Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Hitchcock Project-Thomas Grant, Part One-I Can Take Care of Myself [5.31]

by Jack Seabrook

As the short story, "I Can Take Care of Myself," opens, Bert Haber, a jazz pianist in Joey Palermo's bar, sits down at the piano one evening and begins to play. His singer, Georgia, doesn't show up for their ten o'clock set, so Bert tells Joey to call Andy and Alice to rush to the bar to fill in and perform for the impatient crowd. At Joey's request, Bert speaks to Detective Jack Burton from Manhattan East, who is sitting at a table.

Burton shows Bert a shocking photo of Georgia, who is dead, and questions the musician about his movements in the last 24 hours. Bert explains that he took Georgia home at 4:01 a.m. and then went home himself and slept till 6 p.m., when he called her but got no answer. Bert insists that his relationship with Georgia was all business, despite her beauty and talent. Burton suggests that Georgia was murdered by a criminal known as Little Sammy, based on how she was killed. Bert explains that Sammy started coming to watch her sing a couple of weeks ago and was smitten, sending her drinks and flowers. She "'couldn't stand the crumb'" and, last night, when he grabbed her arm as she walked past his table, she "'took his drink and poured it down his shirt.'"

"I Can Take Care of Myself"
was first published here
Bert compounded Little Sammy's embarrassment by playing a song called "By a Waterfall"; Sammy, a man proud of his clothes, stormed out with his "'apes.'" Bert went to the bar and, while he had a drink, a man who looked "'like an insurance man'" began chatting with him. The man knew Bert's name and home address and suggested that it would be a good idea to buy some insurance. The man got up and left the bar, and Bert realized that his message was a warning from one of Sammy's associates.

Bert later took Georgia home and suggested that he stay with her, or that she stay with him, or that she call the cops, but she sent him on his way, telling him, "'Don't you worry, baby, Mamma's a big girl.'" Burton offers Bert protection and says that he'll be a material witness. The detective suggests that Bert come with him and Bert follows him to a car. Burton tells Burt, "'get in back with my partner'" and Burt does; once the car is moving, Bert sees that the man next to him is the insurance man from the bar.

This illustration accompanies the story.
"I Can Take Care of Myself" is a short, hardboiled story that takes place in a bar and ends in a car. There is no violence, just its aftermath and the suggestion of more to come. The ending is subtle and depends on the reader to realize that Bert has been deceived into getting into a car with a criminal who will surely kill him. Is Detective Burton a real policeman in league with Sammy, or is he a criminal masquerading as an officer of the law? It really doesn't matter since he succeeds in convincing Bert that it's safe to leave the bar with him.

Fred McMorrow (1925-2000), the story's author, served in WWI and was a writer, editor, humorist, poet, jazz pianist, columnist, and desk chief at several daily newspapers in New York City. He was friends with the writer Jimmy Breslin, who once said that McMorrow could write as well as anyone he ever met. The FictionMags Index lists 12 short stories published between 1958 and 1972, and the author also wrote two books of humor. This was the only time that one of his stories was adapted for film or TV.

Myron McCormick as Bert
"I Can Take Care of Myself" was broadcast on CBS on Sunday, May 15, 1960, near the end of season five. The teleplay is credited to Thomas Grant, who has no other credits than this and one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and who seems to be a mystery man. The name may be a pseudonym for Henry Slesar, who wrote the teleplays for the next two episodes under the pseudonym Eli Jerome; I sent queries to the agent for the Slesar estate and to Francis M. Nevins and I will update this post if I find out more.

The TV version does away with the story's method of presenting the events of the night before by way of Bert's relating them to Detective Burton. Instead, events are presented more or less chronologically, with the first scene featuring Georgia singing a number with Bert accompanying her. At the end, Little Dandy, as Little Sammy has been renamed, claps loudly, and has a drink sent to the performer, who pointedly ignores him as she walks to her dressing room. The insurance man, who appears midway through the story and again at the end, is visible at the bar right from the start of the show and is always in the background in the initial scenes.

Linda Lawson as Georgia
Bert visits Georgia in her dressing room and their relationship is more father and daughter than  potential romantic partners; Myron McCormick, as Bert, was eighteen years older than Linda Lawson, as Georgia. A big lug brings a bouquet of flowers from "'Mr. Dorf'" and Bert and Georgia are rude to him; she ends up giving the flowers to the cook and suggesting that he serve them to Little Dandy in a salad.

Back in the bar, Dandy grabs Georgia's hand as she passes his table and propositions her as Bert plays piano and looks on. Georgia pours a drink over Dandy's head and turns to go back to her dressing room. There is a brief melee as Bert rushes over and Dandy falls to the floor before he and his goons exit the bar. In the story, Bert does not physically intervene, but rather plays a humorous song to underline what happened; the result is the same. After they leave, Bert sits at the bar and talks to Joey, realizing that he is now on Dandy's list of enemies, before the insurance man joins him and they speak. The TV version leaves no doubt about the man's role; after suggesting that Bert should buy insurance, the man adds: "'Little Dandy recommends it'"

Will Kuluva as Joey
The second half of the show picks up where the short story begins, as Bert arrives at the bar and begins to play with no sign of Georgia. Director Alan Crosland, Jr., uses deep focus in this sequence, where Bert is in the front of the shot, closer to the camera, playing the piano, while the viewer's eye is drawn to events in the distance, in the right of the frame, as the detective enters the bar and sits at a table. Bert soon joins the detective, who has been renamed Jack Simpson. The dialogue follows that of the short story almost word for word.

