Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Link and Richard Levinson Part Two: Profit-Sharing Plan [7.23]

by Jack Seabrook

Richard Levinson and William Link's second and last teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was also their second to be based on one of their own short stories; this time, "The End of an Era," which was published in the January 1962 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. The story opens as Miles Grubb sits uncomfortably as his office colleagues pay tribute to him at the end of his last day of work before retirement. Pretty Miss Lemmon pretends to flirt with him and stuffy Mr. Dougherty makes a ponderous speech. None of them knows what Miles is planning to do.

He is presented with a gift of a matching lighter and ashtray set, champagne is passed around, and the party ends as people leave at six o'clock, the end of the work day. Insisting that he must get home for dinner with his wife, Miles turns down an invitation to another drink at a bar, leaves the office, and phones his wife from the hotel across the street to say that he'll be late for dinner. After killing time in the hotel lobby, Miles returns to the office and opens the hidden safe in Mr. Dougherty's office, removing a large amount of cash and thinking of the plane ticket to Hawaii resting in a drawer at home.

"The End of an Era"
was first published here

Miles returns home and is greeted by his wife, whose "gray hair" and "vacant eyes" make him think that he made the right decision in not planning to take her with him. He packs a suitcase and is distracted while they eat dinner; she suggests a cross-country trip. After dinner, while his wife washes the dishes, Miles announces that he's going for a drive, then leaves with his suitcase in hand. He arrives at the airport and boards the plane but, just before it takes off, the stewardess announces that there are mechanical difficulties and everyone must go back to the terminal.

As the delay drags on, Miles grows frustrated, and he finally demands an explanation from the clerk at the counter. The clerk confides that there was a "'crank call'" about "'a bomb on the plane'" and Miles is relieved until he sees a policeman coming toward him, holding his suitcase. At home, Mrs. Grubb receives a call asking her to telephone her family lawyer and come to police headquarters, where Miles is under arrest. She hangs up and then picks up the phone, calls the airline terminal, and tells them that the prior report of a bomb on the plane was '''just a joke.'" She hangs up, smiles, and calls the lawyer.

Henry Jones as Miles

"The End of an Era" is a story that hinges on its surprise ending, where Miles's wife turns out to be aware of his scheme and to have taken steps to prevent him from leaving with his suitcase of cash. However, a really successful twist ending requires clues along the way, so that the reader can look back and see events in a different light, understanding in retrospect what was overlooked the first time the story was read. Here, the clues are missing, and the ending doesn't hold up as well. How did Mrs. Grubb know what Miles was planning? There is no sense that she was aware of the theft or the plan to fly to Hawaii. One can only assume she discovered the plane tickets and waited to see if he'd go through with it before calling in the bomb threat.

When the authors adapted their story for the small screen, they appear to have realized that they needed to make changes in addition to expanding the narrative to fit the longer format. The episode, retitled "Profit-Sharing Plan," aired on NBC on Friday, March 16, 1962, and was director Bernard Girard's first episode to air; he would go on to direct four episodes of the half-hour series and eight of the hour series.

Ruth Storey as Mrs. Cheever

The TV version opens as Miles Cheever (as Miles Grubb has been renamed) arrives back at work on his last day after having been sent on an errand. His fellow employees emerge from hiding to surprise him. Miles goes into Mr. Dougherty's office to put some papers on his desk and, while everyone else is milling around outside the open door, he opens a large, hidden door in the wall to reveal a safe; there is no point to this incident other than to convey his thoughts visually to the viewer. The party goes on as in the story, with Dougherty referring to Miles's retirement as "'the end of an era,'" in a nod to the story's title. He is given a pen and pencil set instead of a lighter and ashtray.

Rather than killing time at the hotel and returning to rob the safe, Miles is next seen at home with his wife. They discuss the cheapness of the party and the retirement gift, then agree that there's no sense in putting things off, at which point he leaves to return to the office and rob the safe. In the TV version, Mile's wife is well aware of his plan and encourages it! Miles returns to the office after dark and commits the robbery without difficulty. Back at home, Miles and his wife admire the large amount of cash in the suitcase. She is certain that, as long as they "'sit tight,'" all will be well. She leaves the room and he takes out a plane ticket that had been hidden under his dresser drawer; it's made out to Mr. and Mrs. Cheever! Miles calls the airport to confirm that the flight is leaving on schedule, then tells his wife that he's going to the drugstore and sneaks out with the suitcase in hand.

