Thursday, October 6, 2022

The Hitchcock Project-David Goodis: An Out for Oscar [8.26]

by Jack Seabrook

Born in Philadelphia in 1917, David Goodis has received attention due to his crime novels and the films adapted from them. His first novel was published in 1939, and he wrote for the pulps and for radio in the 1940s, eventually signing a contract to write for Warner Brothers in Hollywood. Yet very little that made its way to the screen is credited to him; he is listed as co-writer for The Unfaithful, released in 1947; he adapted The Burglar in 1957 from his own novel; and he wrote a single episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "An Out for Oscar," which aired on CBS on Friday, April 5, 1963, near the end of the show's first hour-long season.

David Goodis
Goodis is best remembered for his novels and for the films made from them, such as Dark Passage (1947) and Shoot the Piano Player (1960). Twenty-two of the thirty-two episodes of the first season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour were adapted from novels, including two books by Henry Kane: My Darlin' Evangeline, which was adapted as "An Out for Oscar," and Run for Doom, which aired under that title. I could not find any information on why Goodis was hired to write this single episode or why he never wrote another; several months after it aired, the popular TV series, The Fugitive, began its four-year run and Goodis believed that the central idea had been stolen from his novel, Dark Passage. He did not write anything else for the big or small screen between "An Out for Oscar" and his death in 1967.

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Cover painting by Barye Phillips
Less well known is Henry Kane, author of My Darlin' Evangeline, which was first published in 1961 as a Dell First Edition paperback. Kane was born in 1908 and received a law degree but made his mark writing novels and short stories as well as scripts for radio and TV. His most popular works were a series of hard-boiled detective novels featuring private eye Peter Chambers; the first in the series was A Halo for Nobody (1947). Kane published over 60 novels between then and 1982, as well as short stories between 1947 and 1967. His TV and movie work spanned the years from 1949 to 1974, though he wrote for the screen mainly in the 1950s. He died in 1988. Lawrence Block wrote an entertaining article about Henry Kane that may be read here.

My Darlin' Evangeline opens as Oscar Blinney checks into a Miami Beach hotel for a month-long vacation. At poolside he meets Adele Roberts, who is there to get a divorce; they spend the night together. The next day, Oscar sees Evangeline (Eve) Ashley in the hotel tearoom and is strongly attracted to the blonde beauty. That evening, she visits her lover, Bill Grant, unaware that she is being watched by Pedro Orgaz, who pays her $1000 a month to be his girlfriend. Pedro later goes to her room at the hotel and removes every trace of his ever having been there; he then goes to the Club Columbo, which he runs, and gets drunk. His wife is the daughter of mobster Mike Columbo.

Henry Silva as Bill Grant
The next day, Eve approaches Oscar on the beach and they get acquainted. Soon, Pedro asks his psychopathic brother Diego to murder Bill Grant, but Bill turns the tables and kills Diego. He telephones Eve and takes a flight out of the country, counseling her to leave town but refusing to take her with him. She returns home to find Pedro waiting for her in a drunken rage; she kills him by hitting him over the head with a bottle and then cutting his throat with the broken fragment. She stages the scene to make it look like an attempted rape and then begins to scream.

Oscar's room is next door to hers and he hears her screams and rushes to her aid. He calls the police and they believe her story; after a brief investigation, she is cleared. Oscar and Eve begin spending all of their time together and when he proposes marriage, she accepts, though she is unfaithful to him during their honeymoon in Atlantic City. They settle in New York and the marriage is a disaster, but Eve refuses to give Oscar a divorce. Oscar falls in love with Adrienne Moore, a woman he met in Florida, and Eve announces that she is pregnant and travels to Mexico for an abortion. She returns with Bill Grant, and one evening Oscar comes home early and finds them in bed together.

Linda Christian as Eva
After Oscar leaves his wife, he is summoned to see Bill, who explains that Eve faked her pregnancy and went to Mexico City to find him. Bill offers to kill Eve if Oscar will cooperate with his plan to rob the bank where Oscar works as a teller. Bill tells Oscar, "'there is no out for you...except one.'" Bill explains that he will kill Eve when she visits him the next day and leave her body in the room that he has rented under another name; he will then rob the bank, change his identity, and fly to London. The next day, Bill arrives at the bank and gives Oscar a note. Oscar calmly puts $250,000 in Bill's briefcase, hands the case to Bill, pulls out a gun, and shoots him twice in the head.

