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FEBRUARY 2018

Howdy! Boyd Magers writes, “I keep meaning to remind you to do a story on your ‘Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ episode, ‘The Star Juror’ (March, ‘63) with Dean Jagger and Betty Field.”

Well, for that I owe my agent John Bennett. One afternoon he played a set of tennis with Norman Lloyd. Lloyd produced “The Star Juror”. Who could forget him as the sinister Frye in Hitch’s “Saboteur”? Who could forget his fall from the nostril of the Statue of Liberty? Aiieee…Bennett got me an interview with Lloyd, an affable gent. He cued me, and we read through the entire script. I got 3rd billing.

Alfred Hitchcock.The original story was a French novel. Our version took place in the deep South. Cut to Universal’s lake in the backlot, home of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Overlooking this site, high on a hill, is the haunted house from “Psycho”. My entrance is rather colorful. Nonchalantly, lying on my back, I float in a rowboat into a river bank. Clunk. Look, Ma, no oars. I wear a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, shades, swim trunks. That’s all. I’m looking for my floozy main squeeze. “Lola! Lola!” I bleat. Lola’s dead. The town’s kindly pharmacist, George Davies, played by Dean Jagger, strangled her in the throes of passion. I’m J. J. Fenton, an ornery som buck, ex-con, the town pariah. No doubt whodunit. I’m guilty until proved innocent. No need for a trial, say the townsfolks, “Fry him!”

I get a trial, and Dean Jagger’s foreman of the jury. He doesn’t want me to suffer for his moment of madness. He doesn’t want me to have a rendezvous with Ol’ Sparky. He keeps interrupting the proceedings by standing in the jury box and asking pointed questions that shoot holes in the prosecution’s case.

Reluctantly, the jury finds me “not guilty”, not “innocent”. Suddenly, Dean Jagger’s the second pariah in town. Some good citizens attempt to burn down my ramshackle house. A miniature electric chair is nailed to Jagger’s door. I’m fired from my job at the mill, but I get another offer: killing chickens for a poultry shop. My ol’ rattletrap is tarred and feathered. Town toughs bleed me up. Jagger confesses to the sheriff that he dunnit. The sheriff thinks he’s loonysville. Jagger comes to me and confesses. I’m having none of his hooey. I’m in the process of killing myself. Jagger lunges, we wrestle for the gun—Blam! I drop dead. Jagger tells the sheriff he pulled the trigger. The local sawbones gives him a sedative. Ruling! Suicide. Case closed. It’d make a nifty opera.

As an afterthought, to satisfy the censors, Hitchcock wraps-up this grisly tale, assuring everyone that kindly George Davies, Jagger, got his just desserts!

Boyd asked did I meet Hitch? No, but I reckon he liked our show. On the week of “The Star Juror”’s airing, he wrote a letter to the TV editor of the La La Times and throwaway. In essence, he wrote that if readers had nothing better to do on that night, they might find it amusing to give “The Star Juror” a look-see. Somewhere in our house is a copy of that letter…somewhere.

At WB we completed an hour show in six days. “The Hitchcock Hour” rehearsed a full day on blocking and camera set-ups. The shoot was an easy-going five days, cast and crew in sync. Herschel Daugherty at the helm. Aces in my book. My most memorable moment? In my hovel’s kitchen I’m getting sloshed on beer. High octane. The lads of the prop department spared no expense. By the time Daughterty shouted “Action!” I was a mellow fellow, you bet. Hic. Method acting? In the scene I polish off a can of the brew, crush it, toss it across the kitchen, aiming at an old-fashioned washing machine. Swish! “Two points,” I snarl—Today I’d snarl “three points—I hit the basket with my specialty: A sky hook, sitting down!

Liz II sure took her time getting around to Knighting Sir Alfred. He never won an Oscar for best director. Oh, sure, late in his career, the benevolent Motion Picture Academy deigned to give him a Lifetime Achievement Award. His acceptance speech: “Thank you.”

On the day of his funeral, I changed my jogging schedule from afternoon to morning in Beverly Hills. I jogged to a catholic church where services were being held. I stood under a tree out front and conducted my own private memorial. Yep, Like George Davies, Sir Alfred hid demons in his dark side. What a battle was there, my friends. As a director of eternally great movies, Sir Alfred Hitchcock is as good as any, and better than most.

                                        —Adios