Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Hitchcock Project-Clark Howard Part Two: Night Fever [10.28] and Wrapup

by Jack Seabrook

Colleen Dewhurst as Nurse Hatch
Hospitalized after being shot in a holdup gone wrong, Gerry Walsh awakens to find himself being questioned by the police, who want him to tell them the location of George Cappo, his partner in crime. Captain Tevell wants to have Walsh transferred to the prison hospital for killing a cop but the doctor says the patient is too sick to move, so Tevell has him handcuffed to the bed, with round the clock guards and steel grilles on the windows. Nurse Alma Hatch, "an extremely plain girl" of about 27, is assigned to care for the prisoner round the clock.

In the days that follow, Walsh flatters Nurse Hatch, telling her that she has "'natural beauty'" and cultivating a relationship with her. He denies having killed the policeman and confesses to having fallen in love with her. After Tevell tells Walsh that he's headed for the electric chair unless he tells the police where to find his partner, Alma offers to help the prisoner and fakes his records so he can stay in the hospital for a few more days. She then agrees to escape with him and helps him prepare.

"One Way Out" was
first published here
When Walsh is well enough to move, Alma gives his guards drugged coffee to put them to sleep before helping him out of the hospital and driving him to a run-down neighborhood. They climb to an upstairs apartment, where Cappo admits them and a voluptuous blond welcomes Walsh, who quickly dismisses Alma. Recalling the many times she has been fooled by men, Alma descends the stairs and tells the waiting policemen where to find the killers.

In "One Way Out," which was first published in the February 1965 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Clark Howard makes the reader believe that Nurse Hatch is desperate and that she falls in love with the manipulative criminal Walsh, so the conclusion, where the nurse is revealed to have been in control of the situation, comes as a surprise. The producers of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour must have liked the story, because it was bought and filmed right away and it aired as the next to last episode of the TV series on May 3, 1965.

Tom Simcox as Gerry Walsh
Retitled "Night Fever," with a teleplay by Gilbert Ralston, the show follows the story closely and is enhanced by a good selection of music cues from other episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; the music sounds like it was written by Bernard Herrmann. The character of Tevell has been split in two, with Detective Sergeant Martinez as the older policeman and Detective Gabe Greeley as the younger. Having two detectives allows for dialogue between them; Greeley flirts with pretty young nurse Wilson, setting the scene for the attraction between the male characters and the female nurses that will be more fully manifest in the relationship between Walsh and Nurse Hatch.

Joe DeSantis as Sgt. Martinez
As Nurse Hatch, Colleen Dewhurst is older and more attractive than the character as described in the story, though she still speaks much of the same dialogue about knowing that she is not pretty. Unlike Howard's short story, where Walsh's thoughts are explained in narrative passages and the reader knows that he is manipulating the nurse, the viewer cannot be as certain of what Walsh is doing, since his thoughts are hidden. About halfway through the show, the detectives briefly discuss taking Nurse Hatch off the case. Martinez comments that "'She's got a wife complex. She wants to be a wife like all the other women.'" When Walsh proposes that Nurse Hatch help him escape, she is more resistant than her counterpart in the story, but when she does agree she kisses her patient, making it clear that there is no turning back.

Don Stewart as Gabe Greely
Most of the episode occurs in Walsh's hospital room and the corridor just outside it. When Nurse Hatch helps him make his escape, the action finally moves outside, though the atmosphere remains oppressively noirish because it is nighttime and it is raining. Nurse Hatch takes Walsh out of the hospital in a wheelchair, with a blanket covering his body and a bandage over half his face. There is a moment of Hitchcockian suspense when the nurse's car pulls up alongside a police car, but the duo make it to the apartment of Walsh's partner and the conclusion plays out as it does in the story. Lacking the narrative description of her thoughts that is found in the short story, Dewhurst must convey to the viewer her character's seeming disappointment with Walsh's choice of women by the dejected way she walks and by her facial expressions. Her lack of surprise on encountering the policemen at the foot of the stairs tells us that she has been cooperating with them; no viewer watching her romance with the prisoner blossom would have expected that it was all a ruse to catch his partner.

Richard Bull as the doctor
"Night Fever" is an effective translation of "One Way Out" from the page to the small screen. The teleplay is by Gilbert Ralston (1912-1999), who was born in Ireland and who worked as a TV producer in the 1950s before trying his hand as a writer, with TV writing credits from 1961 to 1972. The FictionMags Index credits him with seven short stories between 1959 and 1961, five of which were published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. He was also the co-creator of the series, The Wild Wild West. He wrote the screenplays for two camp horror films of the early 1970s, Willard (1971) and Ben (1972), and he also wrote a series of western novels in the early 1970s. "Night Fever" was his only contribution to the Hitchcock TV show.

Don Marshall as the guard
Directing the show is Herbert Coleman (1907-2001), who had a sixty-year career in Hollywood and who is best known as an assistant or second unit director on several Hitchcock films of the 1950s, including Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). Coleman produced sixteen episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964 and 1965 but this is the only episode he directed; perhaps he was given the opportunity because the series was coming to an end. He does a competent job, especially in a shadowy shot when Nurse Hatch returns to Walsh's room early in the show, and later, in the noirish sequence that concludes the episode. A memoir was published in 2007, years after his death, called The Man Who Knew Hitchcock; in it, Coleman recalls this episode as "Night Nurse."

