Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Hitchcock Project-Mink by Irwin Gielgud and Gwen Bagni [1.36]

by Jack Seabrook

A woman's misguided desire for a quick path to status leads to trouble in "Mink," an original teleplay by Irwin Gielgud and Gwen Bagni. In the opening scene, Paula Hudson walks into a store and asks a furrier to appraise her mink stole; she claims it was a gift from her husband and says that she needs to know its value for insurance purposes. The furrier, Leslie Ronalds, consults with his tailor in a back room and they agree that the item brought in by Mrs. Hudson is the $1800 crystal mink stole that they made for a customer named Mrs. Wilson and that was stolen from her two weeks ago. Ronalds calls Mrs. Wilson and tells her to bring the police, while he stalls for time.

Mrs. Hudson begins to get nervous and her story seems fishy as she tells Ronalds that her husband bought her the stole at an out-of-town furrier, she has no receipt, and there is no label on the stole. Paula is clearly lying, something she is not very good at, and the men in the store know it. Realizing that her story is not holding up, she rushes out of the store and the tailor follows her across the street to the Claremont (a hotel?), where he telephones Ronalds and describes the women he sees by the furs they wear: "the crystal mink ... met a full-length royal pastel."

Vinton Hayworth as Sgt. Delaney
In the powder room at the Claremont, a scene unfolds that seems like something out of another era as Lois, a friend of Paula's, praises the stole, commenting that "'I felt so sorry for you when you were wearing that little cloth thing.'" Clearly, a mink stole or coat equals status among women in the world of 1956. Lois adds, "'A good mink does more for a woman than a psychiatrist,'" suggesting that possession of a fur contributes to a woman's sense of self-worth and improves her mental health. Paula and Lois agree that wearing mink affects how people react to a woman.

Ruth Hussey as Paula Hudson
Two other women enter the powder room and sit next to Paula, in front of the mirror. The woman next to Paula admires the fur and then reveals that she is police Sergeant Bradford and that the woman sitting next to her is Mrs. Wilson, whose pilfered stole may be on Paula's shoulders. When the lining of the stole does not match Mrs. Wilson's description, Sgt. Bradford takes Paula to police headquarters, where she meets another male authority figure, Sgt. Delaney, the third man to appear in the episode, none of whom believe her story of how she got the mink.

Vivi Janiss as Sgt. Bradford
Paula soon admits that she bought the stole herself and lied when she said that it was a gift from her husband. Not only does Paula wear the fur to impress others and improve her sense of self-worth, she also felt the need to say that it was a gift from her husband. Paula tells Sgt. Delaney that her hairdresser told her about a woman who had a stole for sale and Delaney asks about her husband, whom Paula says is out of town, in Henderson, Nevada, near the gambling mecca of Las Vegas. At first, the viewer wonders if Delaney is casting aspersions on Mr. Hudson's character by pressing Paula to admit that he stays at a hotel in Las Vegas, but it turns out that, according to the sergeant, the mink was stolen last weekend in Las Vegas, despite the furrier in the first scene having said that it was stolen two weeks ago.

Desperate to provide evidence to back up her story, Paula offers to take Sgt. Delaney to see the woman who sold her the mink, and the trio of Paula, Delaney, and Sgt. Bradford go to an apartment, where they meet an attractive young woman who identifies herself as Dolores Dawn. At first, she says she recognizes Paula as the woman who was looking at the apartment across the hall from hers; she speaks in a breathy voice like that of Marilyn Monroe and explains that she works at a local store modeling clothes. She denies having sold the stole to Paula and now claims that she never saw her before. She also denies knowing Lucille, the woman at the beauty parlor whom Paula claims told her about Dolores and the stole.

Sheila Bromley as Lois
Paula grows increasingly frantic, revealing that she paid $400 for the mink and insisting that she bought it from Dolores. A trip to the beauty parlor yields more of the same when Lucille, the hairdresser, fails to support Paula's story. It's clear that she is being gaslighted and that there are two separate worlds operating here: that of the men, like Sgt. Delaney, Mr. Ronalds, and the tailor, all of whom think that Paula is lying and treat her paternalistically, seeming somewhat amused by her predicament, and that of the women, who meet and make deals among themselves in powder rooms, beauty parlors, and apartments.

