Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Hitchcock Project-Alfred Hayes Part Five: The Photographer and the Undertaker [10.21] and Wrapup

by Jack Seabrook

The last episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour to air with a script by Alfred Hayes was "The Photographer and the Undertaker," which was broadcast on NBC on Monday, March 15, 1965. Based on the short story of the same title by James Holding that was published in the November 1962 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, the TV version follows the story closely but also expands it, adding an important new character and deepening its themes.

Holding's story takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Mario Andradas is a killer for hire who gets his assignments from a group known as the Management. When he sees a man named Gomez watching his photography studio from the shadows across the street, Andradas realizes that Gomez intends to kill him.

"The Photographer and the
Undertaker" was first
published here

Manuel thinks back to having met with his contact Rodolfo, who gave him a third of a million cruzeiros (about $6000 today) in advance to kill a man who lives only eight blocks away. The assassin located the residence of his target, a mortician named Gomez, and observed the man returning home. That evening, Manuel noticed Gomez observing him in much the same way and realized that they had been hired to kill each other. Manuel understands that Gomez is the Undertaker, an assassin for hire whom the management calls when Manuel is not available. Gomez telephones, asking to make an appointment to have his portrait taken, and they agree to meet at ten o'clock that night.

When Gomez arrives at ten, Manuel is in his darkroom. Gomez enters and Manuel has the upper hand, being used to the darkness. He avoids a knife thrust and breaks Gomez's wrist before tying the other assassin to a chair in his studio. Manuel explains that he has been hired to kill Gomez for a million cruzeiros. Gomez admits that he was promised the same amount. Manuel explains that it must be a competition; the Management only needs one killer and chose this method to select the best one. Gomez tells Manuel that his contact is a man named Ernesto; he reveals where they meet and how proof of death is provided by a newspaper obituary. Gomez prefers to use a knife and fire to accomplish his ends.

Jack Cassidy as Arthur Mannix

Suddenly, Gomez pulls a small knife from behind his neck and throws it at Manuel's heart. Manuel turns quickly and the knife lodges in his upper arm. He kills Gomez with a quick blow to the throat. Manuel takes a series of photographs to prove that his target is dead before placing the corpse in his own bed and setting fire to his studio. The next afternoon, Manuel, pretending to be Gomez's imbecilic nephew, gives a newspaper obituary to Ernest and receives the balance of payment due to Gomez for the murder of the Photographer. The next day, Manuel calls his contact, Rodolpho, and when they meet he shows the photographs that prove the death of Gomez. Rodolpho agrees to pay Manuel and gives him the name of his next target: Ernesto.

James Holding (1907-1997), the story's author, was born James Clark Carlisle Jr. and wrote over 175 short stories that were published between 1960 and 1992. He also wrote juvenile mystery novels, including three featuring Ellery Queen Jr. Holding was nominated for an Edgar Award in 1983 for Best Short Story. Among his series characters was the Photographer, who was featured in 17 stories that were published between 1960 and 1984. "The Photographer and the Undertaker" was the second story in the series and it was Holding's only story to be adapted for television.

Harry Townes as Hiram Price

The show that was produced from Alfred Hayes's teleplay is a delight. The location of the story is moved from Brazil to Los Angeles, and all of the characters are Americans: Manuel Andradas has been renamed Arthur Mannix. In the first scene, we see Mannix at work, as he suddenly appears and kills a man who is sitting alone, watching a baseball game on TV. He takes a Polaroid photo of the victim and is clearly a professional, having a sip from the victim's glass of wine and sitting in his chair, in no hurry to vacate the scene.

The short story's Rodolpho has become attorney Jonathan Rudolph, a businessman with a secretary. Alone in his office, Rudolph listens to a cassette tape from the home office instructing management in regard to cost-cutting measures. The events take place in 1964 and there is a reference to a meeting at Hotel Thanatopsis in Lake Saranac, NY; the word "thanatopsis" is defined as "a consideration of death" and death is Rudolph's real stock in trade. Rudolph telephones Ernest (Ernesto in the story) and, though we don't know it yet, this must be the call that sets up the competition between assassins.

