The story concerns Stanley Towers, a successful middle-aged businessman who is playing pool at home one day when the maid tells him that a man is at the back door, looking for odd jobs. Stanley tells her to let the man cut wood in exchange for a meal and three dollars. After killing time reading a magazine and watching TV, Stanley ventures into the kitchen for a snack and sees the tramp, suddenly recognizing him as Dave Sumner, a classmate of his at Washington and Lee.
Stanley badgers Dave into telling him the hard luck story of his downfall from college scholar to itinerant worker. Stanley bags about his success in business despite having had a mediocre college career and even boasts about how he cheats on his taxes. Stanley gives Dave $40 and sees him on his way. When his wife Deirdre returns home from a shopping trip, she finds Stanley looking at his college yearbook, where Dave was voted Most Likely to Succeed.
|Howard Morris as Dave, dressed as a servant|
"Beggars Can Be Choosers" displays Slesar's irony in its twist ending, where the man who appeared to be a bum is revealed to have been an investigator in disguise, and the man who was living the high life is brought down by his own boasting and pride. The story is brief and I don't think it is one of Slesar's best, despite its inclusion in Death on Television.
In adapting his own story for television, Slesar must have realized that significant changes needed to be made in order to fill out a half-hour time slot. The first big change comes right at the start, as a truck pulls up in front of the Towers' house and a man in a rumpled raincoat with no luggage hops out of the passenger seat, having hitched a ride. It appears he targeted Stanley's house and, when he goes to the door, he identifies himself to the maid as "an old friend of his, from college." Slesar thus takes the element of chance out of Dave's visit to Stanley.
|Jack Carter as Stanley|
When Stanley chats with Dave in the kitchen, he quickly agrees to hire his old classmate to help out around the house, not just to chop some wood and be on his way, as he did in the short story. We then witness a business meeting held in Stanley's living room, where Louise signs papers making her the "sole owner of a million dollar business," even though she does not understand what is happening. Stanley, his lawyer, and another business associate joke about how they plan to sell the business in six months at a loss, and Dave is silent witness to it all.
|Joanna Moore as Louise|
After the break, we see a long scene in the Towers' living room between Louise and Dave. She craves company and tries to engage him in conversation, yet he is reticent and she does most of the talking, admitting that "Stanley's not curious, but I am." Dave admits that his downfall began with a woman, the boss's daughter, whom he married and who then turned out to be "no angel." They divorced, he could not get another job, and he started to drink. This scene is interesting because of what does not happen, and I think it's due to the fact that this show was produced in 1962. There is a strong sexual tension between the voluptuous Louise and the straight-laced Dave, but it is never brought out into the open. She laughs about how her husband cheats at business and she lies back on the sofa in a low-cut dress, obviously desiring his physical attention. Finally, she asks him to fix her a hot fudge sundae, which seems to be a substitute for the sex she really craves.
|Grams and Wikstrom think the yearbook's name is an|
inside joke referring to associate producer Norman Lloyd
Next morning, Louise asks Dave to drive her somewhere far away, since she is fed up with Stanley and his phony business deals. She suggests that Dave come with her (which supports my reading of the earlier scene where she wants a hot fudge sundae) and Stanley walks into the room and thinks that Dave and Louise are together. Louise tells Stanley off, Dave is fired from his job, and Stanley informs his wife that she is not going anywhere because she is not willing to give up her lifestyle.
|Jack Carter as Stanley|
Much expanded from the short story on which it is based, "Most Likely to Succeed" is far-fetched but fun, with more character development than the slight original story. (Did IRS agents ever really go undercover like this to catch tax cheats?) In his disguise, Dave plays on his knowledge of Stanley's ego, assuming correctly that Stanley can't resist hiring him and keeping him around in order to rub his nose in Stanley's success. Jack Carter is very good as Stanley, his somewhat seedy, low-class persona perfectly fitting the character who has cheated his way to a fortune.
|Howard Morris's face is excluded from the frame|
to add to the surprise as Jack Carter sits waiting
|Does she look like she wants a hot fudge sundae?|
Richard Whorf (1906-1966) directed the TV adaptation, his only work for the Hitchcock series. He was a stage actor, a film actor, and a painter who began directing films in 1942 and TV shows in 1952. He directed episodes of various TV series, including 67 half-hours of The Beverly Hillbillies.
Jack Carter (1923- ), who plays Stanley, was born Jack Chakrin in Brooklyn, New York. He has been a popular stand-up comedian and TV personality since the late 1940s and he is still working today at age 91! This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock series.
|Howard Morris, dressed as a tramp|
"Most Likely to Succeed" also features some character actors who have popped up before on the Hitchcock show: King Calder, last seen in "The Right Kind of Medicine" and John Zaremba, last seen in "The Kerry Blue."
|King Calder as Stanley's lawyer|
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