Anthony Eustrel as
Leslie Ronalds
The truth begins to emerge after Paula and the two sergeants leave the beauty parlor. Lucille telephones Dolores, who is no longer putting on her breathy, innocent act; in fact, she is smoking a cigarette and tells Lucille that, for the benefit of the police, she "'acted all girlish and innocent.'" This scene presents a question to the viewer: who is in charge here, the men, seemingly representing authority, or the women, who have no trouble manipulating the men? Dolores hands the phone to Charlie, presumably the boyfriend she referred to in the earlier scene, but he is not shown on camera; the reason why will become apparent later in the show.

Back at Paula's house, the sergeants take her written statement and she asks if she can call her husband. She goes up to the bedroom to use the telephone in private and, while she is gone, Sgt. Bradford admires the mink stole, while Sgt. Delaney looks on, amused, and asks, "'What's mink got for you women, anyway?'" Paula comes back downstairs and says that the telephone circuits were busy, so she could not reach her husband. She tells the police to leave and they do, with Sgt. Delaney admitting that they can't prove that the stole is not hers.

Paul Burns as the tailor
Later, a man rings the doorbell and, when Paula opens the door, he claims to be Mr. Jonas from the Indemnity Insurance Company. He offers to pay her $600 for the stole in order to avoid paying Mrs. Wilson the $2000 for which she insured it. Paula refuses, saying that she wants to keep the stole, and he suggests that she unknowingly bought a stolen item. When she again refuses, Jonas admits that his real name is Charlie Harper (the unseen Charlie from the prior scene at Dolores's apartment) and that he stole the mink and needs to return it to avoid being sent to prison. Incredibly, he offers to steal a full-length mink coat from someone else and give it to Paula in place of the stole; he tells her a sob story about needing the money to take care of his sick child. This story is not credible, since he also admits that stealing minks is something he's done before, but usually he ships them out of state to avoid the situation he now faces.

Eugenia Paul as Dolores Dawn
The telephone rings and Paula rushes to answer it, hoping that the caller is her husband. She tells Harper to leave but, when she answers the phone, she is told that her husband still can't be reached and when she goes back to the front room, she sees an empty hanger swinging in the closet; Charlie has stolen the mink and run out the door. Resolved to her fate, she telephones Sgt. Delaney.
Later, the sergeant arrives at Paula's house and finds that she has packed a bag and is ready to be taken to prison. She asks if she can wait for her husband to call, so Delaney comes in and sits down. Paula blames her friends for what happened, explaining that they did not think her husband was a success because she didn't own a mink. Delaney surprises her by revealing that the police arrested Charlie at Mrs. Wilson's home when he tried to return the pilfered stole. Harper confirmed all of the details of Paula's story and cleared her.

Veda Ann Borg as Lucille
The telephone rings and Paula finally speaks to her husband, telling him nothing of her experience and urging him to drive home from Nevada, which suggests that the events of the show took place in California, which is within driving distance of Las Vegas. As Delaney is about to leave, Paula asks him for an apology, and he tells her that she is the only person who will ever know for certain if she bought the mink stole with the awareness that it had been stolen. The episode ends with a close-up of Paula's face as she is uncertain how to take his statement. Does she wonder if it's true? Based on her behavior in the fur shop in the show's initial scene, Paula must have suspected that there was something fishy about the purchase of the stole, but she convinced herself that she had done nothing wrong.

James McCallion as Charlie Harper
"Mink" is a well-crafted episode, a time capsule from an era when relations between men and women were very different than they are today and the popularity of fur coats and stoles among women was common knowledge among television viewers. The characters' behavior is foreign to today's eyes and the events could no longer take place, at least not as they are presented.

"Mink" was directed by Robert Stevenson (1905-1986), a British director who came to Hollywood in the 1940s. He directed movies from 1932 to 1976, including King Solomon's Mines (1937) and the 1943 Jane Eyre with Orson Welles. While working in TV from 1952 to 1982, he directed seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "And So Died Riabouchinska." He was best known for his work for Walt Disney, directing 19 Disney films, including Mary Poppins (1964), as well as many Disney TV episodes in the 1960s and 1970s. Stevenson later told interviewer Patrick McGilligan that his television work in the '50s led him to be noticed by Disney, and he went on to direct Disney's best live-action films.