Rebecca Sand as Anita

In the next shot, Miles is a new man--smoking a cigarette, smiling, and confidently letting himself into the apartment of his girlfriend, Anita, where he makes himself comfortable by fixing drinks. She is aware of the plan and ready to join him on the flight to Hawaii--she is clearly the "Mrs. Cheever" listed on the ticket folder. She wants a mink coat and asks how much money was in the safe, but Miles declines to be specific and assures her that it's "'all we'll ever need.'"

At the airport, Miles keeps the suitcase of cash with him as they board the plane, but soon a stewardess takes his valise to the back of the cabin. The passengers are ushered off the plane, leaving Miles without his bag. Anita tells Miles that she saw policemen coming off the plane and he presses the desk clerk, who explains about the bomb scare. Miles is relieved until the clerk adds that "'they have to search the luggage.'" Miles and Anita begin to walk toward the door but are stopped by a detective who holds his bag. The duo are escorted away by police. The camera pans around to show Miles's wife, who has been watching. She rushes into a phone booth and calls the airline to say that the bomb scare was "'all a joke.'"

Frank Maxwell
as Rudy

The story works better in the TV version, with Miles's wife being in on the robbery. This way, it's not so surprising that she also discovered Miles's plan to escape with Anita. Mrs. Cheever must have found the tickets and realized that Miles was not going to surprise her with a trip to Hawaii. When he left with the money and didn't return, she decided to foil his plot. "Profit-Sharing Plan" is an entertaining, lightweight half-hour, where Link and Levinson demonstrate that their future success would lie more in writing teleplays than in penning short stories.

Director Bernard Girard (1918-1997) was born Bernard Goldstein and worked as both a writer and director of movies and TV from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s. He directed a Twilight Zone as well as four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and eight episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including the Robert Bloch classic, "Water's Edge."

Stephanie Hill
as Miss Lemmon

Henry Jones (1912-1999) plays Miles, who is retiring at the end of his career, even though Jones was not yet 50 years old when this show aired. Jones won a Tony Award for his 1958 role in "Sunrise at Campobello" and was a fixture in character roles in film and on TV from 1943 to 1995. He was on countless shows, including The Twilight Zone, Thriller, Night Gallery, and The Night Stalker, and he appeared on the Hitchcock show six times, including "De Mortuis." He was also in Hitchcock's classic, Vertigo (1958).

His unnamed wife is played by Ruth Storey (1913-1997), who was on screen from 1953 to 1973. She appeared in Fritz Lang's The Blue Gardenia (1953) and she was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents one other time.

Rebecca Sand (1913-1997) plays Miles's girlfriend, Anita. She has a rather sparse list of credits, mostly on TV, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, and she appeared in a handful of movies. She was also in one other Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "The Opportunity."

In smaller roles:
  • Frank Maxwell (1916-2004), with his distinctive streak of white hair, plays Rudy, one of Miles's office mates. He was onscreen from 1951 to 2000 and appeared in many TV episodes, including roles on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. His six appearances on the Hitchcock show include "Special Delivery" and "The Hatbox." He was president of AFTRA from 1984 to 1989.
  • Stephanie Hill plays flirtatious Miss Lemmon. She had a short career, mostly on TV, from 1961 to 1966 and was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Humphrey Davis (1912-1987) plays the boss, Mr. Dougherty. He was on TV from 1950 to 1982 and had a background on stage and in radio.
Humphrey Davis
  • Lew Brown (1925-2014) plays the airline clerk. He was on screen from 1959 to 1992 and he was seen on The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and The Night Stalker. He was in Hitchcock's Topaz (1969) and he played roles in seven episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Run for Doom."
Lew Brown

Watch "Profit-Sharing Plan" on Peacock here. Thanks to Peter Enfantino for providing a copy of the short story!

Sources:

The FictionMags Index, www.philsp.com/homeville/FMI/0start.htm.

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

IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com.

Link, William and Richard Levinson "The End of an Era."  Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January 1962, 72-79.

"Profit-Sharing Plan." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 7, episode 23, NBC, 16 March 1962.

Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central, philsp.com/.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, www.wikipedia.org/.


In two weeks: Our coverage of Richard Levinson and William Link continues with "Captive Audience," starring James Mason and Angie Dickinson!


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Hidden Thing" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Craig's Will" here!

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