Season two of Alfred Hitchcock Presents began with "Wet Saturday," directed by Hitchcock himself and co-starring John Williams. I reviewed this episode here as part of my series on John Collier.
Williams was next seen in "The Rose Garden," which premiered on CBS on Sunday, December 16, 1956. The credits at the end of the show say that Marian Cockrell wrote the teleplay based on a story by Vincent Fotre, and since I have been unable to find any published story by Fotre (other than a "pictorial feature" in the men's magazine Argosy ("The Last Ride," July 1956), I believe that Fotre's story was either unpublished or merely a treatment that Cockrell expanded.
Vincent Fotre has an interesting background. IMDb reports that he lived from 1901 to 1975 but I think this is wrong and that an online obituary with dates of 1924 to 2014 is more likely correct. He was born in Chicago and moved to Beverly Hills at age 15. He attended UCLA and fought in the Navy in WWII before becoming a contract writer for Warner Brothers. His TV credits span the years from 1956 to 1958 and "The Rose Garden" was his first. His film credits stretch from 1958 to 1972 and include screenplays for Red Nightmare (1962), a Red Scare film, and Baron Blood (1972), directed by Mario Bava. He also wrote a western paperback called The Trailmakers (1961) and a non-fiction book called Why You Lose at Tennis (1973), since he seems to have been an accomplished tennis player.
|Patricia Collinge and John Williams in the rose garden|
"The Rose Garden" unfolds in nine scenes. It begins with a point of view shot from inside a taxi as it drives down a small town street. This is followed by a studio shot inside the car that uses rear projection. Barney is a taxi driver with a southern accent and Alexander Vinton is his passenger, a distinguished gentleman with a British accent who has come from out of town to see Julia Pickering, who has written a novel that his firm would like to publish. Barney is surprised to learn that Julia has written a book, since she is dominated by her sister Cordelia. He comments that Cordelia's husband, who once had been Julia's beau, walked out on his wife.
This initial scene sets up the story effectively and features John Williams as Vinton, an outsider visiting the Deep South. In this small town, the taxi driver knows everybody's business and begins to plant the seeds in Vinton's mind about the relationship between the sisters. The scene ends with another point of view shot from inside the car as it approaches a grand, ante-bellum house.
|Evelyn Varden as Cordelia|
In scene three, Vinton settles into a guest room and quickly notices details that correspond to things in the novel. In fact, the room appears to be the scene of the murder and the murder weapon--a brass candlestick--still stands on the mantel.
Vinton shares coffee with the sisters in the drawing room in scene four, as he and Julia discuss prospects for the book. He comments on the furnishings and points out two antique pistols that are displayed on the wall. He mentions how impressive the novel's setting is and how closely it resembles the actual house. Cordelia expresses an interest in reading the manuscript but Julia resists.
|John Williams as Vinton|
Like "Whodunit," "The Rose Garden" concerns a mystery novelist, yet this time John Williams is not the novelist but rather a representative of her publisher who finds himself playing the role of a detective of sorts. Scene six finds Vinton outside the house, observing the rose garden and the window above it that correspond to those in Julia's novel. He and Julia discuss how the novel will be received in town and he asks her about a key scene in the book, where one sister sees the other dump something in a trench in the rose garden. He begins to suspect that he is at the site of a real burial. As he and Julia talk, it becomes clear that, while they appear to be discussing fictional events, they are really discussing an actual crime. Julia comments that the character in the novel is a coward for not reporting what she saw; we know that she is referring to herself. Her book is a cry for help sent to the outside world by a woman too fearful to confront her domineering sister.
|Cordelia holds Julia at gunpoint|
The ninth and final scene begins with Julia telling Vinton that she is withdrawing her novel and breaking her contract. As he leaves to walk to the train station, he notices that one of the antique pistols is missing from the wall. After he is gone, Julia tells Cordelia that she will go to the sheriff in the morning to tell him to come and dig in the right place. Cordelia threatens her with the antique gun but Vinton returns to save the day. Julia has finally found the courage to stand up to her sister, who leaves the room in disgust. Vinton congratulates Julia on her bravery and suggests that she write him another novel. The final shot shows Vinton as godlike, as the camera looks up at his face from below. We can surmise that it was his intervention in the family that allowed Julia to move beyond her cowardice and ensure that her sister would be brought to task for her crime.
|Patricia Collinge as Julia|
Julia is played by Patricia Collinge (1892-1974), who was born Eileen Collinge in Dublin, Ireland. She debuted on the London stage at age 12 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1907, where she was on the New York stage by 1908. A long career on the stage followed. Her first film role was in 1941's The Little Foxes, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. She appeared in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and contributed to its script as well as to that of Lifeboat (1944). Her film career lasted until 1959. She also made appearances on TV from 1952 to 1967, including six episodes of the Hitchcock series. One of her memorable roles was as "The Landlady."
|Ralph Peters as Barney|
In the small role of Barney, the taxi driver, is Ralph Peters (1902-1959), who had a two-decade career on film and on TV as a character actor playing bit parts. He was in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
"The Rose Garden is available on DVD here.
In two weeks: "I Killed The Count," starring John Williams and Alan Napier!