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"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" made its premiere on CBS-TV on October 2, 1955

Entertainment | October 2, 2021

Opening title card. Source: (Wikipedia).

After World War I, Alfred Hitchcock discovered an interest in creative writing, and became a founding editor and business manager of The Henley Telegraph, which became one of his first steps toward his career in film. At this time, he read that the production arm of Paramount Pictures was opening a studio in London. He sent title cards as a sample of his work, and in 1919, he started to work at Islington Studios designing title cards. This led to his experience working on at least 18 silent films. And thus began his historical career as a filmmaker.

Source: (Decades.com)

The Show Bounced Between Networks

His television career really got underway on October 2, 1955, with the premiere of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which was a series of unrelated stories, which included elements of crime, horror, drama, and comedy. For much of its run, its main draw was the fact that it was comprised of intelligent, short episodes written by a host of writers, including Roald Dahl, although one writer, Henry Slesar, wrote 55 of the episodes. The show first aired on CBS on Sunday evenings from 9:30 to 10. It moved to NBC in 1960, where it was scheduled for Tuesdays at 8:30. Two years later, it returned to CBS. It was retitled as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and aired on Thursdays at 10. The hour-long format didn’t work, and the show was moved to Friday at 9:30 and shortened to an hour. Then, they moved it to 10 on Fridays. Finally, during its last season, it returned to NBC, where, at 10 on Mondays, it did not last, and the final episode aired on May 10, 1965. 

Source: (Pinterest).

Hitchcock's Involvement Was Limited

Despite the fact that the show was named after Hitchcock, during its run, Hitchcock only directed 18 episodes. Two of the episodes Hitchcock directed, “The Case of Mr. Pelham” (1955) and Lamb to the Slaughter (1958). While his involvement was limited, he did have rules for each episode. He indicated that shows should be either suspense or thrillers and “have a ‘twist’ almost to the point of a shock in either the last line or the last situation.” 

Joseph Cotten in "Breakdown." Source: (BFI).

The Structure Of Each Episode

One of the recognizable features of the show was its title sequence. In the sequence, the camera faded in on a line caricature of Hitchcock’s profile; incidentally, Hitchcock drew it. In the background, the theme music, Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette,” played as Hitchcock appeared in silhouette on the right side of the screen. As he walked to the center, he eclipsed the drawing. Typically, he said “Good evening” at this point. After the title sequence, he appeared again to introduce the story, either from the set of the episode or an empty studio. Hitchcock’s introductory monologue was written by James B. Allardice, and two versions were created for each episode. For the American audience, the monologue spoofed a recent commercial or poked fun at the sponsor. The monologue for European audiences, on the other hand, included jokes that were made at the expense of Americans. In later seasons, Hitchcock also spoke in German and French for the international versions. Each episode ended similar to the way it began, with Hitchcock concluding the episode rather than with a monologue. If a main character got away with a crime, Hitchcock would explain how the criminal was brought to justice, whether by the law or by fate. The show was also noteworthy for its use of well-known actors. The list was extensive, including Vincent Price, Robert Redford, Roger Moore, Walter Matthau, Bette Davis, and Jessica Tandy. There were also a number of directors, with Robert Stevens directing the most, at 44. 

From the episode "Dip in the Pool." Source: (IMDb).

It Won Three Emmys and Recognition For Its Writers

In addition to the two episodes Hitchcock won an Emmy for, Robert Stevens won an Emmy for “The Glass Eye” (1957). Another episode, “An Unlocked Window” (1965) won an Edgar Award for the writer, James Bridges. Another famous episode was Roald Dahl’s “Man From the South” (1960), which was ranked #41 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. The episode was remade into the segment called “The Man from Hollywood,” directed by Quentin Tarantino in the film Four Rooms. 

Tags: Alfred Hitchcock | CBS | Roald Dahl

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Linda Speckhals

Writer

When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.