Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Hitchcock Project-Sarett Rudley Part Five: The Young One [3.9]

by Jack Seabrook

"The Young One" is the story of a teenaged girl whose selfishness leads to tragedy. The story unfolds over the course of several hours in a single night; the teleplay is by Sarett Rudley, based on a story by Phillip S. Goodman and Sandy Sax. This was the first of two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to be directed by Robert Altman, and it aired on CBS on Sunday, December 1, 1957. Fifteen-year-old Carol Lynley stars as Janice, and Vince Edwards plays Tex.

The show opens with a closeup of a sign on the wall of a roadhouse that reads, "No Person Under 21 Years of Age Served Alcoholic Beverages." The camera pulls back and pans around to show men sitting at a bar, an older couple dancing to a big band record that is playing on the jukebox, and a young couple sitting together at a table. The camera focuses in on the young couple, Janice and Stan, as they argue. The bartender brings them two glasses of lemonade and Janice complains that she wants alcohol, lying unconvincingly that she is over 21. The opening shot of the show effectively establishes the scene and introduces three of the main characters.

Carol Lynley as Janice
Janice is anxious to get away from the town and from her Aunt May's house. Stan begs her to wait until he is all set with a job, but she does not want to wait; he says that he is 18 and she replies that he is too young for her. The young woman gets up from her seat and dances alone, drawing looks from men at other tables and especially from one man who sits at the bar. Janice boldly approaches him, while Stan demonstrates his frustration with her by walking out of the room.

The man at the bar introduces himself as Tex and Janice accepts a cigarette from him, smoking it to demonstrate her maturity. Tex calls her both pretty and honest and Janice replies that "'it's easy to be honest with strangers.'" Tex warns the girl that she could get into trouble and she replies, "'Not unless I wanted to,'" a statement that proves true later in the episode. Unfortunately, Janice toys with each man in turn and is anything but honest. Tex confesses that he is a drifter and Janice asks him to take her with him; wisely, he gets up to leave before he gets into trouble with the young woman and he agrees with her when she accuses him of being afraid.

Janice leaves the roadhouse and there is a dissolve to a scene in front of her Aunt May's house as Janice and Stan walk up the front path together. The house is old-fashioned, with a picket fence and a porch, and represents the sort of traditional, safe place that Janice complains makes her sick. Stan takes her inside and the camera looks down on them from the top of a staircase, foreshadowing a key event that will happen later. Janice ignores Stan and begins to climb the stairs, her figure filling the frame as she approaches the camera. Stan speaks and she stops her ascent and smiles; she knew he would do this and is pleased at seeing her power over him demonstrated. Janice dominates the frame just as she dominates Stan; she is high on the stairs, her figure large and close to the viewer, while Stan is below, smaller and farther away.

Jeanette Nolan as Aunt May
Knowing that her youth and beauty give her power over men, Janice uses it ruthlessly, toying with Stan and offering to let him kiss her. He rushes up the stairs, but when he leans in for a kiss, she turns her head and again asks him to take her away. Suddenly, Aunt May's voice calls to Janice from the second floor and Janice shoves Stan away. The scene on the staircase foreshadows the show's tragic conclusion. The sound of Aunt May's voice triggers fear and apprehension in the young woman, emotions that have been absent up to this point. May welcomes Janice into her bedroom and the two women are contrasted: May is middle-aged, wearing a bathrobe, her long hair pulled back in a braid, while Janice is young, wearing a pretty dress, her blond hair flowing freely.

The women eye each other with a mixture of fear and apprehension. Janice lies about her evening, claiming that she and Stan drove out to the lake with other "'kids'" and then went to the soda fountain, painting an imaginary picture of her activities that she thinks appeals to her conservative, traditional aunt. However, Aunt May is not fooled and tells Janice that she knows that the young woman went to The Wooly Bear, "'that cheap roadhouse.'" They argue and, although May shows concern for her niece, Janice shows no regrets.

Janice then provides some insight into her upbringing and a possible explanation for her emotional problems. She laments the good house that she one lived in, but May reminds her that her parents were servants there and she was born in the gardener's house, where they lived. Janice creates fantasy worlds for herself and resists accepting the reality of her situation; she grew up poor but seems to think that she can use her power over men to better her station in life. Janice blames her Aunt May for taking her away from the beautiful home and falls to the floor in a childish tantrum, yet she is able to switch it off in an instant when it fails to have the desired effect.

Janice emerges from the bedroom and now the camera is placed at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at her in a shot that again foreshadows the tragic conclusion. As before, Janice approaches the camera and May follows her, a small figure at the top of the stairs, compared to Janice, who seems to wield the power in the frame. Yet this time, Janice stops and slowly walks back up the stairs when summoned by her aunt, a woman not subject to her power. Janice still submits to Aunt May, unable to dominate her the way that she dominates Stan. Janice begs May to let her go away and suddenly it appears that their relative positions on the stairs are ominous: Janice stands above May, who is bent backwards, holding Janice's wrists as the young woman leans toward her. May orders Janice to bed and Janice yells, "'Just leave me alone,'" as the camera fades to black.

