Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Link and Richard Levinson Part Four: Day of Reckoning [8.10]

by Jack Seabrook

First U.S edition

Duke Farne, a wealthy Englishman approaching middle age, murders his wife Felicity by pushing her off the edge of a boat when none of the other passengers are looking. Once they realize she's gone, it's too late, and she drowns. The police are called to investigate Felicity's sudden disappearance but no one suspects foul play, not even Inspector Brayton, who knows the family. No one knows that Felicity had told Dyke that she was in love with another man and planned to leave her husband, who killed her rather than let her betray him.

Inspector Brayton investigates and Dyke slowly begins to confide in family members, telling his sister Caroline that Felicity was going to leave him. Family friend Frank Calvert lies to the inspector and says that Dyke was in sight all of the time while they were on the boat; when Felicity's doctor reveals that she had a weak heart and could have died at any moment, the inspector is satisfied that her death was an accident.

Dyke's conscience begins to nag him and he confesses the truth to Caroline, who refuses to believe it and is convinced that the shock of his wife's death has affected him. The rest of Dyke's family agrees with her and, the more Dyke tries to confess his crime, the more they insist that either he is mad or, if he is telling the truth, that the story must be suppressed to protect his family. Dyke visits Inspector Brayton and confesses, yet even the policeman refuses to believe him.

First U.K. edition

Privately, Frank tells Dyke that he was Felicity's secret lover and that he will maintain the lie about what happened on the boat because he knows Dyke's conscience will haunt him. Dyke continues to insist that he is a murderer, so his family has him examined by a doctor, who suggests an examination by a renowned specialist. By the time the second doctor arrives, Dyke has fled to the boat and ends up floating down the river alone in the dark. He lowers himself into the water, unseen, to join his dead wife.

The cover of Day of Reckoning, the 1951 novel by John Garden that was adapted by William Link and Richard Levinson into an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour with the same title, calls it "the story of a man who killed his wife because he loved her." The book is an examination of the effects of a sudden, passionate act of violence. Dyke does not plan to kill his wife; he simply pushes her off the boat at an opportune moment and then tells no one--at least, not at first. The novel examines his mental state as it deteriorates from guilt; at first, he feels relief when he confesses to murder, but later he is driven slowly mad when no one believes him. In the end, he is boxed into a corner--he cannot bring himself to lie and thus faces being ruled insane and being placed into a mental institution for telling the truth. The book is an indictment of British society, where the wealthy members of Dyke's family value their own status above the life of the poor, beautiful girl Dyke married and killed. Even the police inspector refuses to believe a confession, preferring to keep the case neatly closed.

Barry Sullivan as Paul Sampson

Day of Reckoning was first published in England in 1950 under the title, Murder Isn't Private, a phrase that the doctor says to Dyke near the end, adding that "'Even when it isn't found out, it isn't private. Everybody gets involved.'" Dyke agrees, remarking that "'Those who destroy others, destroy themselves.'" The idea that "murder will out" and be discovered is an old one in English literature, going back to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and such Shakespeare plays as Richard III and Macbeth. The author of Day of Reckoning followed a long tradition of examining how the conscience of a killer will not let him alone. Reviews in the British press quoted on the back of the book's dust jacket include one that notes its "warning of the absolute domination of guilt."

Claude Akins as Sheriff Jordan

John Garden, who is credited as the book's author, is a pseudonym for H.L.V. Fletcher (1902-1970?), an English writer, schoolteacher, and headmaster. He wrote 12 novels under his own name between 1942 and 1958, five mystery novels as John Garden between 1947 and 1967, eight novels under the name John Hereford from 1947 to 1957, and numerous books on travel and gardening between 1943 and 1975. He also wrote a film script, radio plays, short stories, and articles. He was the gardening editor for Home and Gardens magazine; perhaps the pen name of John Garden was a nod to his hobby involving horticulture. One film was based on a novel of his and "Day of Reckoning," which aired on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on CBS on Thursday, November 22, 1962, was the only television show to be adapted from any of his works.

