Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Fay Part Five: I'll Take Care of You [4.23]

 by Jack Seabrook

A businessman learns that his duty to care for those around him can have unexpected consequences in George Johnson's short story, "'I'll Take Care of You,'" first published in the November 1958 issue of Bestseller Mystery Magazine and soon adapted by William Fay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

The story opens as used car dealer John Forbes is angry at having been pushed by his wife to spend $1000 on their daughter's wedding reception. His assistant, a 68-year old man who helps out around the lot, goes out to get hamburgers and returns to find that three college boys visited the lot, looking for an old car that they could use at a school carnival, where they will charge a quarter to let patrons hit the vehicle with a sledge hammer. The next day, John is out to lunch when his wife, Dorothy, drives up to the lot. When he returns, they argue over her desire to take an expensive trip around the world.

"'I'll Take Care of  You'"
was first published here

Forbes cheers up later that day when he makes a good deal to buy a 1951 convertible from another dealer. He and Dad, as he calls his assistant, go to pick up the car and John goes home, leaving Dad to wait until the car is ready and then drive it to his boss's home. When Dad arrives at the Forbes house, he sees evidence of an argument and learns that Mrs. Forbes stormed out and drove off in her husband's car. Dad reminds Forbes that his car is almost out of gas, so John takes the convertible and drives off to find his wife. He returns later that evening and says that he had an accident and hit someone walking along the dark road. He looked but could not find an injured person and, when he couldn't find his wife, either, he came home.

Dad takes the convertible back to the lot and notices that the right headlight is broken. He has trouble sleeping due to worries about losing his job if Forbes is arrested. The next morning, police come to the lot and the old man learns that Mrs. Forbes is dead and realizes that her husband must have hit her with the car. When the police ask Dad where he was the night before, he says that he was at Forbes's house all evening with his boss. When Dad sees a story in the newspaper about the accident, he realizes that Forbes killed his wife on purpose.

Ralph Meeker as John Forbes

Dad calls the college and tells the boys to come pick up their car, then sells the convertible for $50. When the old man tells Forbes what he has done, Forbes gives him a $5 commission and the rest of the day off. That evening, Dad and his wife Kitty go to the carnival and watch customers smash the convertible with a sledge hammer. Forbes is watching, too, and when he tells Kitty that he feels like "'chucking everything'" because his wife is dead, she begins to cry, worried that her husband will lose his job. Dad comments that he took the headlights off of the car and threw one away. Forbes reassures the old couple that he'll take care of them.

The next morning, Forbes asks Dad if he kept the broken headlight. The police arrive and ask Forbes what made him suspect the old man of running down his wife. He admits that it was seeing the convertible at the fair with its headlight gone. The police tell Dad that they found the headlight hidden in his attic and he accuses Forbes of causing the accident, but the police remind Dad that he said Forbes never left his home that evening. Despite his insistence on Forbes being guilty, the police arrest the old man and, as he is being taken away, Forbes promises to take care of Kitty.

Russell Collins as Dad

"'I'll Take Care of You'" is a well-plotted short story with an unexpected twist at the end. The twist is made more surprising because the story is narrated in the first person by Dad, who relates past events without ever letting on that he was unjustly arrested for his boss's crime. In William Fay's adaptation of the story for television, Dad is no longer the narrator, and subtle changes make the story more enjoyable and effective, though the ending comes across as somewhat muddled. "I'll Take Care of You" (without the story's quotation marks) aired on CBS on Sunday, March 15, 1959.

Fay removes any reference to Forbes having children, and the used car dealer starts out angry at having spent $1000 on a wedding anniversary party rather than a wedding reception. In the short story, Forbes dotes on his daughter Lily, who just got married, and his business is named Ray's Auto Sales in honor of his son, who was killed in the war. In the TV show, his business is simply Forbe's Motors, Inc., and no children are mentioned. Instead of having the visit by the trio of college boys be something that Forbes relates to Dad, we get to see the college boys come to the lot in an entertaining scene. There is Lester, the handsome, outgoing leader; Harry, the smart, gum-chewing joker; and a third young man, who wears a hat and never says an intelligible word.

Elisabeth Fraser as Dorothy

Ralph Meeker plays Forbes as keyed-up and angry, while Russell Collins plays Dad as dissolute, his watery blue eyes suggesting a problem with alcohol. Forbes assures Dad that "'I'll take care of you,'" reassuring him that his job is secure, and Kitty makes her first appearance as she brings her husband a bag lunch and Forbes comments that she and Dad have been married for 47 years. Dad tells Forbes that "'Kitty ain't so bright these days. Gettin' old, you know,'" which sets up the show's last scene. When Dorothy pulls up to the lot the next day, she disdainfully asks Dad if he always calls her husband "'John,'" suggesting that this level of familiarity is inappropriate between employee and employer.