After the break, the picture fades in on a closeup of Tex, still sitting at the bar. Janice enters, alone, and approaches him; now a policeman sits further down the bar, watching Janice and Tex. This is more foreshadowing of the climax, which will involve these three characters. Matt, the policeman, asks Janice why she is out so late and tells her to go home where she belongs, promising to check up on her later. She appears to obey the authority figure and walks out. The cop then warns Tex to keep going if he is just passing through town. Tex gets up and walks out as well, only to find Janice standing under a sign that reads, "No Minors Allowed." She convinces him to leave with her and he does so, after putting up token resistance.

Vince Edwards as Tex
There is a dissolve to a shot of Tex and Janice walking up to the front of Aunt May's house, just as she and Stan did earlier that evening. Janice again begs Tex to take her with him and he asks her for a kiss; he is older and bolder than Stan. This time she resists, standing behind a post and telling him that her aunt is asleep and he cannot come inside. He ignores her and asks to come in, so she lets him, but they enter quietly, in shadow. Importantly, the entranceway is completely dark, so neither Tex nor the viewer can see any part of the stairs. Janice leads Tex past the stairs and into a dark parlor, closing the sliding doors behind them.

Janice lights a table lamp once the parlor doors are closed and she and Tex discuss Aunt May, whom Janice calls "'so good she makes you sick.'" Tex gets bored and is heading for the doors when Janice orders him to stay, playing at being an adult by telling him to "'kneel down, so I can look at you.'" Janice fantasizes that she is a grand lady, perhaps in her mind still living in the fine house where her parents were servants when she was a little girl. Tex grabs her and she pulls away, leaving the room to get him a drink. She slips out into the dark entranceway, barely opening the parlor doors and leaving the lights off outside the room. She soon returns with two glasses of milk, just as Tex was about to open the doors and flood the entranceway with light. She mentions Matt, the cop from the roadhouse, and wonders aloud what he would think if he were to arrive to check on her and saw Tex leaving the house.

Rusty Lane as Matt

Tex says perhaps the worst thing he could say to Janice, remarking: "'You know something? You really are a kid.'" She proceeds to demonstrate just how wrong he is when she hears Matt's police car approaching outside. Janice throws a glass of milk in Tex's face, slaps him, and screams. She pushes the lamp off of the table so that it smashes in the floor, plunging the room into darkness. Janice runs to the parlor doors and exits the room. The next shot is outside, in front of the house, as she emerges, the shoulder of her dress torn. She rushes into the policeman's arms and claims that Tex tried to kill her. Matt goes into the house to investigate, pushing open the front door and switching on the light in the entranceway, revealing the dead body of Aunt May lying upside down on the bottom steps, with Tex standing next to her. The camera pans up his body and he tries to explain what really happened, but Janice claims that he followed her home and attacked her. When she screamed, Aunt May came downstairs and Tex killed her.

As Tex telephones the police station, Stan walks in unexpectedly and reveals that he returned to the house after Janice left. He saw Aunt May and says that "'she was lying there where you left her.'" The truth revealed, Janice backs away and suddenly turns fierce. She bursts into tears and falls to the couch where, suddenly childlike again, she says the last lines of the episode before the fadeout: "'I didn't want to kill her! It's just that she wouldn't leave me alone!'"

The final shot of a childlike Janice recalls...

"The Young One" boasts a strong script by Rudley and is effectively directed by Altman, but it is the central performance by Carol Lynley as Janice that makes the show such a success. She is in control at all times, alternating between child and young woman, playing one character off of another and reveling in her newfound power over men. The revelation that she must have pushed Aunt May down the stairs to her death is a shock, but even more shocking is the planning that must have taken place between Aunt May's death and Janice's reappearance at the roadhouse. She must have composed herself sufficiently to realize that she could lure Tex back to the house; she carefully orchestrated his entrance into the parlor so he would not see the corpse on the stairs, and she kept him an unwitting prisoner there until the policeman arrived.

Her choregraphed actions from that point on are impressive; had Stan not appeared when he did, she might have succeeded in pinning her crime on the drifter. Stan's actions are less clear. He says that he returned to the house after Janice left, intending to go along with her plan to take her away from her Aunt May. He somehow saw Aunt May's corpse inside the house, even though the entranceway was so dark that Tex did not see it when he walked right by it, and Stan then did nothing. He did not go to the police and he seems to have been walking around in a daze. Was he so much under Janice's spell that he was willing to overlook the murder? Was he in shock? This is never explained, and his return and explanation are simply used to add another twist to the surprise ending.

...Carroll Baker in Baby Doll, which was
released a year before "The Young One" aired.

Altman's direction of "The Young One" is excellent, as he uses the camera to demonstrate the power dynamics among the main characters and to show key relationships and settings that foreshadow the tragic conclusion. The camera is positioned at the bottom or the top of the stairs in key scenes at the house, suggesting that this will be the site of an important event, and Janice's placement in the frame more than once demonstrates her ability to manipulate other characters. It is likely that much of the power in Lynley's performance was drawn out by Altman's coaching.

