Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Hitchcock Project-Kathleen Hite Part Three: The Morning of the Bride [4.19] and wrapup

by Jack Seabrook

Kathleen Hite's third and final teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "The Morning of the Bride," based on a short story of the same title by Neil S. Boardman that was published in the June 1957 issue of Harper's Magazine.

In the story, a woman meets a man during the Second World War, while he's in the city on furlough. He is six years older than she and says he lives in the country with his widowed mother. The man and woman date for 13 years without getting married. He claims that his mother depends on him and he can't leave her. The woman never meets the mother and the years pass, until she finally quits her job, gets a marriage license, and issues an ultimatum: marry me tonight or not at all!

He agrees and they are wed. They spend the night at his house, where he cautions his wife to be quiet so as not to disturb his mother. In the morning, he slips out of the house quietly and his bride stands by the window watching him walk out of sight. She goes to his mother's room and knocks on the door, entering when there is no reply. She finds the room clean and furnished but empty. In a desk drawer she discovers an envelope containing sympathy cards received after her husband's mother died twelve years before, in 1945. She hears her husband return and he enters as she drops the envelope to the floor.

"The Morning of the Bride" is told in flashback, narrated by the wife, and no character names are given. It begins as she awakens in the morning and watches her husband leave. She then describes their past and the events leading up to the wedding. The story concludes with her entering the mother's room and discovering her husband's secret. The reader never learns the reason why the husband lied to his wife for a dozen years, nor is it revealed what happens when she confronts him with the truth. The surprise ending must have appealed to the producers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, since the story was soon adapted for TV, airing on CBS on Sunday, February 15, 1959.

"The Morning of the Bride"
was first published here
Hite's teleplay does a great job of opening up the story, which is almost entirely narrative. She gives the characters names and uses a structure that alternates between short scenes in the present and longer scenes in the past, going back and forth until near the end of the show, when flashback scenes follow each other until the story returns to the present for a conclusion more disturbing than the one in the short story.

The show opens with a scene with no dialogue, where visual clues set the stage for what follows: a closeup of a bridal bouquet; a shot of Helen asleep in bed, wearing her wedding ring; she wakes up, finds her husband gone, picks up the bouquet and admires both it and her new ring before getting out of bed. Without any narration, it's clear that it's the morning after her wedding day.

Her husband Philip is seen outside as she gazes out the window; the first suggestion of his boyishness is provided when he is shown playing with a dog. Helen puts on a robe, looks at herself in the mirror, and picks up a framed photo of her mother-in-law from her husband's dresser. The first words of the show are heard in voiceover, and all of the subsequent dialogue in the present will be in voiceover until the final scene. "'I hope you like me,'" Helen thinks as she looks at the photo before she steps into the hallway, and there is a point of view shot of a door that is clearly meant to be the door to her mother-in-law's room. In voiceover, Helen says that they will meet for the first time today and comments that she's been waiting nearly five years; perhaps Hite thought that the 13-year courtship in the short story was too long to be believed.

Barbara Bel Geddes as Helen
The screen goes blurry to indicate that a flashback is beginning, and the first flashback scene finds Helen setting a table for three in her apartment, expecting Philip and his mother to come for dinner. Her roommate Pat enters and encourages her; Helen is nervous about meeting Philip's mother and, when he arrives alone and in uniform, he explains that his mother couldn't come and that he just received his orders and is leaving for Korea tonight. Context clues later in the show clarify that the wedding took place in 1956, so nearly five years before would be right in the middle of the Korean War, not the WWII of the short story.

For the first of many times, Philip makes an excuse to prevent Helen from visiting his mother while he is away, telling her that Mother is going up to Boston to stay with his aunt while he's gone. The actress playing Helen is six years older than the actor playing Philip, so the ages in the short story have been reversed for the TV show; instead of Helen being younger than her beau, she is older, and this increases her anxiety and underlines his boyishness. After Philip leaves his girlfriend with only a kiss on the forehead, Pat returns to the room and comforts Helen, who reveals that she has only known Philip for four months and that she did not have a family of her own while growing up and never knew love. This helps to explain her naivete and her willingness to stay with Philip and to believe his increasingly outlandish lies about his mother.

