of this era.
|The camera looks up at Larry|
In the second scene set in Angie's apartment, Angie initially towers over Larry in the frame until he barks at her to "shut up and sit down." The dynamic between the characters changes as Larry begins to assert his power and now he is placed higher than she is in the frame. This scene is followed by the scene where Bregornick confesses his relationship to Larry's mother; in this scene, the shots of Bregornick are straight-on while the shots of Larry are taken from a camera placed on a lower plane, looking up at the young man.
|Larry now has the upper hand|
Robert Loggia (1930- ), who plays Larry, has been acting on TV and in movies since the 1950s. He starred in four short-lived series, including T.H.E. Cat (1966-67), and was featured in four episodes of the Hitchcock series.
Doris Dowling (1923-2004) plays Angie; she was the seventh wife of big band leader Artie Shaw and appeared on the Hitchcock series only once. Her nearly four-decade long career included roles in The Lost Weekend (1945) and The Blue Dahlia (1946).
Alan Crosland Jr.'s other episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents include "The Gloating Place" and "The Big Kick."
"The Money" is not yet available on DVD (the release of the season six boxed set is pending at Amazon) but it may be viewed online for free here.