Katharine Bard as Caroline

Link and Levinson take a more straightforward approach to adapting this book for TV than they did with their prior effort, "Captive Audience." In the novel, the murder has already occurred when the book opens; in the TV version, the story plays out in sequence, without flashbacks. The main character, Dyke Farne, has been rechristened Paul Sampson, perhaps because of the crude connotations of the given name and the fact that it would be seen as unusual in the U.S., where the events now take place. His wife's name remains Felicity, as in the book, but the actress who plays her, Dee Hartford, was 34 years old (in the book, the character is nearly 40), making the age difference between her and Paul more significant. Paul is played by Barry Sullivan, who was 50 years old, comparable to Dyke in the novel.

Hugh Marlowe as Harold

Felicity's fall from the boat is well handled and looks like an accident, even though Paul subsequently takes no steps to prevent her drowning and thus is at least guilty of that. Instead of British Inspector Brayton the show features burly Claude Akins as Sheriff Jordan, in the usual sort of country sheriff outfit that Akins sported in countless roles. Paul's family and friends are similar to those in the book, with two big exceptions: Dyke's young adult son Michael is removed for the TV version and family friend Frank, whose youth and virility cause Felicity to turn to him as a lover in the novel, has been replaced by Judge David Wilcox, played by 53 year old Louis Hayward, who looks even older on screen.

Jeremy Slate as Trent

The plot of the TV show follows that of the novel faithfully; when the sheriff recreates the accident on the boat, director Jerry Hopper uses a tight closeup of Paul's face to demonstrate the beginning of his feelings of guilt. Trent, whom Paul first suspects of having been Felicity's lover, is played by handsome, 36 year old Jeremy Slate, making him just two years older than Dee Hartford as Felicity and thus a reasonable suspect. Framed photos of Paul's beautiful, dead wife abound in his house; there is one in his bedroom that he gazes at when he sees the police bring her corpse in from the lake.

The coroner's inquest is expanded for the TV show and consists mostly of medium closeups of characters talking; unfortunately, Lyn Murray's score is uninspired and sounds like stock music cues that don't always fit the action. More evidence of Felicity is seen in Paul's living room; after the inquest, he stares at another framed photo of his late wife. Her memory is everywhere Paul goes and probably helps influence him to confess murder to his sister Caroline.

K.T. Stevens as Alice

The uncertainty of the scene where Felicity falls overboard makes Paul's guilt even more interesting than it is in the novel; in the TV show, it's possible that he did not do what he insists he did and is instead driven mad by guilt. Link and Levinson successfully condense events from the novel without removing much at all. Paul's brother Harold drives Paul into town and suggests he see a doctor, leading Paul to evade him by entering a drugstore an slipping out through the back door; he then visits the sheriff, as he does in the book.

Paul and Sheriff Jordan visit the home of Judge Wilcox, who maintains his earlier lie and, after the sheriff leaves, reveals that he was Felicity's lover. He takes the place of Frank from the novel, making the other man in Felicity's life older rather than younger than Paul. The irony is increased: in the book, Felicity explained that her attraction to Frank was physical, while in the TV version, Wilcox explains: "'You think I'd be too old for her? Felicity didn't think so.'" Strong acting by Louis Hayward and Barry Sullivan make this the most effective scene in the show. There is a particularly good shot by director Jerry Hopper toward the end of this scene, with Paul in the foreground, his guilt-ridden face dominating the screen, and Wilcox in the distance, smaller, positioned like a devil on Paul's shoulder.

The story's conclusion diverges from the end of the novel: Dyke's flight to the boat and eventual nighttime suicide are replaced by a scene in his home, where his family has brought a psychiatrist to take him to a mental hospital. Two men in white coats arrive and take Paul away as the episode comes to an end. The writers thus avoid the taboo subject of suicide by choosing an alternate ending, showing what probably would have happened to Dyke in the novel had he not chosen to take his own life.

Louis Hayward as Judge Wilcox

"Day of Reckoning" is directed by Jerry Hopper (1907-1988) in his only effort for the Hitchcock TV series. Born Harold Hankins Hopper, he was a film editor who served in WWII as a combat photographer; he returned to Hollywood after the war and directed shorts from 1946 to 1951 before embarking on a career as a director of features, mainly from 1952 to 1961, and TV shows, mainly from 1957 to 1972.

Starring as Paul Sampson is Barry Sullivan (1912-1994), who was born Patrick Barry Sullivan and who appeared on radio starting in the 1930s and on Broadway from 1936 to 1956. He was in films from 1936 to 1987 and on TV from 1953 to 1981. Sullivan was a regular on several TV series: The Man Called X (1956-57), Harbormaster (1957-58), The Tall Man (1960-62), and The Road West (1966-67). He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one for movies and the other for TV). Sullivan appeared on Night Gallery twice and was also in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The $2,000,000 Defense."

Les Tremayne as Dr. Ryder
Claude Akins (1926-1994) plays Sheriff Jordan. Akins served in the Army in WWII and acted on screen from 1953 to 1994, appearing in such films as Rio Bravo (1959) and on TV in shows including The Twilight Zone and The Night Stalker. He was also on two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Place of Shadows," but he was best-known as Sheriff Lobo in the TV series B.J. and the Bear (1978-79) and The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo (1979-81).

Paul's sister Caroline is played by Katharine Bard (1916-1983), who was on screen from 1951 to 1978 and who also appeared in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Hugh Marlowe (1911-1982) plays Paul's brother, Harold. Born Hugh Herbert Hipple, he started onstage in the 1930s and also appeared on radio. He played Ellery Queen on radio and television and appeared in movies beginning in 1936. He had a role in All About Eve (1950) and began appearing in TV shows that year. He was seen in six episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "John Brown's Body." Later in life, he was a regular on the soap opera, Another World, from 1969 to 1982.

Robert Cornthwaite as the District Attorney
Trent Parker, whom Paul thinks was his wife's lover, is played by Jeremy Slate (1926-2006). Born Robert Perham, he landed at Normandy on D-Day and later went on to a career in movies and on TV from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. He appeared in five episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "One Grave Too Many." In an interview, he admitted that he acted from 1960 to 1970 and then tuned in, turned on, and dropped out, spending the next ten years traveling around the USA in a motor home.

K.T. Stevens (1919-1994), who was married to Hugh Marlowe at the time, plays Alice, Harold's wife. Born Gloria Wood, she was the daughter of silent film director Sam Wood. She appeared in films as a child in 1921 and then returned to the screen as an adult, appearing in films and on TV from 1940 to 1994. She was on Thriller twice and she also appeared in "None Are So Blind" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Making the most of his time on screen in this episode is Louis Hayward (1909-1985) as Judge Wilcox. Born in South Africa, he appeared on stage and screen in England starting in 1932 and came to the U.S. in 1935, where he was in films and on TV until 1974. Among his films were And Then There Were None (1945) and Fritz Lang's House By the River (1950); he also starred in a TV series called The Lone Wolf (1954-55) and was seen on Night Gallery. Hayward served with the Marines in WWII and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In smaller roles:
  • Les Tremayne as Dr. Ryder; 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 he 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.
  • Robert Cornthwaite (1917-2006) as the district attorney; he served in the Air Force in WWII and later had a long career on screen, from 1950 to 2005, appearing in films such as The Thing from Another World (1951) and The War of the Worlds (1953) and on TV shows such as The Twilight Zone, Thriller, Batman, and The Night Stalker. He was in one other episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "Three Wives too Many."
  • James Flavin (1906-1976) as the coroner; he had character parts in nearly 400 movies and 100 TV episodes from 1932 to 1976 and he was in four episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Touche." He also played a sailor in King Kong (1933).
  • Buck Taylor (1938- ) as Frazier, the policeman who has to jump off the boat in the reenactment of the drowning; he has been on TV since 1961 and is still acting. He had a role on Gunsmoke from 1967 to 1975 and was in one other episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "Death Scene," as Dancer, who dances acrobatically for John Carradine and nearly falls to his death.
Buck Taylor

  • Dee Hartford (1928-2018) as Felicity; born Donna Higgins, she was a model in the late 1940s and she was in a few films between 1952 and 1976. She was married to director Howard Hawks from 1953 to 1959 and then appeared on TV from 1962 to 1969, popping up in shows including The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Batman.
Dee Hartford

"Day of Reckoning" may be viewed online here.


"Day of Reckoning." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 1, episode 10, CBS, 22 November 1962.

The FictionMags Index,

Garden, John. Day of Reckoning. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1951.

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

"H(arry) L(utf) V(erne) Fletcher." Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors, Gale, 2002. Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors, Accessed 16 July 2021.


Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

In two weeks: Our coverage of Richard Levinson and William Link concludes with "Nothing Ever Happens in Linvale," starring Gary Merrill and Phyllis Thaxter!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Legacy" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "The Little Man Who Was There" here!

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