The flashback ends and the scene returns to the present, with Helen in the hall and more voiceover as she recalls Philip's return from the Korean War. The screen goes blurry again and the second flashback shows Helen and Philip sitting on a park bench together. Once again, he acts like a boy, saying that "'I feel like a kid with a good report card. I want my head patted.'" Helen accepts the role of surrogate mother, unaware of the truth regarding his real mother. Philip explains that he works for a publishing house run by a man who is a long-time friend of his mother's; he adds that, for years, the boss would not publish a book "'unless Mother read it first.'" The missing Mrs. Pryor is a domineering woman whom her son reveres. Philip continues to perpetuate the illusion that his mother is alive, telling Helen that the woman is proud of her decision to go to night school. However, when Helen pushes Philip to tell his mother that they plan to wed, he is visibly uncomfortable and says that he wants to wait a couple more months.

Don Dubbins as Philip
The alternating scenes in present and past continue with a return to Helen in her room, looking at Mother's photo and speaking in voiceover as she recalls taking the train last Spring to Philip's house to pay an unannounced visit to his mother while he was at work. The next flashback shows Helen arriving at the gates to a mansion by taxi; she goes through the gates and sees a woman emerge from the front door in the distance. Helen yells at her, calling her Mrs. Pryor, causing the woman to pause and respond that there's no one home before she scurries away. Helen is left confused and upset.

After another brief scene in the present, with more voiceover as Helen looks at Mother's photo, another flashback follows; soon after her unsuccessful visit to his house, Helen had dinner with Philip. The time of the flashbacks has slowly been moving closer to the present throughout the show, and with this scene the pattern of flashbacks alternating with short scenes in the present is interrupted. At dinner, Philip presents Helen with a gift from Mother: a copy of David Copperfield, a book about a boy's journey from childhood to maturity, a journey that Helen will soon learn was interrupted for Philip. Helen tells him about her attempt to visit his mother and he ties himself in knots trying to explain it away, finally claiming that the woman Helen saw must have been Mrs. Beasley, the housecleaner, who said the house was empty because Mother was out for a drive with friends.

Pat Hitchcock as Pat
After Philip tells Helen that Mother has a weak heart and he must guard her from shocks, a scene follows back at Helen's apartment, where Pat tries to point out some of the problems with Philip's relationship with his mother. In this episode, Pat represents the viewer and her straightforward, optimistic approach to life contrasts with the agonized path taken by Helen. Pat tells Helen to insist that Philip marry her right away or she'll leave him and, in the next scene, Helen does just that over dinner. They have been together nearly five years and, ignoring his excuses, she gets up and walks away, forcing him to chase her and propose immediate marriage.

There is a cut to them entering his mansion later that night, after the wedding; Philip, still happy to be dominated by a woman, tells Helen, "'After all, you're the boss now,'" suggesting that she will take the place of his mother. He tells Helen that Mother is asleep and Helen says she can wait until morning to meet her. There is a dissolve back to the present for the last time, as Helen puts down the photo and a tracking shot follows her down the hall toward Mother's door. She knocks and enters to find an empty room. Unlike the short story, where she snoops in the desk drawer, in the TV show Helen opens the drapes and a breeze through the open window disturbs papers on the desk. Helen rushes over to keep them from blowing off and finds a copy of a newspaper obituary reporting the death of Mary Pryor on June 2, 1949. The camera focuses on the date so the viewer can't miss it, and the effect is even worse than it was in the short story, where Helen had met Philip before his mother's death.

Helen Conrad as
Mrs. Beasley
In the TV show, Mother had been dead for two years before Helen met Philip, which makes his duplicity even worse. Helen is understandably confused and looks around the room, touching a dress laid out on the bed. Philip suddenly appears in the doorway and it is clear that the story is about to be taken further than it was on the printed page; the short story ends with Helen dropping the envelope as Philip stands in the doorway, "a queer smile on his face." On TV, she speaks to him, saying "'I don't understand. She's been dead for seven years...'" (for the first time the viewer realizes that the present is 1956, not 1959, the date the show aired). Philip walks past her, opens the closet, takes a shawl from a shelf, walks over to a chair, and says, "'You never remember to keep warm, Mother! You'll get another chill if I don't watch over you every minute!'" He looks down at Mother tenderly, then his gaze shifts to Helen with a look on his face that is both insane and challenging, as if daring her to break the spell. There is a cut to Helen, who says "'Oh no!'" as the realization of her husband's insanity dawns on her.

Is the "morning" of the episode's title a homophone for "mourning"? The last scene certainly gives Helen reason to mourn her innocence and her love for Philip. What happens next? There is no indication that Philip is violent or that Helen is any danger, but the look on his face is unhinged. Online comments about this episode have noted parallels to Psycho, which was released less than two years after this episode aired. Like Norman Bates, Philip Pryor is obsessed with his mother and pretends that she is alive long after she's dead. Unlike Norman, Philip does not keep her corpse in the basement, nor does he dress up like her, assume her identity, or murder anyone.

