|"Suburban Tigress" was|
first published here
As the story begins, Margot Brenner sits at home alone, thinking of her husband's upcoming promotion and of their plans to adopt a baby. A plumber named Jack Staley arrives to fix a leak in the cellar. Margot is nervous at the thought of being alone in her home with the burly man, and she is concerned when he says that he needs to open a valve upstairs to keep the basement from flooding. When they are upstairs together, he is entirely too familiar, commenting on a painting she made, as well as her bedroom slippers and the quilt on her bed.
Staley fixes the leak and tells Margot that his fee is $500. He plans to blackmail her, explaining that he has been there for three hours on what was a five-minute job and that he can describe her bedroom in detail. Though he has already collected money from other women in the neighborhood, Margot resists and so he gives her until the next day to get the money.
|Phyllis Thaxter as Margot|
After the men leave, Staley telephones; he returns to the house that afternoon. To his surprise, Margot has gathered three other women whom Staley had blackmailed. They record his demands on tape and he agrees to stop his blackmail. The women inform him that they will only remain quiet if he provides free plumbing for the new preschool nursery. He likes the idea of the good publicity it will bring for his business and leaves feeling satisfied with himself.
That evening, Margot meets her husband at the train station, able to say truthfully that "I settled with the plumber."
In a comment on the TV adaptation of his story, Lawrence Treat expressed astonishment that the teleplay used his story and much of his dialogue and he got "nothing extra." Perhaps Treat's memory was fuzzy when he wrote this comment for the book, Hitchcock in Prime Time, which was published in 1985, since a comparison of the show with the story demonstrates that Robert C. Dennis did a fair amount of rewriting.
Retitled "The Deadly," the episode was broadcast on CBS on Sunday, December 15, 1957. Once again, Dennis adds expository scenes to the beginning of the story. Here, Margot arrives at the train station, where two women gossip about Anne Warren, who does not look like a "happy young bride." Margot approaches Anne, who knows that she is the object of gossip and asks Margot how to balance a bankbook. Margot tells her, smiling: "That's simple! You just doctor the books, cheat on the budget, and steal from yourself!" It's meant to be a humorous comment, but in the first scene we see that Margot is a bit older than Anne, as well as wiser and more pragmatic. These qualities will allow her to deal with the blackmailing plumber more successfully than did her neighbors.
|Jacqueline Mayo as Anne Warren|
The initial scenes of "The Deadly" tell us all we need to know to set up what follows, which corresponds to the plot of the story almost to the end. We discover the source of Anne Warren's sorrow and watch as Margot demonstrates how to handle a blackmailer. Staley lingers in her kitchen and uses what he observes to estimate her husband's income. Dennis removes elements of the story, including the Brenners' plan to adopt a baby, Mr. Brenner's impending promotion, and Margot's concern that her husband does not telephone her while the plumber is in the house. In their place, he presents a stripped-down version of the story that demonstrates why "the female of the species is more deadly than the male."
|Lee Philips as Jack Staley|
|Craig Stevens as Lewis Brenner|
Phyllis Thaxter (1919-2012) stars as Margot; she was onscreen from 1944 to 1992 and appeared in nine episodes of the Hitchcock series. She was also seen on Thriller and The Twilight Zone, and later in her career she appeared as Ma Kent in Superman (1978).
Playing Jack Staley, the plumber, is Lee Philips (1927-1999). Like Don Taylor, he started out as an actor and later became a director. His acting career spanned the years from 1953 to 1975; as a director, he worked from 1965 to 1995, almost exclusively in television. He was seen on The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and four times on the Hitchcock show, including Cornell Woolrich's "The Black Curtain."
Smaller parts in "The Deadly" are played by:
*Frank Gerstle (1915-1970) as the detective; he was a busy character actor between 1950 and 1970 who appeared on the Hitchcock series three times and in Roger Corman's The Wasp Woman (1959).
*Anabel Shaw (1921-2010) as Rhoda Forbes; her career mainly spanned the years from 1944 to 1958 and she was in Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door (1947) and Gun Crazy (1950). This was her only appearance on the Hitchcock show.
|Peggy McCay, Anabel Shaw, Sally Hughes|
*Jacqueline Mayo (1933- ), who plays Anne Warren and resembles Mia Farrow; she had a decade-long career but only got small parts and not many of those.
*Sally Hughes as one of the blackmailed women; notable for her later role as the pulchritudinous Miss Putney, the dental assistant on "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat."
"The Deadly" is available on DVD here or may be viewed for free online here. For a funny take on this episode, click here.
"The Deadly." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. CBS. 15 Dec. 1957. Television.
"Galactic Central." Galactic Central. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
In two weeks: "Together," starring Joseph Cotten.