Alfred Ryder as Jonathan Rudolph
Mannix returns home to his photography studio, where he finds Rudolph waiting for him. Both men have respectable jobs to cover their illicit business of murder, and each reveals to the other that he has investigated the other's personal life. Mannix shows Rudolph proof of the death of the baseball fan and is paid; Rudolph then gives Mannix his next assignment: Hiram Price, as Gomez from the short story has been renamed. The men discuss the workings of organized crime as if it were a corporation, even referring to the former location of the home office as Chicago, where organized crime was so prevalent in the earlier decades of the twentieth century. Rudolph instructs Mannix to watch out for the knife of envy and ambition, foreshadowing the later scene where Price will fling a knife at Rudolph.

Mannix surveils Price's funeral home from an outside phone booth. The following scene introduces Sylvia Sylvester, Mannix's beautiful girlfriend, a character not in the short story. They relax at Malibu Beach and she tells Mannix that he will need to talk to "Daddy" that night about their plan to wed. After dinner with Sylvia and Daddy, Mannix talks with Sylvester about marriage; director Alex March stages the scene to suggest that the older man holds the power in the relationship, with him standing and looking down at the seated Mannix. Sylvester (whose first name is not revealed until a surprise occurs later in the episode) interrogates Mannix and makes it clear that the prospective suitor will need money to take care of Sylvia.

Jocelyn Lane as Sylvia Sylvester

There is some humor in this scene that unintentionally looks forward to the "Spanish Inquisition" sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus; Sylvester keeps adding to his list of things that are important--brains, competition, thrift, saving, spending--as he verbally fences with Mannix, who gently pokes holes in the older man's argument as Sylvester pivots from one position to another, blithely unconcerned with self-contradiction. Sylvia's father tells Mannix that they can discuss marriage when the prospective groom has $50,000 in cash. The addition of Sylvia and her father gives Arthur motivation and sets up a new twist, along with a concrete financial goal.

Mannix returns to his studio, makes the appointment to see Price, and Price arrives. This long scene plays out essentially the same way it does in Holding's short story. Director March stages it nicely, with both men having a surface conversation while planning to kill each other. As he did with Sylvester, Mannix allows the other man to think he is in control of the exchange while Arthur really has the upper hand. In a reminder of the show's first scene, where Arthur killed a man with a karate chop, he disarms Price with a karate chop to the wrist. March uses a variation on his approach from the scene where Mannix and Sylvester had their conversation; this time, Mannix is shown to have the power in the conversation because the camera looks down from his higher point of view. Price, in a subordinate position, looks up at Mannix and, in a perhaps overly showy camera move, the camera swings back and forth to display Mannix's viewpoint as he paces back and forth. When Price suddenly throws the knife at Mannix, it misses entirely and lodges in the wall. Mannix kills Price and the scene ends with the studio on fire.

Philip Bourneuf as Ernest Sylvester

We next see Mannix in a hotel room, reading a newspaper account of his own death. He dons a disguise, consisting of a fake nose, mustache, wig, sunglasses, and beret, and the scene shifts to a public park, where we see Arthur, dressed as a hipster and bopping to the music from a portable radio that he carries, meet Ernest, the man from the crime organization who is Price's handler. In a twist that is at once shocking and brilliant, Ernest turns out to be none other than Sylvia's father! The straight-laced businessman who lectured Arthur in the earlier scene is a crook! Arthur's disguise is clever and hilarious, and the fact that he refers to Ernest throughout this scene as "Daddy" has a double meaning: it is both a word that a hipster would use (this is surely how Ernest takes it) and it is also a sly wink to Sylvia's insistence at referring to her father that way, but Ernest does not know that the man in disguise is really his potential son-in-law.

As in earlier scenes, Arthur pretends not to be in control of the situation while actually knowing more than the other person. He pretends to be a man named Hugo, affecting a high, groovy voice and making Sylvester think that he is of low intelligence. The following scenes are all rather short but tie up the loose threads from the episode, ending the tale of Arthur Mannix in a way similar to that of the short story but also taking it a step further. Rudolph is in his office when he is surprised to receive a call from Mannix, whose obituary he has just been reading, and a meeting is set. Sylvia, at home and gloomy, is also surprised to receive a call from Arthur, whom she had thought dead.

