"The Right Kind of a House" is a good example of a tightly written short story that was adapted for television in classic style. Slesar's story begins on a slow day at Aaron Hacker's real estate office, when a car with a New York license plate pulls up and a fat man in a colorless suit walks in. His name is Waterbury and he is interested in a house for sale on the edge of town. The eight-room colonial is listed for $75,000 but is worth $10,000 at most. Old Sadie Grimes lives there and it has been for sale since her son died, five years before. The house is not well-maintained, but Hacker thinks that the high price tag means that she does not really want to sell.
Waterbury drives out to Sadie's house, where she welcomes him and offers him lemonade. Sadie tells Waterbury that she is not willing to lower her price and he capitulates, agreeing to it with minimal argument. Serving the lemonade, she tells him the history of the house and of her family, including her late son Michael, who grew up without a father and left home. He came back after nine years with a small suitcase, agitated because he was in trouble. A man came the next night, argued with him, and shot and killed him. Sadie learned that her son and the other man had stolen thousands of dollars and that her son had run off with the money, eventually going home and hiding it in the family house. Sadie knew that his killer would return one day for the money and she knew that he would be "willing to pay too much for an old lady's house." Waterbury, his "head rolling loosely on his shoulders," comments that the "lemonade is bitter," and we realize that Sadie has poisoned her son's killer.
The ending of "The Right Kind of a House" is a classic twist, where the payoff is so subtle that it takes a moment to dawn on the reader just what has happened. Slesar's tale was published in the February 1957 issue of Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine.
|The Right Kind of House|
There is an interesting shot (Don Taylor directed the show) when Waterbury first enters Sadie's house: the camera starts way back to show the whole living room and very slowly dollies in until it frames Waterbury and Sadie in a two-shot as they sit down to talk.
|Dollying in slowly|
Why does Sadie lie to the police about having seen the bag? She admits to Waterbury that she lied and that she never searched for the bag. Perhaps her goal from the start was to find her son's killer and bring him to a sort of rough justice by poisoning him; by making it known that the money was never found she ensured that the killer would one day return. The final scene of the show is a tense one, when Sadie and Waterbury reveal themselves to each other. Waterbury's salesman's smile is frightening, as he threatens the older woman in a calm voice, but she gains the upper hand by pointing out that she did not tell him her story until after he had drunk his lemonade. He collapses on the floor as she rocks silently in her chair, recalling the rocking figure of Eternal Motherhood in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916) and Walt Whitman's "Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking"--here, the figure of the rocking woman represents the justice that awaited the guilty man sitting across from her.
Robert C. Dennis (1915-1983) wrote hundreds of scripts for television in his career, including 30 for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He worked on the script for "A True Account" along with Fredric Brown. He also wrote for Batman and The Outer Limits.
Don Taylor (1920-1998) began his career as an actor in the 1940s but also began directing in the 1950s, mostly for television. He acted in one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and directed seven.
Robert Emhardt (1914-1994) had a thirty year career in TV and movies and appeared in seven episodes of the Hitchcock series, including De Mortuis.
Jeanette Nolan (1911-1988) began her career on radio in the 1930s and moved into movies in the 1940s and TV in the 1950s. She played hundreds of roles on TV and was seen in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953) and Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), where she was the voice of Mrs. Bates. She was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents four times, and she also had roles on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Thriller, The Twilight Zone, and Night Gallery.
|Jeanette Nolan and James Drury|
|Harry O. Tyler|