Colleen Dewhurst (1924-1991) gives a strong performance as Nurse Hatch. Born in Canada, she was a well-known stage actress who won two Tony Awards. Her television career lasted from 1957 to 1990 and in that time she won four Emmy Awards. She also appeared in films during that period. This was her only episode of the Hitchcock series. At age 40, she is considerably older than the 27-year-old nurse in Clark Howard's story.

Peggy Lipton as
Nurse Winters
Gerry Walsh, the mostly bedridden killer, is played effectively by Tom Simcox (1937- ), whose screen career spanned the years from 1962 to 1991. He appeared in one other Hitchcock hour.

Playing Sergeant Martinez, the older of the two detectives, is Joe DeSantis (1909-1989), whose career on screen ran from 1949 to 1987 and included numerous TV episodes. He was seen on Thriller, The Outer Limits, and one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "A Night With the Boys."

Don Stewart (1935-2006) plays Gabe Greely, the younger detective. He was on film and TV from 1942 to 2001 but his longest-running role was on the soap opera, The Guiding Light, from 1968 to 1984. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.

In smaller roles:
  • Don Marshall (1936-2016) as the policeman who guards Walsh; he was on screen from 1962 to 1992, had a leading role on Land of the Giants (1968-1970), and appeared in three episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "The Cadaver" and "Isabel."
    Rayford Barnes as George
  • Richard Bull (1924-2014) as the doctor; his long screen career ran from 1956 to 2011 and he was on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour three times, including "Death and the Joyful Woman." He also had a recurring role as a doctor on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968) and he was a regular on Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983).
  • Rayford Barnes (1920-2000) as George, Walsh's partner in crime; he was on screen from 1952-1997, he was seen on The Twilight Zone, and he had parts in three episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "Water's Edge."
    Laurie Mitchell
    as Pinky
  • Laurie Mitchell (1928- ) as Pinky, Walsh's blonde girlfriend; her brief screen career lasted from 1954-1971 and this was her only role on the Hitchcock show.
  • Peggy Lipton (1946- ) as pretty nurse Wilson; this was her third credit in a career that began in 1965 and continues today; she is best known for a lead role on Mod Squad (1968-1973) and for her part in Twin Peaks (1990-1991 and 2017).
"Night Fever"was remade for the 1985 NBC color version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and broadcast on October 6, 1985, as a half-hour episode. In this version, Walsh is seen robbing a liquor store and shooting a policeman before being shot by the policeman's partner. Here, there is no partner in crime for the police to seek. Walsh charms the nurse and she helps him escape, but this time she takes him to her own home, where he discovers that the policeman he killed was her husband. The show ends with Nurse Hatch shooting Walsh. The episode is not bad, as an example of 1980s' TV, but the conclusion does not hold up to scrutiny. The police would never let the wife of a dead cop nurse his killer, let alone leave her with him so that she could help him escape and then kill him! Jeff Kanew, who co-wrote this version with Stephen Kronish, admitted that they did not read Clark Howard's story but rather wrote their teleplay after watching the original TV version and reading a synopsis.

The original version of "Night Fever" is not available on DVD but may be viewed online here. The remake may be viewed online here. Thanks to Peter Enfantino for helping me locate the correct short story and for sending me a scan!

Sources:
Coleman, Herbert. The Man Who Knew Hitchcock: a Hollywood Memoir. Scarecrow Press, 2007.
The FictionMags Index. 21 July 2018, www.philsp.com/homeville/FMI/0start.htm.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
Howard, Clark. “One Way Out.” Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Feb. 1965, pp. 3–15.
IMDb, IMDb.com, 21 July 2018, www.imdb.com/.
“Night Fever.” Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 1, episode 2, NBC, 6 Oct. 1985.
“Night Fever.” The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 10, episode 28, CBS, 3 May 1965.

Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central, 23 July 2018, philsp.com/.
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 July 2018, www.wikipedia.org/.

Clark Howard on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: An Overview and Episode Guide

Two stories by Clark Howard were adapted for the Hitchcock TV series: "Enough Rope for Two," which aired in the third season, and "One Way Out," which was retitled "Night Fever" and which aired as the next to last episode of the tenth and final season. Both shows followed Howard's tales closely, though the first expanded the lead female role to showcase star Jean Hagen and suffered as a result. Each of the episodes stands as a solid example of the crime fiction of its day, and it is unfortunate that the producers of the Hitchcock series did not see fit to adapt more examples of this author's work, especially since his stories became a mainstay of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in the decades that followed.

EPISODE GUIDE-CLARK HOWARD ON ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS/THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR

Episode title-"Enough Rope for Two" [3.7]
Broadcast date-17 November 1957
Teleplay by-Joel Murcott
Based on-"Enough Rope for Two" by Clark Howard
First print appearance-Manhunt February 1957
Notes
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"Night Fever" [10.28]
Broadcast date-3 May 1965
Teleplay by-Gilbert Ralston
Based on-"One Way Out" by Clark Howard
First print appearance-Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine February 1965
Notes
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

In two weeks: Our series on Bernard C. Schoenfeld begins with "Decoy," starring Robert Horton and Cara Williams!

2 comments:

Grant said...

I don't know him from that many things, but Tom Simcox is very good in his other episode of this show, "Triumph." In that one, he has to compete with Jeanette Nolan and Ed Begley Sr., but he does very well.
He's also good as the victim (one of the less likable ones) in the COLUMBO episode "By Dawn's Early Light."

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Grant. Any show with Patrick McGoohan is OK by me!