Thursday, December 28, 2023

The Hitchcock Project-Thomas Grant, Part Two-Hooked [5.38]

by Jack Seabrook

Robert Turner's short story, "Hooked," was the source for the last episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to air on CBS; the show premiered on Sunday, September 25, 1960, as the last offering of season five. Two nights later, "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat" aired as the first episode of the series to be shown on NBC, opening season six on a Tuesday after five years of being shown on Sundays.

The story begins as Ray Marchand, a handsome man of 27, drives up to a fishing camp to pick up his wife, Gladys, who is almost twice his age. Ray is immediately captivated by Nila Foster, the beautiful young daughter of the camp's owner, Floyd. Ray makes a play for Nila right away, but she resists. Soon, Gladys returns from a day of fishing with Floyd, and Ray makes no secret of his desire for Nila; Gladys is not surprised and reminds her husband of their arrangement: as long as he is discreet, she tolerates his flings.

"Hooked" was first
published here
The next afternoon, Gladys goes shopping and Ray visits Nila, who insists that her father won't let her be alone with Ray. Finally, she tells him to come back on Monday when they go to an out of the way spot where she succumbs to his lust. Afterwards, she says it can't happen again, and he spends the next week thinking about her. On the following Monday, he visits the camp and finds her alone on a beach, where they again give in to passion. Later, he admits that neither he nor Gladys knows how to swim. Ray and Nila discuss the idea of him taking his wife out in a boat and throwing her overboard; if she dies, he'll inherit her money.

Ray pretends to develop an interest in fishing, and eventually he takes Gladys out in the boat alone. He sees Nila and Floyd watching from the dock; as he throws the anchor in the water, he almost loses his balance and, to Ray's surprise, Gladys uses an oar to shove him overboard. As he drowns, he realizes that Gladys must have fallen for Floyd and that Nila must have helped them execute their plan to do away with Ray.

The art on the story's
first page gives away
the ending!
"Hooked" manages to execute a nice surprise twist at the end, even though the narrative is padded with too many pulp cliches describing Nila's beautiful body. The title has two meanings, both the literal one involving fishing and the figurative one about how Ray is hooked by the plotting and planning of Nila, Gladys, and Floyd. Ray's vanity is so great that he does not realize he is a pawn in their game; his hubris and his ego blind him to the fact that he is the fish and they hold the fishing pole.

Robert Turner (1915-1980), the story's author, was a prolific contributor to the pulps and the digests from 1939 until his death. He also wrote for comic books in the 1940s and several of his stories were adapted for TV in the 1950s, including one other for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

The TV version of "Hooked" follows the short story closely for most of its length, with some important changes toward the end that make it work better on the small screen. Some extraneous scenes in the story are cut, such as one where Ray and Gladys are in the car and she gives him permission to pursue Nila while also warning him about Floyd. Also deleted is a scene where Ray goes home and paints a portrait of Nila, as well as background about how Ray and Gladys ended up in Florida. One thing that is preserved is the focus on Nila's beauty and Ray's ogling of her; in one early scene, he can't help looking from her face to her chest, and in another, the camera takes his point of view as he follows her along a path, looking her up and down and focusing on her swaying hips.

When Ray returns to the camp for the first time, a scene that occurs outside in the story is moved inside the bait and tackle shop, allowing for a visual joke when Ray stands next to a sign that reads, "Live Worms"--it's hard not to associate the man with the sign. A deaf and dumb Black man who works on the boats in the story is eliminated from the TV show, which includes only four characters. In the story, Ray and Nila go out on the lake in a boat, but in the TV show they are together instead on a beach in a cove. This scene is particularly well choreographed, as Ray repeatedly tries to kiss Nila and she succeeds each time in wriggling away from him.

Instead of having sex, as they do in the story, Ray and Nila just share a passionate kiss in the TV show. Director Norman Lloyd shows her resistance give way the first time they kiss by focusing the camera on her hand, which starts out tense but soon relaxes. The second time they are together on the beach, the TV show diverges from the story when Ray dives into the lake after the young woman, demonstrating his ability to swim. At this point, the viewer who has read the story must wonder how this will affect the ending; in the story, Ray drowns because he can't swim.

Much of Ray and Nila's discussion of how he can make Gladys's death look like an accident is cut, and a short scene is added between Ray and Gladys where she almost seems to believe that he is sincere about wanting to learn how to fish. She looks for a kiss on the lips but is disappointed to receive just a peck on the cheek. Ray's lust for Nila is thus contrasted with his coolness toward Gladys.

Robert Horton as Ray Marchand
The end is set up beautifully and is more effective than the conclusion of the short story. When Ray and Gladys fish together, Nila looks on as if jealous, and Ray and Nila pretend that they barely know each other. When Ray and Gladys return for a repeat fishing trip, Floyd apologizes and says that he can't go with them. Ominous music plays on the soundtrack as Nila is shown watching the couple, looking as if she knows that Ray plans to stage a fatal accident. Gladys reluctantly agrees to go and Floyd tells Nila to give Gladys a basket with lunch that she packed for another couple; none of this is in the short story.