The police arrive and question Oscar before receiving a report that Eve has been found dead in Bill's room. Satisfied that they understand what happened, the police exonerate Oscar and discuss the difficulty of committing the perfect crime, laughing at the thought that Oscar could have committed one. Oscar is given the bank's award for heroism and promoted, and he marries Adrienne.

Larry Storch as Oscar
My Darlin' Evangeline is an entertaining novel with a tight plot and a story that moves quickly from start to finish. As bad as Eve is, she does not deserve to be treated the way that Bill treats her, and her death, which is only described after the fact, seems anti-climactic. Oscar trained as a boxer when he was young and that comes into play in one scene where he knocks out a hoodlum who accosts him and Eve on the street one night to tell her to leave town. In addition, all of the employees at the bank where Oscar works are required to train weekly at a shooting range, which comes in handy at the novel's climax when Oscar suddenly shoots and kills Bill.

In the end, Oscar murders Bill, allows Bill to murder Eve, and lies to the police about having any knowledge of their relationship. He is corrupted by those around him and resorts to dishonest acts in order to escape his unhappy marriage and keep his job. In between scenes that advance the plot, Kane fills in the background of his characters. Oscar is tall, muscular, and handsome, but his temperament is gentle and reticent. Eve is the product of a difficult upbringing and she learned to trade on her beauty and to use men from a young age. As a teen, she entered the movie business, sleeping with a series of directors until she met "a silk-sheathed, king-sized, famous, obese master-director of suspense films," with whom she shares a bed. He tells her that she will never be an actress and calls her "'a cheap little girl, bouncing from bed to bed...'" The director, clearly modeled on Hitchcock, tells her to give up acting and go home.

John Marley as Mike Chambers
Did Alfred Hitchcock read this novel? Did series producer Norman Lloyd read it and secretly enjoy hiring David Goodis to adapt it for the Hitchcock TV show? The scenes detailing Eve's background are not part of the TV version, but anyone reading this particular scene must have thought that Kane was referring to Hitchcock when he described the director whose sage advice puts an end to Eve's dreams of movie stardom.

My Darlin' Evangeline was purchased and assigned to David Goodis to adapt for the small screen, and the title, "An Out for Oscar," shows that the focus of the story has shifted from Eve to Oscar. Goodis took Bill's remark to Oscar about there only being one "out" for him and used it as the episode's title. The teleplay is fascinating in the way that Goodis condenses events, removes characters, and both speeds up and slows down the pace of the narrative, depending on where he wants to focus the viewer's attention.

The show eliminates the first three chapters of the novel, where Oscar checks into his room, meets Adele, and is attracted to Eve. Instead, the first scene shows a man looking through a window, observing Bill and Eva (Eve) locked in a passionate embrace. There is a cut to an exterior shot of a street with golf carts and a sign identifying the resort as The Mojave, which suggests that the location has been moved from Florida to California or Nevada. Inside an office at the resort, boss Mike Chambers bullies employee Peter Rogan; Goodis has taken the novel's Mike Columbo and made him less obviously Italian by changing his name to Chambers; he is also an onsite manager at the resort instead of a shadowy figure managing events from another location. The novel's Pedro Orgaz has become Peter Rogan, and instead of conducting his own surveillance, he has a blackjack dealer named Ronald watching Eva.

George Petrie as Detective Rogers
In the hallway outside Chambers's office, Ronald tells Rogan about what he saw and Rogan does not take the news well. We then meet Eva, who is at work, arranging flowers in the resort's dining room. She is approached by Oscar, who looks silly in a cowboy hat and western shirt, practicing with a lariat. Instead of the handsome, blond, muscular Oscar of the novel, the TV version is short and average looking, with dark hair. Goodis cuts the scene where Oscar and Eva get to know each other on the beach and he also deletes the entire sequence of events where Pedro tries to have Bill killed by his brother Diego and Bill turns the tables.

Instead, Oscar is clearly smitten with the lovely Eva and follows her back to her bungalow. She enters her room to find Peter, drunk and angry. He hits her and begins to chase her around the room; she smashes a bottle over his head and finishes him off by bludgeoning him with a metal vase, killing him. In the novel, these events occur in her hotel room, which is next to Oscar's, so when she begins screaming, he is able to respond quickly. In the TV version, he is still moping around outside her bungalow after she turned down his invitation to a party, so when she screams, he is the first one through the door. Not surprisingly, her claims of rape in the novel have been eliminated, and the only article of clothing she tears off before screaming is her necklace.

