|Richard Long and Coleen Gray|
This first, extended set piece of "The Opportunity" is shocking for a TV show from 1962. Not a word is ever said about sex, but that is what we are led to believe is being discussed. As far as we can tell, Devore wants Mrs. Callen to sleep with him in exchange for his forgetting about her shoplifting. Mrs. Callen is very attractive and Devore looks her up and down more than once while speaking to her. We think we know what he wants, as does she, but nothing is said--only suggested.
|Tighter, Mrs. Callen!|
|My wife will be away . . .|
Paul then passes some long, sweaty hours alone, tied to his own bed and spread-eagled. In the early hours of the morning he hears Kate come home. She goes to the safe and sees that she has been robbed--"Gone!" Everything!"--she sobs. As she is about to pull the tape off of his mouth, she thinks better of it and decides to make the most of "The Opportunity" presented to her. "What would I do without you?" she tells Paul. "What will I do?" And she takes a pillow and smothers him, the pillow coming down over his face and the camera as the screen fades to black.
What a great episode this is! The story on which it is based is called "Golden Opportunity," written by J.W. Aaron and published in the March 1957 issue of Manhunt. The story differs from the teleplay in a few ways. First, it is narrated by Devore, and in his thoughts we learn right away that "he wasn't interested in having carnal relations" with Mrs. Callen. Instead of ending their time in his office by telling her to come to his house, he makes her wait and tells her that he will call her within a week. These two changes from story to teleplay serve to increase the suspense in the TV show by stringing the viewer along until the last possible moment in thinking that Devore's plans include sex with Mrs. Callen.
The other big change is the addition of the scene at home between Paul and Kate Devore. This scene does not occur in the story, where Kate does not appear until the very end. By adding this scene, the authors of the teleplay provide more of a motive for Paul's actions and expand the characterizations of him and his wife. It is an excellent scene. The story is a good one but the TV show is even better.
|Original illustration from Manhunt|
The authorship of the teleplay is even more interesting, since it is credited to Bryce Walton and Henry Slesar. Bryce Walton was a very busy writer of genre fiction for the pulps and digests from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s. He is credited with over 1000 short stories and a handful of novels. He wrote mysteries, crime stories, and science fiction stories, following the popular trends in the middle decades of the twentieth century like so many other writers who started out being paid by the word. He wrote scripts for Captain Video in the early days of TV around 1950 and his name is found on six episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Three of his stories were adapted by other writers, then he wrote three teleplays himself, one of which was an adaptation of one of his own stories. "The Opportunity" was his last work for the series and his stories will be the subject of a future series on this blog.
I have no evidence on which to base my suspicions, but I think that Walton adapted Aaron's story for TV and then Slesar was asked to revise Walton's teleplay. This seems more likely to me than the other two possibilities, which are a collaboration (Slesar had not collaborated with another writer on any prior teleplay for this series and would not do so until 1964) or a Slesar teleplay that was revised by Walton (Slesar was writing so many teleplays for this series by 1962 that it seems inconceivable that the producers would have asked Walton to rewrite one of his scripts). This was Walton's last credit on the series, while Slesar had ten more scripts still to write before the hour-long series ended in 1965.
"The Opportunity" was directed by Robert Florey (1900-1979), who was born in Paris, France, and who came to the U.S. in 1921. He directed many movies from 1927 to 1951, including The Cocoanuts (1929), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and The Beast With Five Fingers (1946). He moved to television in 1950 and soon was directing only episodic TV. He directed "The Incredible Dr. Markesan" on Thriller, three episodes of The Twilight Zone, one of The Outer Limits, and five of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Changing Heart," by Robert Bloch. He stopped directing in 1964. His work on "The Opportunity" is strong, with a standout shot coming near the end of the episode as the camera looks down on Devore from high above, his body making a giant X as he is tied to the bed.
Richard Long (1921-1974) stars as Paul Devore. Born in Chicago, he started in movies in 1946 and added TV shows in 1954. He was in "Four O'Clock," the episode of Suspicion directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1957, as well as a single episode of Thriller and two of The Twilight Zone. He was in William Castle's House of Haunted Hill (1959), appeared as Gentleman Jack Darby four times on Maverick, and had a recurring role on 77 Sunset Strip, but he is probably best known for starring on two TV series that have had long lives in reruns: The Big Valley (1965-1969) and Nanny and the Professor (1970-1971). In addition to "The Opportunity," he appeared in one episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Playing Mrs. Lois Callen, the attractive but buttoned-up shoplifting suburban wife, is Coleen Gray (1922- ). Born Doris Jensen in Nebraska, she was in movies from 1945 to 1985 and on TV from 1950 to 1986. Among her film roles were parts in Kiss of Death (1947) and Nightmare Alley (also 1947), as well as Red River (1948) and The Killing (1956). This was her only appearance on the Hitchcock series. At 91, she is still active and giving interviews, which may be viewed online, where she discusses her work in some of the classic films I mentioned.
Finally, Rebecca Sand plays Kate Devore. She has a rather sparse list of credits, mostly on TV, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, but I have not found a birth date or any other information about her. She also appeared in a handful of movies.
"The Opportunity" is an entertaining episode that will reward the viewer who looks for it in reruns until it comes out on DVD.
Special thanks to Thomas P. Jabine at the Library of Congress for providing scans of the rare story "Golden Opportunity." As far as I can tell, it has never been reprinted, despite the information in The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion to the contrary.
Aaron, J. W. "Golden Opportunity." Manhunt March 1957: 4-7. Print.
Antenna TV is now running two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents every night! Check the schedule here.
ME TV is now running The Alfred Hitchcock Hour every night! Check the schedule here.
Coming in two weeks: "First Class Honeymoon," starring Robert Webber and Jeremy Slate.