Thursday, May 2, 2024

The Hitchcock Project-Albert E. Lewin and Burt Styler, Part Two-Craig's Will [5.23]

by Jack Seabrook

Anthology shows in the early days of TV would sometimes feature episodes that were not necessarily in sync with what viewers were expecting. "Craig's Will" is such an entry in Alfred Hitchcock Presents--it's about as close to a half-hour situation comedy as the series would ever show. It's not surprising that the teleplay is by Burt Styler and Albert Lewin; after all, the duo made their name writing humor.

"Craig's Will" aired on March 6, 1960, and the credits say that the teleplay is based on a story by Valerie Dyke. Despite exhaustive research, I have been unable to locate any such published story or, for that matter, anything else by Valerie Dyke.

This photo of Valerie
Dyke was published
in 1942.

Valerie Dyke was born Ruth Valerie Edmonds in Toronto in 1915. She grew up in Canada but moved to New York City and modeled for a few years before marrying Collier Young, a Hollywood writer who would go on to be a notable TV producer. The wedding was a social event; one of the groomsmen was Nelson Rockefeller. The couple planned to live in Beverly Hills. They were divorced in 1946 and Valerie went on to marry Kenneth Dyke, a brigadier general and an ad executive at NBC. Valerie Dyke was married to two prominent men, both of whom worked in the entertainment industry, and it is possible that she had an idea for a story that was the germ of the episode that became "Craig's Will." Mrs. Dyke died in 1965.

"Craig's Will" opens and closes in a psychiatrist's office, as a beautiful woman named Judy tells her story to the doctor. In the opening sequence, only her legs are shown as she reclines on the couch. In voiceover narration that will come and go throughout the episode, she explains to the doctor that she set her sights on Wilbur Craig, the only millionaire in Craigsville, and when he died, she transferred her focus to his son, Thomas Craig, whom she describes as "'not bad looking, not too smart, but best of all, unmarried.'"

Dick Van Dyke as Thomas Craig
A lawyer reads Craig's will and, to everyone's surprise, he leaves most of his fortune to his dog, Casper, and only one dollar to his son, Thomas, who is allowed free room and board at the mansion and who will inherit what's left when the dog dies. When Thomas visits Judy at her apartment and breaks the news, her thoughts turn immediately to murder and she uses baby talk and plenty of passionate kisses and caresses to convince her boyfriend that he must kill the dog.

Craig buys a hunting rifle and takes Casper out to the woods, intending to shoot him, but his plan is foiled when another hunter appears. Even after the hunter leaves, Thomas cannot bring himself to kill the friendly dog. Judy's charms no longer work on Thomas, so she goes to the office of a private investigator, Vincent Noonan, who is at first reluctant when she tells him his assignment. "'It would be a snap if you wanted me to follow this dog or rough him up or maybe get some pictures of him in a motel,'" says Vincent, but when Judy offers him $1000 (plus expenses), he quickly agrees.

Stella Stevens as Judy
Judy brings Noonan to the Craig mansion and introduces him as her cousin, who plans to stay awhile. He ponders how to kill the dog and make it look like an accident and, after seeing that the butler gives the dog a steak every night for dinner, the private eye takes ant poison from the kitchen cabinet and applies a liberal dose to a steak that he finds in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, Loomis is served the same steak for dinner that evening and barely survives.

Finally, the private detective takes Casper out in a rowboat, intending to drown the dog and explaining to his canine passenger that "'it's strictly business.'" Loomis stands up in the boat, lifts the oar as if to strike the dog, and the scene dissolves back to the mansion, where Noonan soon turns up with Casper, explaining that "'that dog saved my life.'" As Judy loudly chides Noonan and says that she'll kill Casper herself, Thomas Craig walks in and hears her, and the jig is up. Judy's baby talk no longer works on her fiancĂ© and the show ends back where it began, with her telling her story to the psychiatrist in his office. Judy admits that the only solution is "'to become a dog and marry Casper;'" she lets out a few barks and the screen fades to black.

Paul Stewart as Vincent Noonan
"Craig's Will" is a black comedy, but it doesn't work nearly as well as Lewin and Styler's previous teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Cheap is Cheap," in large part because of the dog at the center of the story. There are too many shots of Casper looking cute and, unlike the wife in the prior episode, who is killed at the end without her killer being punished, it was too much to expect viewers to accept the murder of a dog. Instead, the writers present a series of failed attempts at canine homicide, ending with the architect of the plan giving in and deciding that if she can't beat the dog, she must join him.

This episode aired in early March 1960, so it probably was filmed in early January of that year. Stella Stevens, the star of "Craig's Will," who narrates the show and manipulates the men around her to try to get what she wants, was the Playmate of the Month for January 1960 in Playboy magazine, and she uses her allure in front of the camera in this TV show to great effect. Yet she is not just a pretty face, since she portrays Judy as an intelligent, calculating woman who knows how to change her approach to a man to achieve her ends. At one moment she is using baby talk on Thomas Craig and kissing him passionately to overcome his aversion to killing Casper; at another, she is offering cold, hard cash to Vincent Noonan to persuade him to accomplish the same goal.