In an effort to make the show more interesting, Bert takes Simpson to Georgia's dressing room to continue their conversation in a more private setting. When Bert discusses his relationship with Georgia, her voice floats onto the soundtrack, singing, as if this is what he is hearing while he speaks. There are more interesting camera setups in this scene, with Bert sitting in front of a trio of mirrors and the mirrors displaying dual images of the detective, who is reflected across the room. The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of the replacement piano player and singer, causing Bert and Simpson to vacate the dressing room and return to the bar, where they continue their conversation.

Edmon Ryan as Simpson
There is a bit of rehashing of what was depicted in earlier scenes, as the writer attempts to stretch a thin narrative to fill the time slot. The new pianist and Bert exchange looks as Bert follows Simpson out of the bar; the subtle message is that Bert and Georgia have already been replaced and will not be missed. Outside, Bert gets in back of the detective's car and the car starts to move. The man next to Bert in the back seat holds a newspaper in front of his face, so neither the piano player nor the viewer can see who it is at first. He is soon revealed to be the insurance man. The story ends subtly, with the man simply saying hello, but the TV show leaves no question in the viewer's mind about what is happening. Bert looks shocked when he sees who is riding next to him. The man pulls out a gun, points it at Bert and, instead of "'Hello,'" utters the show's final line: "'Little Dandy says hello.'" The screen  fades to black and Bert's fate is sealed.

Frankie Darro as Little Dandy
"I Can Take Care of Myself" is a straightforward adaptation of the short story that puts the events in chronological order and adds a couple of lines in the scenes with the insurance man to make his role clear. The director tries to create some interest in the rather thin plot with his shot choices, but in the end, there is not much suspense and the surprise ending is not very much of a surprise.

Alan Crosland, Jr. (1918-2001), the director, started out as a film editor, working on features from 1944 to 1954 and on TV from 1955 to 1957, then began directing episodic television in 1956. He directed 16 half-hours and three hours of the Hitchcock series, including "The Woman Who Wanted to Live," as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Crosland directed a handful of movies, but his main focus was on TV, and he directed his last show in 1986. "I Can Take Care of Myself" was the first episode he directed for the Hitchcock show.

Pat Harrington, Jr., as
the insurance man
Receiving top billing as Bert is Myron McCormick (1908-1962). He was on Broadway from 1932 to 1957 and had a supporting role in South Pacific from 1949 to 1954, winning a Tony Award in 1950. He was also on radio and he began appearing on film in 1936 and on TV in 1948. He returned to Broadway for a two-year run of No Time for Sergeants (1955-1957) and had a role in The Hustler (1961). He was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Museum Piece."

Linda Lawson (1936-2022) is suitably sexy as Georgia; born Linda Gloria Spaziani, she was on screen from 1958 to 2005, mainly in television roles. She was in the film Night Tide (1961) and she was seen on the Hitchcock show three times, including "Three Wives Too Many."

Leonard Weinrib
as Amos
Will Kuluva (1917-1990) plays Joey Palermo. He was on screen from 1949 to 1988. He appeared in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The Money," and he was also on The Twilight Zone twice.

Edmon Ryan (1905-1984) portrays Detective Simpson; he was born Edmon Ryan Mossbarger in Kentucky. His screen career spanned the years from 1936 to 1970 and he also had some roles on Broadway during that time. He was on the Hitchcock show four times, including a part in "Isabel," and he was seen in Hitchcock's spy thriller, Topaz (1969).

Frankie Darro (1917-1976), who plays Little Dandy, was born Frank Johnson Jr. and was the son of circus aerialists. He started out as a child actor on film but only grew to 5'3" as an adult. He was on screen from 1924 to 1975 and had a voice role in Pinocchio (1940). He was also one of the actors to play Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet (1956). This was one of his two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; the other was "Ten O'Clock Tiger." He also appeared on Batman. A website devoted to him is here.

William Sharon
Leonard Weinrib (1935-2006) as Amos, the replacement piano player; he started on TV in 1959 and was seen on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times, including "The Last Remains." He also had a long career as a voiceover artist, writing and starring as H.R. Pufnstuf in the Krofft TV series, as Scrappy Doo in Scooby Doo, and many others.

The big lug who delivers unwanted flowers to Georgia's dressing room is played  by William Sharon, who died in 1968. He played bit parts on TV from 1947 to 1963 and was also in two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "The Black Curtain."

Finally, Pat Harrington, Jr. (1929-2016) is effective as the insurance man in his only appearance on the Hitchcock TV show. He was on screen from 1948 to 2012 and had a recurring role on The Danny Thomas Show in 1959 and 1960. He appeared on The Night Stalker, did standup comedy and recorded comedy albums, and was a voice actor, but his most memorable role was as Schneider, the handyman, on the TV series One Day at a Time, from 1975 to 1984.

Read "I Can Take Care of Myself" online here, watch it online here, or order the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps review here.



Finkelstein, Katherine E. "Fred McMorrow, 74, an Editor." The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Apr. 2000,

Galactic Central,

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

Hammill, Pete. "Jimmy Breslin." New York, 25 April 1988, p. 74.


"I Can Take Care of Myself."  Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 5, episode 31, CBS, 15 May 1960.


McMorrow, Fred. "I Can Take Care of Myself." The Saturday Evening Post, 8 Nov. 1958. pp. 30, 98, 102.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Number Twenty-Two" here!

In two weeks: Our series on Thomas Grant concludes with a look at "Hooked," starring Robert Horton and Anne Francis!


Grant said...

It's a coincidence, but in spite of SCOOBY-DOO, I always associate Len Weinrib with the Hanna-Barbera show WAIT TIL YOUR FATHER GETS HOME, and also Pat Harrington (Weinrib played the older son and Harrington played a lot of one-time characters). So it's funny hearing about a live-action drama with both of them.

Jack Seabrook said...

I vaguely recall that show but that's about it.