Phillip S. Goodman (1926-2015), who is co-credited with writing the story upon which Sarett Rudley's teleplay is based, served in the Army in WWII, and wrote for television from 1965 to 1966. He also directed a movie in 1963. I have been unable to find any evidence that he ever wrote anything other than TV scripts, so it seems likely that the story he wrote for this episode was either an unpublished treatment or a teleplay that was revised by Rudley.

Sandy Sax, who gets co-credit for the story, is a mystery. I found no information at all about him (or her), other than two credits for TV scripts, both co-written with Goodman--this episode and an episode of another series that aired in 1955.

Just before the screen fades to black, with
Janice above Aunt May on the staircase.
This episode was the first of two to be directed by Robert Altman (1925-2006), whose career had begun after WWII when he started out directing industrial films. He moved into directing episodic TV, mainly between 1953 and 1965, before embarking on a successful film career with such movies as M*A*S*H (1970), The Long Goodbye (1973), and Nashville (1975). He was given an honorary Oscar in 2006, not long before he died.

Alfred Hitchcock was said to have liked Altman's work, so he was hired to direct episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He directed only two; he was supposed to direct a third but claimed that he was fired after he criticized the screenplay. This may have been a bit of self-mythologizing on Altman's part because, after the story got around, Joan Harrison was asked about it and recalled no such incident. Altman also worked for Hitchcock, scouting locations for episodes of Suspicion, a series for which Hitchcock's Shamley Productions produced ten episodes in the 1957-1958 TV season, the same period during which Altman directed the two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The other episode he directed was "Together."

Carol Lynley (1942-2019) stars as Janice. Born Carole Ann Jones, she took the stage name of Carolyn Lee early in her career and changed it to the homophone Carol Lynley when she found out that someone else was already using Carolyn Lee. Lynley's TV and movie career began in the mid to late 1950s and she appeared in one Hitchcock hour ("Final Vow") in addition to "The Young One." Her most memorable roles for me both came in 1972, when she appeared in The Night Stalker TV movie and The Poseidon Adventure. Lynley's onscreen presence was always unusual, and "The Young One" is no exception. Her beauty was unquestionable, however, and she posed nude for Playboy in 1965.

Stephen Joyce as Stan
Tex is played by Vince Edwards (1928-1996), in his only appearance on the Hitchcock series. Edwards started out in film in 1947 and on TV in 1953; his most famous role was as the star of the medical drama, Ben Casey, which ran from 1961 to 1966. He continued appearing on screen until 1995.

After serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, Stephen Joyce (1931-2017), who plays Stan, began appearing on stage and was in Broadway plays on and off from 1950 to 1983. He also appeared on TV and in films from 1957 to 1997. This was his only role on the Hitchcock show, but he also appeared on The Outer Limits and in many soap operas, including hundreds of episodes of Love is a Many Splendored Thing in 1971-72.

Jeanette Nolan (1911-1998) plays Aunt May. She started out on stage and was a busy radio actress in the 1930s and 1940s. She appeared in films from 1948 to 1998 and on TV from 1953 to 1990. Among her many film roles were parts in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953) and Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), as one of the actresses voicing Mrs. Bates; she was also on classic TV shows such as Thriller, The Twilight Zone, and Night Gallery. This was one of her five appearances on the Hitchcock show, including "Triumph."

In smaller roles:
  • Rusty Lane (1899-1986) as Matt, the policeman; born James Russell Lane, he was in nine episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Manacled."
  • Frank Marlowe (1904-1964) as the bartender at the roadhouse; he was in movies from 1931 to 1961, appeared twice on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and had small parts in Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942), Notorious (1946), and North By Northwest (1959).

Frank Marlowe

Read the GenreSnaps review of "The Young One" here.

Order the DVD here or watch this episode online here.


DGA, Homepage,


“Film Card.” Torino Film Fest,

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

McGilligan, Patrick. Robert Altman: Jumping off the Cliff. New York: St. Martin's, 1989. 131-32. Print.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

"The Young One." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 3, episode 9, CBS, 1 Dec. 1957.

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Kill with Kindness" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "The Young One" here!

In two weeks: Our coverage of Sarett Rudley continues with "Bull in a China Shop," starring Dennis Morgan and Estelle Winwood!


Grant said...

It's interesting that you mention Carroll Baker. Even though I don't know either one well, she and Carol Lynley were both in biopics of Jean Harlow.

Jack Seabrook said...

I've never seen those biopics. That last shot reminded me of the famous still from Baby Doll and I wonder if Altman had the same thought at the time.

Grant said...

I feel the same way about her in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE NIGHT STALKER.
Of course, BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING is another famous suspense story with her.

Jack Seabrook said...

I've never seen BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING but I have seen "Bunny is Missing Down by the Lake" many times!