Mary Jackson as Mrs. Wilson
Gwen Bagni (1913-2001), who co-wrote the teleplay, wrote for radio in the 1940s and 1950s, then wrote a handful of films and many TV episodes between 1950 and 1987. She wrote with three husbands in sequence: first, John Bagni, who died in 1954; then, Irwin Gielgud, whom she married in 1955 and who died in 1961; and finally, Paul Dubov, whom she married in 1963 and who died in 1979. She did not remarry after Dubov's death, but she kept writing for TV. She and Gielgud contributed two teleplays to Alfred Hitchcock Presents (see "Never Again") and her papers are housed at UCLA.

Her co-writer and husband at the time, Irwin Gielgud (1919-1961), does not have as long a list of credits as Gwen Bagni, having written four screenplays between 1949 and 1956 and having co-written teleplays with his wife from 1956 to 1961.

John and Gwen Bagni wrote a radio play called "Mink Gloves" that aired on December 5, 1948, on The Prudential Family Hour of Stars. The show starred Humphrey Bogart as a down-on-his-luck fight manager who sits in a bar and tells the story of how he saved the career of Johnny Richards, "the greatest middleweight in the racket," and wrecked his own career in the process. Nick buys Johnny's girlfriend, Georgia, a mink coat to get her to talk Johnny out of throwing a fight; the gloves of the title are boxing gloves. The show is lost but the script is in Gwen Bagni's papers at UCLA. (Thanks to Maxwell Zupke at UCLA Special Collections for providing a copy of this rare radio script.) "Mink Gloves" has nothing to do with the TV show "Mink" that aired on Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Bagni wrote the original teleplay with Irwin Gielgud, whom she married in 1955, the year after John Bagni died.

Ruth Hussey (1911-2005), who plays Paula Hudson, was a stage actress and model who appeared in films from 1937 to 1970 and on TV from 1951 to 1973. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This was her only episode in the Hitchcock series.

Vinton Hayworth (1906-1970) plays Sgt. Delaney; he started on radio in the 1920s, moved into movies in the 1930s, and then began a long TV career in the 1940s. He was the president of AFTRA from 1951 to 1954 and the uncle of both Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers. He was a semi-regular on I Dream of Jeannie from 1968 to 1970 and he may be seen in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Night of the Execution."

Vivi Janiss (1911-1988) plays Sgt. Bradford. Born Vivian Jacobsen, she was married first to Bob Cummings and later to John Larch. She was on TV from 1949 to 1979 and appeared in a few films; she was on The Twilight Zone twice, Alfred Hitchcock Presents twice (see "You Got to Have Luck"), and she was the voice of Daisy Duck for Disney.

In smaller roles:
  • Sheila Bromley (1911-2003) as Lois, Paula's friend in the powder room; she was on screen from 1930 to 1975 and she was also known as Sheila Le Gay and Sheila Manners. She was in two other episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Evil of Adelaide Winters."
  • Anthony Eustrel (1902-1979) as Leslie Ronalds the furrier; he was on screen from 1936 to 1972 and appeared on Batman. This was his only role on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Paul Burns (1881-1967) as the tailor; he made a career out of bit parts that were often uncredited and he was on screen from 1930 to his death. He was seen on The Twilight Zone and in two other episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including a small part in "The Blessington Method."
  • Eugenia Paul (1935-2010) as Dolores Dawn, the model; born Eugenia Popoff, she was a dancer turned actress who appeared on screen from 1954 to 1959, when she retired after marrying Pep Boys heir Robert Strauss. She was also seen in "Alibi Me."
  • Veda Ann Borg (1915-1973) as Lucille, the hairdresser; she was a model-turned-actress who was on screen from 1936 to 1963. She appeared in Mildred Pierce (1945) and this was her only role on the Hitchcock TV show.
  • James McCallion (1918-1991) as Charlie Harper, the thief; he was on screen from 1931 to 1976 and appeared in Kiss Me Deadly (1955). He was on The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery, and he also appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole."
  • Mary Jackson (1910-2005) as Mrs. Wilson, whose fur was stolen; she was on screen from 1951 to 1997 and appeared on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. This was her only role on the Hitchcock TV show.
"Mink" aired on CBS on Sunday, June 3, 1956. Watch the episode online here or buy the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps review here.


Bagni, John, and Gwen Bagni. “Mink Gloves.” The Prudential Family Hour of Stars, CBS, 5 Dec. 1948.

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



"Mink." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 1, episode 36, CBS, 3 June 1956.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Mink" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Mink" here!

In two weeks: "Lonely Place," starring Teresa Wright, Pat Buttram, and Bruce Dern!

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