|"A Night With the Boys"|
"The Brat" (1955) was his first published short story and it would be followed by hundreds more. He also wrote six novels, as well as many teleplays, radio plays, and movie scripts. The Gray Flannel Shroud, a 1959 novel set in the world of advertising, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1960 for best first mystery novel.
Writing in Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, Frances McConachie noted Slesar's "mixture of detection, popular psychology, Gothic horror, and romance," and these themes were evident in his stories and teleplays produced as episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Slesar was involved, either as the writer of a story, a teleplay, or both, in 47 episodes of the Hitchcock series--37 half hours and ten hours--making him the most frequent contributor among the many writers involved in this classic show.
Henry Slesar's work for Alfred Hitchcock Presents began in the fall of 1957, during the show's third season, with "Heart of Gold," an adaptation by another writer of a Slesar short story. This tough little slice of noir was followed by three more episodes in season three: "Night of the Execution," which features a good cast that includes Pat Hingle and Russell Collins; "On the Nose," a light crime story; and "The Right Kind of House," which has a classic twist and continues to examine mother-son relationships, something that was also the subject of "Heart of Gold."
|"Forty Detectives Later"|
Slesar was able to break into the business of writing teleplays with his first offering in season five, "Forty Detectives Later," an outstanding homage to (and parody of) classic private investigator films. "Insomnia" is a gritty crime drama with a haunted performance by Dennis Weaver and another teleplay by Slesar. The season's final two episodes were based on stories by Slesar but he did not write the teleplays: "One Grave Too Many" is shadowy and surprising, while "Party Line" lulls the viewer into thinking it is light fare before transforming into a shocking tale of horror with inventive direction by Hilton Green.
Henry Slesar was most productive in season seven, the last season in the half hour format, writing the teleplays for thirteen episodes, eleven of which were based on his stories and one of which was an original. These shows ran the gamut but were, on the whole, of high quality. Alan Crosland, Jr., directed three good shows: "Cop for a Day, a hardboiled effort starring Walter Matthau; "Keep Me Company," in which Anne Francis plays a lonely housewife; and "The Right Kind of Medicine," with Robert Redford as a cop-killer on the run.
Thirty-seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents were either based on a story by Henry Slesar or featured his teleplay; he quickly grew to become a mainstay of the series. He later commented that he "much preferred writing for the half-hour show," and this may be due to the fact that his work for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was not as successful as his work for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Slesar was involved in one way or another in ten episodes of the hour-long series.
Fortunately, the six episodes Slesar had a hand in during the second season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour include some gems. The first three hours were adapted by Slesar from his own stories: "Blood Bargain" is a hardboiled tale of a hit man who falls for the wrong woman; "Starring the Defense" is his most successful courtroom drama yet; and "Behind the Locked Door" features a great performance by Gloria Swanson and one of the most shattering endings of the series. The last three hours that Slesar worked on were "Who Needs an Enemy?", adapted by Arthur Ross from a short story by Slesar; "The Second Verdict," adapted by Slesar and Alfred Hayes from a short story by Slesar; and "Isabel," adapted by Slesar and William Fay from a novel by S.B. Hough. "Enemy" is the most successful comedy of any episode involving Slesar, "Isabel" is the best transition from novel to small screen of Slesar's hours, and "Verdict" is his best courtroom drama, in large part due to strong performances by Martin Landau and Frank Gorshin.
An episode guide to Henry Slesar's work on Alfred Hitchcock Presents may be found here.
Henry Slesar on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Episode Guide
An introduction to The Hitchcock Project may be found here. The episodes that have been review so far are listed below. Click on any episode name to jump to the post.
|"Keep Me Company"|
1.20-And So Died Riabouchinska
1.23-Back for Christmas
2.31-The Night the World Ended
2.39-The Dangerous People
3.1-The Glass Eye
The Right Kind of House
|"The Right Kind of Medicine"|
4.14-The Morning After
4.32-Human Interest Story
4.34-A True Account
5.26-Mother, May I Go Out To Swim?
5.27-The Cuckoo Clock
5.28-Forty Detectives Later
6.18-The Greatest Monster of Them All
6.31-The Gloating Place
7.4-Cop for a Day
7.5-Keep Me Company
|"Behind the Locked Door"|
7.11-The Right Kind of Medicine
7.16-The Case of M.J.H.
7.17-The Faith of Aaron Menefee
7.25-The Last Remains
S.1-The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (shown only in syndication)
8.4-I Saw the Whole Thing
9.1-A Home Away From Home
9.7-Starring the Defense
9.13-The Magic Shop
9.22-Behind the Locked Door
9.27-The Sign of Satan
9.28-Who Needs An Enemy?
9.30-The Second Verdict
10.4-The Life Work of Juan Diaz
10.27-The Second Wife
IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.
*In two weeks: a series on Roald Dahl begins with "Lamb to the Slaughter"!