Myron Healey as Peter Rogan
Events move quickly after that: we see Oscar and Eva emerge from the coroner's office after she has been cleared of any wrongdoing. She declines his invitation to lunch but changes her mind and joins him after she telephones Bill Grant and he hangs up on her. Over lunch, Oscar reveals that he works as a bank teller in Los Angeles. He drives her back to the resort, where Ronald summons her to Chambers's office. She arrives to find Bill sitting there and learns that Rogan paid Ronald $100 to follow her, leading to him seeing her with Grant in the show's first scene. Chambers tells Eva that he knows she murdered Rogan and lied to the police, but he wants to avoid publicity and orders Bill to spend some time in Mexico. He fires Eva.

In the novel, Bill's violent murder of Diego causes him to flee the country; in Goodis's version, the order of events has been rearranged and Bill is told to leave in order to avoid bad publicity for the resort because of his relationship with Eva and her attack on Rogan. Eva visits Oscar in his room, pretending that she has come to say goodbye but clearly angling for him to make a proposition, which he does, offering to find her a job and a place to stay in Los Angeles.

Rayford Barnes as Ronald
We next see Oscar back at work at the bank, where Hodges, the manager, offers him a promotion. Oscar has been married to Eva for two months and his description to Hodges of their life together is contrasted with her behavior at home, where we see that she is a sloppy drunk. Their apartment is a mess and she tells Oscar that she only married him because she was broke and he was better than nothing. Subsequent events are set in motion in the next scene, where we see Oscar in the kitchen going over payroll sheets. Back at the bank, Hodges reminds Oscar of his upcoming promotion, tells him not to forget to come to that evening's gun club meeting, and emphasizes the importance of a wife to a man's career.

The character of Adrienne Moore is eliminated and Eva does not go to Mexico for a purported abortion. Instead, Oscar comes home from the bank to find Eva sober and Bill Grant as an unexpected dinner guest. That evening, Oscar attends the gun club and shows himself to have poor aim, blaming it on being distracted. He returns home to find Eva and Bill drunk and uncomfortably close together on the sofa, not in bed together as in the novel. Instead of leaving his wife, as he does in the book, Oscar asks Eva for a divorce and she agrees, adding that it will cost him $50,000 and suggesting that he get it from the bank. We don't know it yet, but Oscar's response is the key to what happens in the rest of the episode: "'I won't let you wreck my career.'" Bill visits Oscar at the bank and offers Oscar an out; that evening, Oscar visits Bill at his hotel room and Bill explains his plan to kill Eva and rob the bank.

David White as Lt. Burr
Henry Silva, as Bill, is particularly good in this scene; in a single shot, he goes to a mirror, dons hairpiece, glasses, and mustache, and instantly transforms into another person, all without missing a line of dialogue. The rest of the show tracks the events of the novel closely. Bill holds up Oscar at the bank and Oscar shoots him dead. The police come and investigate, taking Oscar to Bill's apartment, where they get word of Eva's murder. The final scene is a dinner held to honor Oscar, who is promoted and given a $10,000 bonus. The show ends with an unexpected shot in which the camera travels down to the end of the banquet table, where the two detectives sit; one posits that Oscar has committed the perfect crime but the other scoffs at the idea.

Alan Napier as Hodges
David Goodis was given a challenging task to adapt a violent, sexy crime novel into a forty-eight-minute TV show, where the violence has to be toned down to an acceptable level and the sex has to be eliminated or, at most, only suggested. He did it by eliminating scenes and characters, combining others, removing unnecessary events, and taking the focus of the story away from Oscar's doomed relationship with Eve and changing it to the importance of his job to his sense of self-worth. The novel is a book that can be divided neatly into two sections: the events at the resort and the events in New York. The TV show has a different sense of time; events rush ahead at dizzying speed for the first three acts before slowing down in the fourth. It is surprising that Oscar kills Bill at the end of act three and that all of act four is devoted to the fallout from this act and Eva's offstage death. In the novel, there are only 16 pages (of 192) after Oscar shoots Bill, but in the TV show, the last nine minutes are taken up with the subsequent events. This suggests that Goodis thought that the best way to convey Oscar's motivation was to give extra attention to his behavior during the police investigation and to show the dinner where he gets a promotion and a bonus as the last scene. It makes little sense that the two detectives are at the end of the banquet table, but it does allow them to speak the final lines of the show and hammer home the fact that Oscar committed the perfect crime and the police were not clever enough to understand it.