The story's "trip around the world" has become "'a trip to New Zealand to see your cousin Nan.'" Fay adds a scene where John and Dorothy argue at home and John remarks, "'I'm a meatball married to a dime store queen.'" She runs out and takes his car because it's blocking hers in the driveway. Dad arrives to see her leaving and understands that they have been arguing, rather than arriving after she has left and seeing the house in disarray, as he does in the story.

Ida Moore as Kitty

Fay then adds another scene to show Forbes out driving at night, searching for Dorothy. He sees her standing by his car and drives past her, then turns the car around and runs over her. We don't see it but we do hear the car hit her and her scream. When Forbes gets home, he tells Dad that he and the old man were together all evening, watching TV. John shows Dad the broken headlight and tells him to replace it: "'You take care of this, Dad, and I'll take care of you.'" This is a much more direct approach than the one taken in the short story, where Dad gradually figures out what has happened. In the story, it appears that Forbes feels remorse about what he has done (he feels like "'chucking everything'"), while in the TV version he sets up his alibi and there is no question of his guilt. In the TV version, Dad is seen reading a newspaper at the used car lot the next day, and Dorothy's death is front page news, so he already knows what has happened and is complicit in covering up the crime before the police come, unlike the story, where Dad learns of the death from the police and realizes what happened.

In the TV show, there is a quid pro quo as Dad knows what Forbes did and helps him in order to ensure his own security. In the story, Forbes pressures Dad to support him after the police have interrogated Forbes, and Dad tells the reader: "I guess then's when I stopped fooling myself."

Arthur Batanides
as the detective

Another subtle change has to do with the return of the college boys. In the story, Dad telephones them and asks them to come pick up the car. In the TV show, they arrive on their own and that spurs Dad's idea to sell them the convertible. Suspense is created by cutting back and forth between shots of the detective interrogating Forbes inside his office and shots of the college boys having trouble starting the car engine outside. In a classic Hitchcockian transference of guilt, the viewer worries that Forbes will be caught and roots for the car to start so that it can be removed from view. Suspense is heightened by having a second detective walking around the lot, inspecting cars, moving nearer to the convertible as the college boy struggles to get it started.

The detectives then question Dad, who expounds on the time that he spent with Forbes the evening before, providing a detailed alibi for his boss and unknowingly setting up his own subsequent arrest. With Dorothy dead, fraternization between employee and employer becomes the key to Forbes's safety. After the detectives come, John again tells Dad, "'Don't worry, I'll take care of you,'" an example of Fay having characters repeat the title phrase several times to underline its importance. Forbes does not give Dad $5 after the car is sold; they merely exchange complicit smiles.

James Westmoreland as Lester

There is a dissolve to the carnival; Fay removes the scene in the story where Dad returns home and he and Kitty decide to use his $5 windfall to attend the carnival. Instead, we see Dad and Kitty walking through the crowd, where she remarks that Forbes told her that afternoon that Dad did not have to worry about his job. When did she see Forbes? We never learn the answer, but the addition of a conversation between Forbes and Kitty becomes important. She also reveals that Forbes gave her $10 and suggested that they attend the carnival. This replaces the story's $5 commission and suggests that Forbes set things in motion to end in Dad's arrest.

Richard Evans
as Harry
The lead college boy ballyhoos in front of a curtain depicting the "Death Car," a car rearing up with eyes and fangs as a cartoon figure holds up a sledge hammer. This is a good example of carnival trickery to attract paying customers; the car itself is revealed to be nothing more than the 1953 coupe, with no fangs at all and no reason to be known as the Death Car--at least no reason anyone but Forbes and Dad yet understands. As in the story, Dad and Kitty enjoy watching the car be demolished until Forbes summons Dad, who reminds Forbes (yet again) that he had better take care of him, in light of what Dad knows. The short story's conversation between Forbes, Dad, and Kitty is removed, as is any sense of remorse or despair on the part of Forbes.

The police suddenly appear on the scene and accuse Dad of running over Dorothy. The detective points out that Dad sold the car cheaply and had a broken headlight hidden in his house. Dad is taken away, calling for Kitty. The short story ends there, but the TV show adds an additional scene. Kitty emerges from behind the Death Car curtain and thanks Forbes for the $10. She tells him that she never asked Dad why he hid the headlight that Forbes had asked her about earlier that day, adding more details to their interaction. "'I get so nervous at night when I can't find Dad. Will you take care of me?'" she asks, and the show ends on that uncertain note.

Richard Rust as Detective Charlie

This additional scene at the end of the show is somewhat confusing on first viewing. Kitty did not see her husband being taken away by the police and we know, from Dad's earlier comment, that she is easily confused. She gives no indication of being complicit in the plan to transfer guilt from Forbes to Dad and instead seems bewildered by her husband's sudden disappearance, turning to the only other man she recognizes to ask for help. Forbes must realize that she is confused and that she presents a danger to him: her knowledge of the hidden headlight and his visiting her and giving her money could cast suspicion on him. The purpose of this added twist at the end of the TV show appears to be to add a new duty of care to John Forbes's life: he has killed his wife and thus no longer has to keep up with her expensive tastes; he has seen to it that his assistant is arrested, so he no longer has to pay his salary; yet he now has to "take care" of Kitty, an old woman he barely knows who needs constant attention.