Jack Bernardi as Leibowitz

Mannix meets Rudolph at his office and shows him a photograph of the dead Price. "'You know, I think I'll try color the next time,'" says Mannix, referring to the black and white photograph. This may also be a sly remark by the writer of the teleplay to the fact that, while The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was filmed in glorious black and white, and Alex March and the director of photography use the black, white, and gray palette to superb ends in this episode, the world of network television was moving inexorably toward color and the prime-time network schedule would be fully in color by the beginning of the season that started just over a year later, in September 1966. Mannix also mentions to Rudolph that he is getting married: "'pretty soon, now--one more assignment should do it,'" he says, and we recall that he has collected $40,000 and needs one more payment to reach Sylvester's goal of having $50,000 cash on hand in order to marry Sylvia.

Joan Swift as Miss Whiting
While the short story ends with Manuel being given the assignment to kill Ernesto, the TV adaptation takes it further with two more scenes. In the first, Sylvester walks into the park for another meeting with Hugo, angry at having paid for the supposed death of Mannix. Arthur/Hugo lures him into the bushes and kills him with a karate chop. The final scene occurs just after Arthur and Sylvia have been married and are being pelted with rice. Mannix's last remark to his new bride is filled with irony: "'Hadn't been for old Daddy, we wouldn't be here,'" he quips, and it's true: murdering Sylvia's father provided Arthur with the last $10,000 he needed to meet his financial goal to secure his wife.

The clever script by Arthur Hayes expands and deepens the short story on which it is based, adding a love interest and a twist with her father being the man who hires the Undertaker to kill the Photographer.

"The Photographer and the Undertaker" is directed by Alex March (1921-1989), in his only effort for the Hitchcock TV series. He directed mostly episodic TV from 1954 to 1984 and does an excellent job on this episode.

Richard Jury as Willis

Starring as Arthur Mannix is Jack Cassidy (1927-1976), who was a star on Broadway, in film, and on TV from 1944 until his untimely death in 1976. He won a Tony Award in 1964 for his role in She Loves Me and appeared in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in addition to his role in this hour-long show. He was also on Night Gallery and a regular on the series, He & She (1967-68). He was the father of music and TV star David Cassidy and he was married to Shirley Jones from 1956-75. He died in a fire at home that started when he fell asleep with a lit cigarette.

Harry Townes (1914-2001) plays Hiram Price, the Undertaker. He served in the Army Air Corps in WWII and his screen career lasted from 1949 to 1988, mostly on TV, where he played countless parts. Townes was in four episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Creeper," and he also appeared on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, The Outer Limits, Star Trek, and Night Gallery. He co-starred in the 1958 film adaptation of Fredric Brown's The Screaming Mimi. Townes is superb in "The Photographer and the Undertaker"!

In the role of Jonathan Rudolph, the attorney/middle manager in the mob who assigns hits to Mannix, is Alfred Ryder (1916-1995), who also served in the Army Air Force in WWII. Born Alfred Corn, he was a member of the Actors Studio and had a successful career in Old Time Radio. His screen career stretched from 1944 to 1980, but this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock series. He was on Night Gallery and Star Trek and he was featured in the famous episode of Bus Stop called "I Kiss Your Shadow." He was married to Kim Hunter, who also appeared on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and his sister, Olive Deering, appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Clegg Hoyt as the doomed baseball fan
Jocelyn Lane (1937- ) steams up the small screen as Sylvia Sylvester, Arthur's eventual wife. Born Jocelyn Bolton in Vienna, Austria, she was a busy model by age 18 and acted in films and on TV from 1954 to 1970. This was her only appearance on the Hitchcock show. She appeared in Playboy in 1966 and married a German prince in 1973.

Her father, Ernest Sylvester (1908-1979), is played by Philip Bourneuf, another member of the Actors Studio. He had a long career on Broadway, from 1934 to 1964, and was on screen from 1944 to 1976, including a role in Fritz Lang's Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956). He was on three episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Dip in the Pool," and he was also on Thriller.

