Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Hitchcock Project-Bill S. Ballinger Part Five: Deathmate [6.27] and Wrapup

by Jack Seabrook

Ben Conant awakens, showers, and dresses, proud of his latest conquest: Lisa Talbot, who left before dawn. A 43-year-old man who has been supported by a series of middle-aged women for eighteen years, Ben goes down to the hotel lobby, where he is approached by a grey-suited private investigator named Arvin Moss, who confronts Ben with the knowledge that Ben has gone by a series of aliases in various places, marrying a series of women for their money. Moss reveals that he was hired by Lisa's husband, Peter.

"Deathmate" was first
published here
After Moss leaves, Ben calls Lisa and tells her about the detective hired by her husband. Ben has spent the summer in Newport cultivating a relationship with Lisa, who told him that she inherited money from her father and married Peter, who was a blowhard and a disappointment. Lisa tells Ben that she plans to leave her husband that night and he shows her a telegram that says that he needs money to meet next week's payroll or he'll be forced to sell his silver mine. She reveals that Peter now controls all of her money but she is certain that she and Ben can live on what he gets for his mine.

Lisa tells Ben that she wishes that Peter would have another heart attack and die. Ben drives to Peter's beach house, where Peter laments that Lisa married him for his money and remarks that she and Ben are two of a kind. Ben knocks Peter out with one punch and then drowns him in the bathtub. He finds a letter that reveals that it was Lisa, not Peter, who hired the private detective, and just then Lisa bursts in with Moss and finds Peter's body; Ben realizes that he has been outplayed.

Lee Philips as Ben
"Deathmate," by James Causey, was published in the March 1957 issue of Manhunt and is a short, hardboiled story of a man who takes advantage of women for money and how he is outwitted by a woman who recognizes him for what he is and uses him for her own ends.

James Causey (1924-2003) wrote short stories in the weird fiction, detective fiction, and science fiction genres from 1943 to 1969, with a short interruption to serve in the military during WWII. He also wrote three well-regarded crime novels: The Baby Doll Murders (1957), Killer Take All (1957), and Frenzy (1960). "Deathmate" was his only story to be adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Gia Scala as Lisa
The story was adapted for television by Bill Ballinger and aired on NBC on Tuesday, April 18, 1961. The show follows the short story fairly closely. The censors would not allow it to open with Ben waking up after spending the night in bed with Lisa, so instead the first scene shows Ben beating Peter at cards as Peter gets drunk and Lisa looks on. Peter is put to bed in a drunken stupor; with her husband passed out in the next room, Lisa embraces Ben and soon they recline together in front of the fireplace. As usual, with the translation from page to small screen, dialogue replaces narrative and exposition occurs quickly.

Downstairs in the lobby, Moss confronts Ben and their dialogue discloses Ben's history as a gigolo; unlike the story, where Moss says he was hired by Peter, Moss in the TV show refuses to say who hired him, instead allowing Ben to assume that it was Peter. Ben and Lisa then park at a spot outside of town and he tells her about Moss; she decides to leave Peter that night and the events of the teleplay follow those of the story closely. Ben visits Peter, knocks him out, and drowns him in the bathtub. In the final scene, Ben is steadying his nerves with a drink when Moss enters, alone; in Causey's story, he and Lisa arrive together. Moss pulls a gun on Ben and finds Peter's body. He reveals that Peter was rich and Lisa was not; he knocks Ben down and telephones his client, whom he reveals to be Lisa, not Peter, before calling the police, and the episode ends.

Russell Collins as Moss
"Deathmate" is a faithful translation of a story from page to small screen. Unfortunately, the short story lacks excitement and the TV show is similarly flat. The director, Alan Crosland, Jr. (1918-2001), uses some creative camera angles in an effort to liven up this tepid tale, but the story never really gets going. Crosland directed film and television from 1956 to 1986, mostly working in TV. He directed 19 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Big Kick." He also directed episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Lee Philips (1927-1999) stars as Ben. Born Leon Friedman, he acted on TV and film, mostly on TV, from 1953 to 1975, appearing in four episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Alibi Me." He also played in episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Phillips had a second career as a director, from 1963 to 1995, and directed 60 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.

Les Tremayne as Peter
The lovely but treacherous Lisa is portrayed by Gia Scala (1934-1972), who was born Josephina Grazia Scoglio in Liverpool and whose screen career lasted from 1955 to 1969. She was featured in three episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?"