Watching this outstanding half hour of television makes one realizes that the phrase, "I'll Take Care of You," has two distinct meanings. The first is the clear, direct meaning, where Forbes promises to look after Dad and, later, seems to inherit the duty to look after his wife. The other meaning is more sinister: Forbes "takes care" of the problem of Dorothy's excessive spending by murdering her. "I'll Take Care of You" can be a promise or a threat, and in this story John Forbes has it both ways.

Richard Gering

The show is well-directed by Robert Stevens (1920-1989), whose skills have expanded during the 1950s from the static camera of his work on Suspense, which depended on tight close ups due to small TV screens and poor reception, to his work on the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, where he began to depend on trick shots that placed inanimate objects close to the camera to use forced perspective to emphasize their importance, to his later work on the series, in episodes like "I'll Take Care of You" that demonstrate a keen ability to tell the story in a dynamic, propulsive way while still using numerous close ups. Stevens worked in television from 1948 to 1987 and directed 44 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and five episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He won an Emmy for "The Glass Eye." He also directed 105 episodes of Suspense in the early 1950s.

Starring as John Forbes is Ralph Meeker (1920-1988), who was born Ralph Rathgeber and who served in the Navy in WWII. He started on Broadway after the war in 1946 and was on screen for thirty years, from 1950 to 1980, appearing both in film and on TV. Key roles include Kiss Me Deadly and Paths of Glory (1957), as well as the TV movie, The Night Stalker (1972). He appeared on The Outer Limits and in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Revenge."

The role of Dad is played 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."

Elisabeth Fraser (1920-2005) plays Dorothy Forbes. Born Elisabeth Fraser Jonker, she was on Broadway from 1940 to 1962 and on screen from 1941 to 1980, including a part in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942). This was her only appearance on the Hitchcock TV series.

Fifteen years older than her onscreen husband, Ida Moore (1882-1964) portrays Kitty. She sang to accompany silent films and appeared in a few in 1925, then had a screen career from 1943 to 1959. This episode was the second of her two appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and represents her next to last credit overall.

As he often did, Arthur Batanides (1923-2000) plays the lead detective. His is a familiar face from classic TV and he appeared in countless episodes from 1951 to 1985, including roles on The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Star Trek. He was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The Jokester."

Lester, the handsome college boy who takes the lead in negotiations for the car and later ballyhoos at the carnival, is played by James Westmoreland (1935-2016), here billed as Rad Fulton, the name he used on screen from 1956 to 1963. After a split with his agent, he reverted to his real name and continued to appear on screen until 1987. This is one of his two roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents; the other is in "Listen, Listen!"

The smart, gum-chewing college boy named Harry is played by Richard Evans (1935- ), whose screen career ran from 1958 to 2016, including a part on Star Trek. This was his only role on the Hitchcock TV show.

Richard Rust (1938-1994) plays the second detective, referred to as Charlie. He was on screen from 1955 to 1988 and this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock series.

Finally, the third college student--the silent one who wears a hat--is played by Richard Gering (1935-2003), whose brief screen career lasted from 1959 to 1962 and included one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

George Johnson (1929-2015), better known as George Clayton Johnson, wrote the short story on which this episode was based. This was the first TV show to be adapted from one of his stories, and he would go on to write seven episodes of The Twilight Zone, an episode of Star Trek, and (with William F. Nolan) the 1967 novel upon which the 1976 film, Logan's Run, was based. 

Read "'I'll Take Care of You'" for free online here or watch the TV version for free online here. The DVD is available here. Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here.


The FictionMags Index, 

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

"I'll Take Care of You." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 4, episode 23, CBS, 15 March. 1959. 


Johnson, George. "'I'll Take Care of You.'" Bestseller Mystery Magazine, Nov. 1958, pp. 121-130. 

Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central,

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 

In two weeks: The Avon Emeralds, starring Roger Moore and Hazel Court!


Matthew Bradley said...

A commendably--and characteristically--thorough job, Jack, and thanks again for pointing me to George's published story. I've always loved Meeker, especially for Kiss Me Deadly (director Robert Aldrich also gave him a nice supporting role in The Dirty Dozen), and by coincidence recently enjoyed his performance in Paths of Glory again. He also had a juicy part in my favorite of the Anthony Mann/James Stewart Westerns, The Naked Spur.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Matthew. The more I see of Ralph Meeker, the more I like him.

Grant said...

Speaking of coincidences, just before reading this I saw the OUTER LIMITS episode "Tourist Attraction" again. It isn't considered one of the better episodes, but Ralph Meeker and Henry Silva make very entertaining enemies in it.

Jack Seabrook said...

Is that the one with the big fish?

Grant said...

Yes. It's kind of a shame it's best-known for that, because (to me) it's very entertaining.