After "The Equalizer," Robert C. Dennis's next script for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "Guest for Breakfast," which was adapted from a story by C. B. Gilford, who also wrote the story on which "The Equalizer" was based.
Broadcast on CBS on Sunday, February 23, 1958, "Guest for Breakfast" is a tale of marital discord, where an unhappy couple's problems are brought into sharp focus when a crisis erupts. The show begins as Jordan and Eve Roth bicker over breakfast in what looks like just another day in a long-running argument. Eve taunts Jordan about Sylvia Lester, who has been his lover for a year, and Jordan responds with cruel remarks about Eve. The doorbell rings and a disheveled man enters; he knocks Eve down and pulls a gun out of his pocket. He is Chester Lacie, on the run without much to lose.
|Scott McKay as Jordan|
Jordan is impressed with his own wit and is smooth in speech and appearance, in contrast with the rumpled, plain-spoken gunman. Lacie tells Jordan to go to work, but Eve says that if Jordan leaves, he won't be back--he hates Eve and would be happy if Lacie killed her. Jordan and Eve argue until the gunman tells Jordan to call in sick to work.
|Joan Tetzel as Eve|
Jordan emerges from the bedroom and leaps on Lacie, overpowering him. Later, after the police have gone, Jordan and Eve resume their bickering. Eve admits that she pushed Lacie's arm and saved Jordan from being shot. Nether Jordan nor Eve can explain why each acted to help the other at the peak of the crisis. Jordan surmises he might not have acted boldly for anyone but Eve. She bursts into tears and he comforts her in an unexpectedly tender moment. Schmaltzy music begins to play on the soundtrack and the episode ends with this dialogue:
|Richard Shepard as Lacie|
Eve: "You Jordan, me Eve."
They are man and his mate, linked by marriage despite their mutual disappointment, and they acted on instinct to save each other in a time of crisis.
Needless to say, the ending of "Guest for Breakfast" is unsatisfactory. The rest of the episode develops a good sense of tension and the story adheres to Aristotle's three unities for rules for drama in that it follows one action, occurs in no more than 24 hours, and exists in a single physical space. The film is directed by Paul Henreid, who uses some deep focus shots to keep all three characters in focus even when they are on different planes of a shot. The performances by all three actors are strong and, were it not for the ending, it would be a very good show.
|A deep focus shot|
Gilford's ending fits much better with the relationship that has been established between Jordan and Eve Roth. The crisis and their unexpected defense of each other makes them reconsider their marriage, but no sudden conclusions are reached. This is much more believable than the televised version, with its corny evocation of Tarzan and Jane and its suggestion that the Roths reverted to the law of the jungle.
|A stuntman stands in for McKay|
C. B. Gilford (1920-2010) wrote stories that served as the basis for five episodes of the Hitchcock series; the last one discussed here was "The Equalizer."
Playing Eve Roth is Joan Tetzel (1921-1977), who performed many parts on the Broadway stage from the 1930s into the 1960s. She was married to Oscar Homolka from 1949 until her death, appeared in movies from 1946 to 1965 and on TV from 1953 to 1976. She was in Duel in the Sun (1946) and Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947). She was on Thriller twice but this was her only appearance on the Hitchcock show.
|"Guest for Breakfast" was|
first published here
Finally, Richard Shepard plays Lacie. He has nine credits on TV between 1956 and 1963 but I have not been able to find any other information about him.
In 1964, C. B. Gilford adapted his own short story as a one-act play, published under the same title. The story is completely rewritten though the key events are the same. In this version, Jordan and Eve's roles are reversed--he works a dull job as a bookkeeper while she has just landed a job as an advertising executive and makes more money than he does. This is the source of the friction between them and there is no mention of an adulterous affair.
Lacey broke out of prison and killed a guard; here, he did not kill his wife and her lover and does not compare the situation at his home to that of Jordan and Eve. This time, Eve also works in an office and has to cancel her appointments; she has more cash on her than Jordan does! The balance of power and motivations of the characters are much different than those in the original story or the TV version. As a result, the ending seems to work better, since they are not as estranged in the beginning. The play runs just twelve pages and was published for amateur theater companies to perform.
In the original story, Jordan and Eve have the surname "Roth" and Chester has the surname "Lacie." These are changed to "Ross" and "Lacey" in the play. The TV version does not identify the characters' names in the credits, but it may be the case that Robert C. Dennis changed the names for TV and C.B. Gilford followed suit in his play.
"Guest for Breakfast" is available on DVD here or may be viewed for free online here.
Thanks to Peter Enfantino for a copy of the story.
Read the GenreSnaps review of "Guest for Breakfast" here.
In two weeks: "Fatal Figures," with John McGiver!