The wonderful character actor Russell Collins (1897-1965) appears as Moss, the private detective. He started out on Broadway and was on screen from 1935 to 1965, including parts in ten episodes of the Hitchcock series, such as "John Brown's Body." He also played on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Ann Staunton
Les Tremayne (1913-2003) plays the doomed husband, Peter Talbot. Born in England, Tremayne started out in vaudeville and became a busy and popular radio actor in the 1930s and 1940s. He was on screen from 1949 to 1993 and was in four episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat." He also has a small part in Hitchcock's North By Northwest (1959). Tremayne was a regular on The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen (1958-1959) and Shazam! (1974-1976), appeared on Thriller, and did a great deal of voice acting in his later years.

Finally, Ann Staunton (1920-1994) has a brief appearance outside the elevator in the lobby. Born Virginia Ann Koerlin, she was on screen from 1942 to 1971 and this was her only appearance on the Hitchcock show. Her biography is here.

"Deathmate" is currently unavailable on DVD but may be viewed online here.

"Deathmate" was remade for the 1980s' version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and aired on USA on April, 18, 1987. The color version stars Samantha Eggar as Lisa but is not available for viewing online or on official DVD.

Thanks to Peter Enfantino for providing a copy of the short story!

Causey, James. “Deathmate.” Manhunt, Mar. 1957, pp. 52–55.
“Deathmate.” Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 6, episode 27, NBC, 18 Apr. 1961.
The FictionMags Index,
Gia Scala - The Private Life and Times of Gia Scala. Gia Scala Pictures.,
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
Hanley, Terence E. “James O. Causey (1924-2003).” James O. Causey (1924-2003), 1 Jan. 1970,
Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central,
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

Bill S. Ballinger on Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Overview and Episode Guide

Bill S. Ballinger wrote seven teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, six of which aired in the fifth season and one of which aired in the sixth. "Dry Run" was a faithful adaptation of a short story, well-acted and directed, portraying a tense showdown between two criminals. "Road Hog" was another script that stuck closely to its source, this time with a great performance by Robert Emhardt as an unlikable character. Perhaps most memorable of all was "The Day of the Bullet," a brilliant half-hour with great performances and expert direction. Ballinger's teleplay was nominated for an Edgar Award.

The script for "The Hero" deviates considerably from the obscure short story it adapts; the episode examines guilt and features good acting, especially by Oscar Homolka. In "Cell 227," Ballinger takes a thoughtful story by Bryce Walton and simplifies it, turning it into a straightforward thriller. "Escape to Sonoita" is another faithful adaptation of a tough short story with some odd sexual undertones added for TV. Finally, "Deathmate" is a rather dull adaptation of a forgettable short story.

For the most part, Ballinger's scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents are very good and represent a period (the fifth season) when the show was at its creative peak.


Episode title-"Dry Run" [5.7]
Broadcast date-8 November 1959
Teleplay by-Bill S. Ballinger
Based on "Dry Run" by Norman Struber
First print appearance-Manhunt, April 1956
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"Road Hog" [5.11]
Broadcast date-6 December 1959
Teleplay by-Bill S. Ballinger
Based on "Road Hog" by Harold R. Daniels
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September 1959
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

"Road Hog"

Episode title-"The Day of the Bullet" [5.20]
Broadcast date-14 February 1960
Teleplay by-Bill S. Ballinger
Based on "The Day of the Bullet" by Stanley Ellin
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, October 1959
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"The Hero" [5.29]
Broadcast date-1 May 1960
Teleplay by-Bill S. Ballinger
Based on "The Hero" by Henry de vere Stacpoole
First print appearance-Blue Waters by Henry de vere Stacpoole, 1917
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

"The Hero"

Episode title-"Cell 227" [5.34]
Broadcast date-5 June 1960
Teleplay by-Bill S. Ballinger
Based on "An Eye for an Eye" by Bryce Walton
First print appearance-Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, December 1959
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"Escape to Sonoita" [5.37]
Broadcast date-26 June 1960
Teleplay by-Bill S. Ballinger
Based on "Escape to Sonoita" by James A. Howard
First print appearance-Suspense, October 1959
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

"Escape to Sonoita"

Episode title-"Deathmate" [6.27]
Broadcast date-18 April 1961
Teleplay by-Bill S. Ballinger
Based on "Deathmate" by James Causey
First print appearance-Manhunt, March 1957
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

In two weeks: Our series on Stirling Silliphant begins with "Never Again," starring Phyllis Thaxter!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn's entertaining discussion of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "The Gentleman from America," on the Good Evening podcast here!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma's incisive podcast about the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "You Got to Have Luck," here!

No comments: