|Leora Dana as Vera Brown|
John Brown is the owner of John Brown and Company, a furniture manufacturer that has had years of success making and selling good quality furniture. Brown is played by Russell Collins, who was born in 1897, making him almost 59 years old when this episode was filmed in the summer or fall of 1956. His rival is Harold Skinner, played by Hugh Marlowe, born in 1911 and thus about 14 years younger than Collins. Skinner is a junior partner in the company and, as the show opens, he is showing Brown drawings of modern furniture that he thinks the company should manufacture and sell. Brown refuses, determined to stick to doing things the old-fashioned way, since this has always been profitable.
|Russell Collins as John Brown|
Or are they? The next scene takes place five weeks after the lunch, when Harold visits John at home only to discover that he is away. Vera welcomes him and, once the maid is out of earshot, the doors are closed and it is apparent that Harold and Vera have become lovers. He calls her "darling" and remarks that they are running out of secret ways to meet. They kiss passionately but Harold wants to talk about how to get John out of the way so he can begin to implement his new ideas for the business. Harold comes up with a scheme to make John think that he is becoming forgetful with age and Vera responds, in a turn of phrase that would fit the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, that Harold has a "wonderful, horrible idea!"
|Hugh Marlowe as Harold Skinner|
Vera speaks with John's doctor, who suggests that he be examined by a psychiatrist. John and Vera then visit Dr. Croatman, and when John realizes that the doctor is a psychiatrist, he imagines himself lying on the doctor's couch with the doctor sitting beside him, analyzing his problems. Stevens inserts an imaginary shot in this scene to show what John is thinking. At this point, the show veers into comedy as John runs out of the office yelling "He thinks I'm insane!" and the doctor tells Vera that she should place her husband in a rest home. Humorous musical cues underline the intent that the story is not to be taken seriously.
|John's vision of what happens|
in the psychiatrist's office
Meanwhile, John Brown himself seems quite happy in the rest home. He is full of smiles and spends his time painting abstract pictures. When Dr. Croatman visits and asks John what he is trying to interpret in one spot on his painting, John says: "How do I know? I'm loony!" John is not as dumb as he looks, however; the accountant for the furniture company tells Harold that the firm is on the verge of insolvency, undoubtedly due to the change in product line from carefully crafted traditional furniture to mass produced contemporary furniture. Now Harold needs Vera's help once again and meets with her to tell her that they need to secure a loan of $50,000 to keep the business afloat. Vera visits John at the rest home and sees that he is happy and relaxed, wearing sunglasses and an open collar. When she tells him that the business needs him to come back he replies that he has been out of touch for nearly a year and no longer has the skills to run the company. John agrees to let Dr. Croatman perform another psychiatric exam but doubts that it will result in his discharge.
|Relaxing at the rest home|
|The troublesome discharge order|
|The story was first|
Dennis's script is a clever updating of Burke's story. He brings it into the 1950s without changing the overall plot in any significant way and adds enough humor to make the show a light comedy instead of a story of revenge. Perhaps the source story was thought to be too flimsy to support a serious script; in any case, the TV adaptation is most enjoyable.
"John Brown's Body" is directed by Robert Stevens (1920-1989), who directed 49 episodes of the Hitchcock series; the last one reviewed in this series was "Place of Shadows."
|Harold and Vera learn that John|
won't be coming home soon
John Brown's body is inhabited by Russell Collins (1897-1865), a wonderful actor whose stage career began in the 1920s. He followed this with film roles starting in the 1930s and with TV roles starting in the early 1950s. Most of what we see of him today is from later in his career, such as his role on "Kick the Can" on The Twilight Zone and his ten appearances on the Hitchcock show, including Fredric Brown's "The Night the World Ended."
Hugh Marlowe (1911-1982) plays Harold Skinner in a role probably meant to be younger than the actor's real age at the time. Born Hugh Herbert Hipple, Marlowe had a long and successful career that started on stage and radio in the 1930s. He was on screen from the mid-1930s to the late 1960s and went through a period where he played Ellery Queen in series on radio and TV. He was in All About Eve (1950), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), six episodes of the Hitchcock series, and nearly 2000 episodes of the soap opera Another World, from 1969 to 1982.
|Edmon Ryan as Dr. Croatman|
"John Brown's Body" is available on DVD here or may be viewed for free online here.
Burke, Thomas. "John Brown's Body." [1931.] Rpt. in A Tea-Shop in Limehouse. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1969. 145-157.
IMDb. IMDb.com. 25 Nov. 2015.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001.
"John Brown's Body." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. CBS. 30 Dec. 1956.
In two weeks: "Nightmare in 4-D" with Henry Jones and Barbara Baxley!
|The last shot of John Brown|