R.I.P. Peter Rogan
Bernard Girard (1918-1997) does a superb job directing this episode, keeping the events moving at a breakneck pace until slowing things down in the fourth act. He was born Bernard Goldstein and worked as both a writer and director of movies and TV from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s. He directed a Twilight Zone as well as four half-hour Hitchcock episodes and eight hour-length Hitchcock episodes, including the Robert Bloch classic, "Water's Edge."

Henry Silva (1928-2022) plays Bill Grant. Born in Brooklyn and trained at the Actor's Studio, he had a long career on TV and film from 1950 to 2001 but only appeared on the Hitchcock show twice; his other episode was "The Better Bargain." He was also seen on Thriller, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery, and he had a role in The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

R.I.P. Bill Grant
Eva is played by Linda Christian (1923-2011), in her only role on the Hitchcock series. Born Blanca Rosa Welter in Mexico, she dated Errol Flynn, who gave her the name she used in film and on TV. She later married Tyrone Power. Christian's screen career lasted from 1943 to 1988, mainly on film, and she wrote an autobiography in 1962.

It's unusual to see Larry Storch (1923-2022), who plays Oscar, in a serious role, but he does an excellent job. Born in New York City, he served in the Navy in WWII and made countless appearances on film and television from 1951 to 2010, including a great deal of voice work in cartoons. This was his only role on the Hitchcock show; he also appeared on The Night Stalker and will forever be known as Corporal Agarn on F Troop (1965-67).

In smaller roles:
  • John Marley (1907-1984) as Mike Chambers, the resort/casino boss; he was on screen from 1942 to 1986 and appeared in three episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Second Verdict." He is best known for his role in The Godfather, where he wakes up in bed to find a horse's head.
  • George Petrie (1912-1997) as Detective Rogers, who scoffs at the suggestion that Oscar committed the perfect crime; he started out on radio, played many bit parts on The Honeymooners, and appeared in one other episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
  • Myron Healey (1923-2005) as Peter Rogan, who is brained by Eva; he has countless credits on film and TV from 1943 to 1994 and appeared in five episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Incident in a Small Jail."
  • Rayford Barnes (1920-2000) plays Ronald, who watches Bill and Eva through the window in the first scene; he was on screen from 1952 to 2000 and appeared in three episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Night Fever."
  • David White (1916-1990) as Lt. Burr, who figures out what Oscar did but can't convince his partner; he was a Marine in WWII and appeared on Broadway starting in 1949. He was on screen from 1949 to 1989 and appeared in many television shows. He was in four episodes of the Hitchcock series (including "Dry Run") and two of The Twilight Zone, but he is best remembered for his supporting role as Larry Tate on Bewitched (1964-1972).
  • Alan Napier (1903-1988) as Hodges, the bank manager; he uses what might best be described as a ludicrous Southern accent in this role! Born Alan Napier-Clavering, he will always be remembered as Alfred the butler on Batman from 1966 to 1968, but his career onscreen was a long and busy one, stretching from 1930 to 1981. Other TV appearances include Thriller, The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery; his many film roles included parts in Fritz Lang's Ministry of Fear (1944) and Moonfleet (1955), Val Lewton's Isle of the Dead (1945), and Hitchcock's Marnie (1964). He appeared in eight episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "I Killed the Count."
"An Out for Oscar" may be viewed online here.



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


Kane, Henry. My Darlin' Evangeline. NY: Dell, 1961.

"An Out for Oscar." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 1, episode 26, CBS, 5 Apr. 1963.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

Just after shooting Bill Grant.

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Conversation over a Corpse" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "The Greatest Monster of Them All" here!

In two weeks: We start to examine the work of Helen Nielsen with "Letter of Credit," starring Bob Sweeney!


Grant said...

I don't know it well, but not surprisingly it's the only dramatic role for Larry Storch that I know. It's definitely slightly funny to see him kill a famous tough guy actor like Henry Silva.

I was really sorry to hear about both of them this year.

Jack Seabrook said...

Storch is very good in this, as is Silva. Thanks for your comment!