Ralph Cowell is a successful, middle-aged businessman with a problem named Herta: she is blond, attractive, and much younger than he, she spends money faster than he can earn it, and she happens to be his wife. On top of that, Alfred Sloane, the silent partner in his business venture, asks Ralph to buy him out, but Ralph can't do it because he has overspent on expensive presents for his beloved. Ralph thinks he has solved the problem by murdering Sloane when they meet at night in a seemingly deserted city park, but what Ralph does not realize is that there was a witness to his crime.
The witness is named Peter J. Goodfellow and he is one of "The Derelicts," whose standing in life provides the title for the fifth episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to feature a teleplay by Robert C. Dennis. Goodfellow finds a cigarette case dropped by Sloane during the attack; in the case is an I.O.U. recording Ralph's promise to pay Sloane $10,000 and half of the profits for a dispenser that Ralph invented. Goodfellow tracks Ralph down and proposes a blackmail scheme; he and his friend, Fenton Shanks, move into the guest room at Ralph's house and begin to bleed him dry.
|Philip Reed as Ralph|
Herta cozies up to Goodfellow, who lets it slip that the I.O.U. is hidden in an old envelope. After the bum passes out on the couch, Herta finds the envelope, which only appears to contain photographs of models. She throws the package down on the sleeping derelict and leaves after penning a terse goodbye note to her husband. Ralph arrives home and locates the missing I.O.U., which is stuck to the back of one of the photographs. He burns the evidence and evicts the derelicts from his home.
|Robert Newton as Peter Goodfellow|
"The Derelicts" aired on CBS on Sunday February 5, 1956, midway through the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The credits state that the teleplay is by Robert C. Dennis and that the story is by Terence Maples. As far as I can tell, this was an unpublished story, since no reference work in print or online lists a single published story by Maples, who is something of a mystery man. He has 22 credits in IMDb, all for episodes of various television series, from 1953 to 1969. This is his only credit for the Hitchcock series and none of the other credits include a situation where he wrote a story but did not write the teleplay as well. The only other credit I could find for Maples is for a 1959 radio adaptation of a teleplay he had written for Have Gun, Will Travel in 1958. Maples lived from 1915 to 1980, according to the Social Security Death Index; I was not even able to find an obituary online or in reference books.
|Peggy Knudsen as Herta|
Stevenson (1905-1986) was born in England and moved to the U.S. in 1940; he began directing movies in 1932 and is best known for his work for Walt Disney in the 1960s, including Mary Poppins (1964). He directed seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents,including "Don't Come Back Alive," which also featured a script by Robert C. Dennis. Stevenson later told interviewer Patrick McGilligan that his television work in the '50s led him to be noticed by Disney, and he went on to direct Disney's best live-action films.
|Johnny Silver as Fenton Shanks|
His wife Herta, a hardboiled, blond dame if there ever was one, is played by Peggy Knudsen (1923-1980). She was onscreen from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s and this was her only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The most memorable film in which she appeared was The Big Sleep (1946), in which she plays the wife of gangster Eddie Mars. In "The Derelicts," she gives a strong performance as a gold-digging wife, fifteen years younger than her husband. When she thinks Ralph is broke she begins to pack her bag, but when Goodfellow tells her that he has "the equivalent of ten G's," she appears to warm to his crude advances, though we soon learn that her real goal is to locate the missing I.O.U. Her personality is such that it is no surprise to the viewer that, when Ralph confesses to murder, she is not shocked but rather tells Ralph that she never thought he had it in him.
|Goodfellow and Shanks watch Herta walk away|
|One of several reflective shots|
|Cyril Delevanti as Alfred Sloane|
"The Derelicts" is an excellent episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, where a solid script, crisp direction, and strong performances by the case combine to make a half-hour of noir mixed with comedy. It is available here on DVD or may be viewed online for free here.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville: MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
|The atmospheric scene in the park at night|