Mother sure looks like Patricia Collinge!
"The Morning of the Bride" is an effective episode, carefully structured by writer Kathleen Hite with alternating scenes in the present and the past until the timelines converge at the end. Adding the character of Pat gives the viewer someone to identify with and adding many scenes with dialogue and location changes serves to keep interest high. Hite also uses subtle clues along the way to portray Philip as an immature boy, making the final revelation more believable. Most difficult is the character of Helen, who seems to accept Philips's excuses and lies for far too long. Hite solves this problem by compressing the length of their relationship and by making Philip a particularly charming man right up until the final scene. "The Morning of the Bride" is a surprisingly good episode that improves on the short story it adapts and adds a depiction of chilling insanity in its final scene.

Neil S. Boardman (1907-1974), who wrote the short story, was a librarian at Indiana University from 1948 to 1973, writing short stories from 1948 to 1959, two novels, various nonfiction articles, and a book.

The show is well directed by Arthur Hiller (1923-2016). Born in Canada, Hiller had a long career as a director, from 1954 to 2006, starting out in TV and ending up in film. He was president of the Director's Guild of America from 1989 to 1993 and he directed 17 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Disappearing Trick," the first episode written by Kathleen Hite. He also directed three episodes of Thriller and the classic comedy, The In-Laws (1979).

Philip's last look at Helen is unhinged.
Barbara Bel Geddes (1922-2005) stars as Helen. She started as a stage actress in 1941, moving into film in 1947 and TV in 1950. In addition to a key role in Vertigo, she appeared in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Lamb to the Slaughter," and she later starred in the television series Dallas from 1978 to 1990, winning an Emmy in 1980. A website devoted to her career may be found here.

Both boyish and chilling, Don Dubbins (1928-1991) plays Philip. His screen career lasted from 1953 to 1991, with many TV roles, including an appearance on The Twilight Zone. This was his only role on the Hitchcock series.

Patricia Hitchcock (1928-2021), the master's daughter, plays Pat. She began her career on TV in 1949 and she began appearing in films in 1950. She was in three of her father's films and appeared in ten episodes of the half-hour TV show, including "The Older Sister," "The Glass Eye," and Robert Bloch's "The Cuckoo Clock." She had a handful of other TV and movie roles over the years.

Seen from a distance as the housekeeper, Mrs. Beasley, is Helen Conrad, in her first screen role. She had a brief career on TV from 1959 to 1962.

Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here. Read the short story for free online here. Watch the episode here or order the DVD here.


Boardman, Neil S. "The Morning of the Bride." Harper's Magazine, June 1957, pp. 41–45. 


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


Indiana University Bloomington Faculty Council Minutes - Document View,

"The Morning of the Bride." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 4, episode 19, CBS, 15 Feb. 1959.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 

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Kathleen Hite on Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Overview and Episode Guide

Kathleen Hite wrote three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that aired over ten months, between April 1958 and February 1959. All three were based on short stories that had been published in 1957.

Her first teleplay, "Disappearing Trick," was directed by Arthur Hiller and features a strong female character. The TV version improves on the short story. Her second, "Tea Time," focuses on two women and is also better than the story on which it was based. Finally, "The Morning of the Bride" centers on a woman who narrates the show. This episode, too, is better than the short story version.

Kathleen Hite wrote three very good teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in less than a year and then no more. She joined other women writing teleplays in this period for producer Joan Harrison: Rose Kohn, Sarett Rudley, Marian Cockrell, and Kathleen Hite together wrote ten episodes for the series during the third and fourth seasons combined. It's too bad that Hite did not write more!

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Episode title-"Disappearing Trick" [3.27]
Broadcast date-6 April 1958
Teleplay by-Kathleen Hite
Based on "Disappearing Trick" by Victor Canning
First print appearance-Argosy, September 1957
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

Episode title-"Tea Time" [4.10]
Broadcast date-14 December 1958
Teleplay by-Kathleen Hite
Based on "Two for Tea" by Margaret Manners
First print appearance-Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 1957
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

Episode title-"The Morning of the Bride" [4.19]
Broadcast date-15 February 1959
Teleplay by-Kathleen Hite
Based on "The Morning of the Bride" by Neil S. Boardman
First print appearance-Harper's Magazine, June 1957
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Alibi Me" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Post Mortem" here!

In two weeks: Wait...David Goodis wrote an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour? And it was based on a paperback original novel by Henry Kane? Find out more about "An Out for Oscar" right here!


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this episode with shades of Psycho! Great review as usual!

Jack Seabrook said...