In the story, Gladys drives the boat, but Ray mans the motor in the TV show. They stop and the boat rocks gently on the lake as Gladys takes the basket and asks Ray if he wants a sandwich or a bottle of beer. There is a tight closeup of Ray's eyes as he watches Gladys climb over a bench to get to the anchor; his gaze at her hips is much different than his corresponding gaze at Nila's hips earlier in the show. More ominous music plays on the soundtrack, and suddenly, Ray seems to lunge and the screen goes black. What happened? In the short story, there is no question and no suspense, but in the TV show, this dark screen leaves the viewer guessing.

Anne Francis as Nila Foster
The next shot fades in on Floyd and Nila inside the shop as they hear the boat returning. Nila smiles and looks satisfied, as if expecting Ray to return alone. Outside the shop, she and her father watch the boat return, but since it is filmed in a long shot, the viewer cannot tell who is driving, other than that the person is alone. The boat reaches the dock and the driver is revealed to be Gladys. She climbs up on the dock and tells Floyd, "'I did just what you told me to,'" removing a Billy club from the picnic hamper. The trio agree that it was a tragic accident and walk back to the bait shop smiling, arm in arm.

In the end, Gladys and Floyd get the partners they want, Nila ensures that her father will have money, love, and happiness, and they all get rid of Ray, the "live worm." In the story, Ray realizes that he's been duped as he drowns, while in the TV show, the viewer learns what happened after Gladys returns to the dock. The revelation that Nila was setting Ray up for disaster is a complete surprise, and the realization that she was working in concert with her father and Ray's wife makes the denouement quite satisfying.

Norman Lloyd (1914-2021), the director, was one of the people most responsible for the success and quality of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Born Norman Perlmutter and active in the theater in the 1930s, he had a long career as a film and television actor, from 1939 to 2015, and appeared in Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) and Spellbound (1945). He also directed for television from 1951 to 1984. He acted in five episodes of the Hitchcock series and directed 22, including "Man from the South."

Vivienne Segal as Gladys
Starring as Ray is Robert Horton (1924-2016), who had been active in film since 1945. From 1952 to 1989, he was a busy TV actor, co-starring in Wagon Train (1957-1962), and then starring on the short-lived series, A Man Called Shenandoah (1965-1966). A website devoted to his career is here. This was one of seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in which he was featured, including "Crack of Doom," and after his television career ended he spent many years on stage.

Anne Francis (1930-2011), who plays Nila, was born Ann Marvak in upstate New York. She began modeling at age five and was on Broadway by age eleven. Her first movie came out in 1947 and she was on the scene at the dawn of television in 1949. She worked both in movies and TV until 1969; after that, most of her roles were on episodic TV. She is best known for Forbidden Planet (1956), as the star of the Honey West series (1965-1966), and for a couple of roles on The Twilight Zone. She appeared on the Hitchcock show five times, including "What Really Happened."

Gladys is played by Vivienne Segal (1897-1992), who began singing opera at age 15 and performed in the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920s. She was often featured in Broadway shows from 1915 to 1953 and appeared in seven films from 1930 to 1934. She made four TV appearances between 1951 and 1966, two of which were on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. She was married to Hubbell Robinson, who was an executive at CBS from 1947 to 1959 before leaving to produce TV shows, including Thriller.

John Holland as Floyd
Finally, John Holland, who plays Floyd, was born Harold Boggess. He was on screen from 1937 to 1986, but this was his only role on the Hitchcock show. He also appeared on The Twilight Zone.

Watch "Hooked" online here or buy the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps review here.

After researching the two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents where the teleplay is credited to Thomas Grant, I think that the name is a pseudonym for Henry Slesar. After seeing nine of his short stories adapted for the show by other writers in seasons three, four, and five, Slesar began adapting his own stories for TV with "Forty Detectives Later" and "Insomnia," episodes 28 and 30 of season five. He used the pseudonym "Eli Jerome" to adapt his own stories, "One Grave Too Many" and "Party Line," as episodes 32 and 33 of season five. Episodes 31 and 38 of this season, "I Can Take Care of Myself" and "Hooked," were not based on stories by Slesar, but since Thomas Grant has no other credits anywhere, I think that the producers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents decided to have Slesar use fake names so it did not look like one writer was writing too many episodes in too short a time. Though Slesar's other four episodes in this season were all adapted from his own stories, he did go on to adapt works by other writers in subsequent seasons of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. To date, my queries to the agency for his estate, a family member, and someone who edited a collection of his stories have garnered no response, but perhaps the truth will one day come to light about the identity of Thomas Grant.



Galactic Central,

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

"Hooked."  Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 5, episode 38, CBS, 25 September 1960.



Turner, Robert. "Hooked." Manhunt, Feb. 1958. pp. 33-42.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The End of Indian Summer" here!

In two weeks: Our series on Richard Fielder begins with a look at "Night of the Owl," starring Brian Keith and Patricia Breslin!

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