Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Hitchcock Project-Henry Slesar Part Fifteen: "The Money" [6.9]

by Jack Seabrook

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.

Robert Loggia
Paschetti gives Larry $30,000 in an envelope to deliver and tells him that he had been engaged to Larry's mother back in Milan, before she had met Larry's father. He tells Larry, "'Your Pop was the best guy on earth. Stupid, but the best.'" Larry shows Angie the money and, for the first time, begins to boss her around. That evening, he goes to Paschetti's apartment and confesses, earning the old man's forgiveness. Back at Angie's apartment, Larry tells her that, now that he has gained the old man's trust, he is ready for the big payoff.

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 Money" follows the source story closely and has two particularly notable elements. The first has to do with the heritage of the main characters. In "Trust Me, Mr. Paschetti," Larry Fabrizio, his late father Tony, and Mr. Paschetti are all Italian-Americans. Paschetti and Tony came to the United States from Italy together and Paschetti had been engaged to Larry's mother in Milan. In "The Money," Larry's last name is Chetnik, Paschetti becomes Stephen Bregornick, and even Paschetti's business partner becomes "Miklos." Why were all of the surnames changed from Italian to something else and what do the new names represent?

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
The camera placement continues to be unusual: when Larry arrives at Paschetti's office, the camera starts out low, behind the secretary's typewriter, then glides right and up into a two-shot. Larry drives the story, and Crosland's camera is at its most fluid when following his movements. Another unusual feature is the elaborate set for Paschetti's ornate apartment, which Crosland films in a medium long shot that allows the viewer to see all four characters together in one scene, with Larry in the foreground. Placing him closest to the viewer allows us to see him listening to the older men talk business; Larry is silently learning from them.

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
The next scene in Angie's apartment demonstrates the development of Larry's self-confidence and the change it has wrought in his relationship with his girlfriend; he tells her to "sit down" and is clearly in charge, filled with his own sense of power. In one shot, he walks toward the camera as it slowly backs away, almost as if it feels threatened by the newly empowered Larry. When Larry visits Bregornick and gives back the money, he turns to leave and Crosland sets up another fine shot with Larry in the foreground and the two older men small in the rear distance. Once again, the balance of power is shifting. The final scene in Angie's apartment reverses the one that opened the episode--now, Larry is on top, looming above Angie as she lies on the sofa.

Doris Dowling
"The Money" is a good example of an episode where the teleplay is a run of the mill melodrama but the direction and camerawork are exciting and give it more depth than it would otherwise possess. The show could as easily be called "The Power," since its main theme deals with Larry's developing sense of his own abilities. The twist ending, so important to the Hitchcock series as a whole, is almost unnecessary here, since the story that comes before it is satisfying without the about-face.

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).

Will Kuluva
Will Kuluva (1917-1990) turns in the episode's most complex and emotional performance as Bregornick. He was in movies from 1932 and on TV from 1949. He only appeared in this episode of the Hitchcock series but he was also on The Twilight Zone once.

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.

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
IMDb., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.
"The Money." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. NBC. 29 Nov. 1960. Television.
Slesar, Henry. ""Trust Me, Mr. Paschetti"" Clean Crimes and Neat Murders: Alfred Hitchcock's Hand Picked Selection of Stories by Henry Slesar. New York: Avon, 1960. 30-41. Print.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.


Walker Martin said...

Excellent review of the story and TV episode. I collect the men's adventure magazines but only because of the crazy insane covers. I guess a lot of WW II vets got a laugh out of the covers showing girls in their underwear partying with Nazis, meanwhile a GI is in the background coming to the rescue.

I've often wondered if these magazines ever published anything readable. Every time I try to read a story I give up because usually the plot is another unbelievable Nazi scheme. You have answered my question by discussing this Henry Slesar story.

Harvey Chartrand said...

An old mobster like Will Kuluva wouldn't have accepted even a tentative betrayal. THE MONEY is basically the same story as the more realistic DRY RUN episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, in which a mob boss (David White) exposes a young gangster (Robert Vaughn) to temptation to find out if he will remain loyal. Vaughn flunks the test. Born in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kuluva was a multi-ethnic actor like Frank Silvera. It was difficult to pinpoint Kuluva's nationality.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Walker! Someday I'll get to see your collection...

And Harvey, good point about Kuluva.

John Scoleri said...

Walker, you don't have this book yet?

Peter Enfantino said...

It's nice of you, Jack, to let us see the serialization of your book on AHP. When can I order it on Amazon :>

Jack Seabrook said...

I'd estimate about 2025.

Walker Martin said...

John, I do have WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH and have actually read some of it. If I ever recover I might even try and review it. I see it has 15 favorable reviews on but it's a puzzle to me how these stories can be read without going crazy.

Anonymous said...

@ Harvey Chartrand. Actually, according to Will Kuluva's biography from various sources online, he was born right here in the USA... in Missouri. Kansas City, to be exact. I've always wondered his nationality myself. I'm guessing maybe some italian or jewish ancestry. He has quite a screen presence which make him fun to watch.

Jack Seabrook said...

I agree with you about Kuluva. He gives a very strong performance in this episode.