Harry Tyler as Sam Loomis
Dick Van Dyke plays Thomas Craig, and his character is not very different from the character he would soon play on The Dick Van Dyke Show to great success. The actor was unknown when this episode was filmed and aired, but only five weeks after it premiered on CBS, Van Dyke opened on Broadway in Bye Bye Birdie, the show that would make him a star and for which he would win a Tony Award.

Paul Stewart steals the show in "Craig's Will" as Noonan, the ethically shady private investigator who is eventually won over by Casper. He strikes the perfect note between drama and comedy, seeming like a character out of film noir who doesn't realize he's in a comic situation. Without Stewart's deadpan performance, the episode would be much less enjoyable.

Joseph Holland as the lawyer
In the end, "Craig's Will" is a below average episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. There are some funny moments and it's tightly plotted with a solid structure; the cast is good and there's not a poor performance in the half hour. But the writers' inability to go through with Judy's plan to kill Casper dooms the show, and the weak ending is a letdown.

This is the only episode of the series to be directed by Gene Reynolds (1923-2020), who was born Eugene Reynolds Blumenthal. He started out as a child actor in films in 1934 and continued acting in film and on TV until 1967. He began directing TV shows in 1957 and later had success as a TV writer and producer. Among the shows he directed were My Three Sons, Hogan's Heroes, M*A*S*H, and Lou Grant; he also produced M*A*S*H and Lou Grant in the '70s and '80s. Along the way he won six Emmy Awards and became president of the Director's Guild, a position he held from 1993 to 1997.

Almira Sessions as Martha Henderson
Dick Van Dyke (1925- ) started out on TV and starred in The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961 to 1966, fitting in an important role in Mary Poppins in 1964. He went on to a long career on screen that included another successful TV series, Diagnosis Murder (1993-2001). In addition to his Tony for Bye Bye Birdie, he won four Emmy Awards and is in the Television Hall of Fame.

Stella Stevens (1938-2023) was born Estelle Eggleston and was on screen from 1959 to 2010. "Craig's Will" was her first TV appearance. Among her many films was The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

Maurice Manson
Paul Stewart (1908-1986) was born Paul Sternberg and used his gravelly voice to good advantage on radio from the 1930s to the 1950s. A member of the Mercury Theatre, he was in Orson Welles's radio production of "The War of the Worlds" and appeared on screen from 1937 to 1985, including films such as Citizen Kane (41) and Kiss Me Deadly (55).

"Craig's Will" was the only time any of its three stars appeared on the Hitchcock TV series.

In smaller roles:
  • Harry Tyler (1888-1961) as Sam Loomis, the butler; he has hundreds of credits and always seems to have played bit parts; he started out in film in 1929 and worked steadily up to his death. He had minor roles in 11 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; "Craig's Will" was his last.
  • Joseph Holland (1910-1994) as the lawyer who reads the will; he was a member of Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre and appeared on stage, radio, and TV from 1934 to 1961.
  • Almira Sessions (1888-1974) as Martha Henderson, the housekeeper who receives a small inheritance; her first stage role was in 1909 and regular appearances on radio followed. She appeared in numerous films and TV shows from 1932 to 1972, including Night Gallery and one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The Dusty Drawer."
Stephen Roberts
  • Maurice Manson (1913-2002) as the hunter with the thick glasses; he was on screen from 1948 to 1982 and can be seen in five episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "I Saw the Whole Thing."
  • Stephen Roberts (1917-1999) as the psychiatrist; he was on film and TV from 1943 to 1986 and appeared in one episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "An Unlocked Window."
  • Casper the dog was played by Red, who appeared on various TV shows from 1960 to 1966; "Craig's Will" was his first role. He also had a recurring role on Get Smart as Agent K-13/Fang.
Red as Casper

Watch "Craig's Will" online here or order the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps review of this episode here. Thanks to Art Lortie for helping track down Valerie Dyke!


Bird, David. "Kenneth R. Dyke Is Dead at 81; Helped to Democratize Japanese; Pressed for Freedom of Speech Returned to Service in 1942." The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Jan. 1980, 

"Collier Young and Ruth Valerie Edmonds." Who’s Dated Who?, 

"Craig's Will." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 5, episode 23, CBS, 6 March 1960.


"Gene Reynolds." Television Academy Interviews, 6 July 2023, 

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



RUSC Old Time Radio,

"Ruth Valerie (Edmonds) Dyke." WikiTree, 25 June 2020,

"Toronto Girl Is Wedded to Writer of Hollywood." The Toronto Daily Star, 8 Mar. 1938. 

"Wedding in Chapel for Ruth Edmonds." New York Times, 9 Mar. 1938, p. 26.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "I Killed the Count," part one here!

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

In two weeks: "The Cheyney Vase," starring Patricia Collinge and Darren McGavin!


Jon said...

Nice look at a relatively light-hearted episode. BTW, Red may have also played the Baxter femily dog, Smiley, on HAZEL. You can see the HAZEL cast including Smiley in the first link then "Fang" with the GET SMART cast in the second.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Jon! Yes, that sure looks like Red on the Hazel TV Guide cover.