In smaller roles:

  • Jack Bernardi (1909-1994) as Leibowitz, the man Arthur speaks to outside the deli next to his apartment building; the brother of Herschel Bernardi, he was on screen from 1951-89 and appeared on The Night Stalker.
  • Joan Swift (1933- ) as Miss Whiting, Rudolph's secretary; born Joan Hill, she was also on Star Trek and her screen career lasted from 1957-75.
  • Richard Jury (1926-2009) as Willis, Price's assistant who meets him outside the funeral home; he was on TV and in film from 1958 to 2007, mostly on TV.
  • Clegg Hoyt (1910-1967) as the man who is killed by Mannix in the first scene; he was on screen from 1955-67 and he was in six episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Day of the Bullet." He was also on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, and Star Trek.
"The Photographer and the Undertaker" can be purchased to read from Amazon here for 99 cents. The TV show may be viewed for free online here.


The FictionMags Index,

Galactic Central,

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001. 

Holding, James. "The Photographer and the Undertaker." Kindle ed., Wildside Press, 1980. 


"The Photographer and the Undertaker." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 10, episode 21, NBC, 15 March 1965. 

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

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Alfred Hayes on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: An Overview and Episode Guide

Alfred Hayes wrote seven teleplays for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, ranging from the premiere episode in 1962 ("A Piece of the Action") to an episode near the end of the final season ("The Photographer and the Undertaker"). Three of the teleplays were credited to Hayes and another writer, suggesting that Hayes was brought in to doctor problematic scripts.

In season eight, "A Piece of the Action" is an excellent adaptation of the 1930 film, Street of Chance; the earlier version has been updated to the 1960s and relocated to sunny California, but the tragic events remain the same. "Bonfire," credited to Hayes and William D. Gordon, adapts a short story by V.S. Pritchett and turns a short story that does not involve crime into a brutal look at a murderer. "The Paragon" is a not wholly successful adaptation of a story by Rebecca West where the lead performances are the high point.

In season nine, "Beyond the Sea of Death" is credited to Hayes and Gordon but fails to capture the short story's effectiveness and shocking final twist. "The Second Verdict," credited to Hayes and Henry Slesar, improves on its source by adding new scenes and ends up an exciting and suspenseful hour of television.

In season ten, "Water's Edge" is one of the great hours of television horror, and "The Photographer and the Undertaker" uses humor and violence to tell an entertaining story of a hired killer, adding to its source and dramatizing the tale in a most effective way.

Alfred Hayes's contributions to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour vary in quality, but the best of them stand with some of the show's finest episodes.


Episode title-"A Piece of the Action" [8.1]

Broadcast date-20 September 1962
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes
Based on the screenplay for Street of Chance, by Oliver H.P. Garrett
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"Bonfire" [8.13]
Broadcast date-13 December 1962
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes and William D. Gordon
Based on "The Wheelbarrow" by V.S. Pritchett
First print appearance-The New Yorker, 16 July 1960
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"The Paragon" [8.20]
Broadcast date-8 February 1963
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes
Based on "The Salt of the Earth" by Rebecca West
First print appearance-Woman's Home Companion, March and April 1934
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"Beyond the Sea of Death" [9.14]
Broadcast date-24 January 1964
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes and William D. Gordon
Based on "Beyond the Sea of Death" by Miriam Allen deFord
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1949
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"The Second Verdict" [9.30]
Broadcast date-29 May 1964
Teleplay by-Henry Slesar and Alfred Hayes
Based on "Second Verdict" by Henry Slesar
First print appearance-Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, February 1964
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"Water's Edge" [10.3]
Broadcast date-19 October 1964
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes
Based on "Water's Edge" by Robert Bloch
First print appearance-Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine, September 1956
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"The Photographer and the Undertaker" [10.21]
Broadcast date-15 March 1965
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes
Based on "The Photographer and the Undertaker" by James Holding
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 1962
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

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Listen to Al Sjoerdsma's podcast about "Help Wanted" here.

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Bad Actor" here.

In two weeks: our series on William Fay begins with "The Crooked Road" starring Richard Kiley and Walter Matthau!

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