Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 1, Episode 20


   Robert Stevenson
   Mel Dinelli (teleplay); Ray Bradbury (story)
   Claude Rains, Charles Bronson
   12 February 1956
   24:21 (total) • 21:32 (film) • 1:05 (Hitchcock)
   5/10


And So Died Riabouchinska
Vaudeville dancer Macey (IRIS ADRIAN) arrives for work through the back stage door where she strikes up a charming conversation with the elderly doorman Dan (HARRY TYLER). John Fabian (CLAUDE RAINS) arrives shortly afterwards with his ventriloquist dummy, which he always takes home with him after his performance. Macey and Dan flip a silver dollar into the air for a bet but the coin lands and rolls down some stairs and into the basement. When the two of them go to retrieve the coin they discover a dead body down there.
Detective Krovitch (Charles Bronson) shows up and begins questioning the performers who work there. He begins with Dan, who tells him of how the deceased had spoken of wanting to speak to Mr. Fabian regarding his act but that Fabian was too busy to meet with him. The detective them visits Fabian and his edgy wife Alice, who works as an assistant to him in the show. Both of them claim to have never heard of Ockham (the dead man) before. It's at this point when things take a turn for the strange.
Fabian pulls out his doll, Riabouchinska, and engages in conversation with it, much to the annoyance of his wife and the bemusement of the detective. The doll claims that Fabian's wife is jealous of her and doesn't like her very much. But as soon as the doll also starts talking about Mr. Douglas, Alice gets angry. Fabian and the dummy leave the room leaving the detective to continue his talk with Alice. She tells him that after seven years of marriage she is fed up with how her husband rehearses all the time with his dummy and has little time for her anymore.
Fabian returns to the room with Mr. Douglas and it is revealed that he and Alice had been having an affair. The detective reasons that Ockham had come to the theatre that evening to expose their affair to Fabian, but Fabian confesses that he already knew about it.
As the investigation progresses the detective discovers that Fabian's doll resembles that of a missing girl called Ilyana from back in the 1930s but Fabian explains how he fell in love with his assistant and that he modeled his dummy after her. But he and the Ilyana started getting into bitter arguments and he ultimately dismissed her. Later regretting this, Fabian tells of how he then created his wooden dummy by crafting her with love and devotion. Before long Fabian claims the doll started talking to him and he fell in love with it.
The detective continues his investigation and finds Ockham's press book. Inside it there is a flyer which features him on the same bill as Fabian many years ago. When Fabian refuses to talk, the detective instead gets the dummy to do the talking - and he gets the truth out of it. Disturbing.


TRIVIA
•Ray Bradbury, who wrote the story, claimed that Claude Rains was one of his favourite actors. He got to meet him on the set of the show when they were filming this episode.
•The story by Ray Bradbury was originally published in the June/July issue of "The Saint Detective Magazine". Later collected in "The Machineries Of Joy" (Simon & Schuster, 1964) and in "The Stories Of Ray Bradbury" (Knopf, 1980).
•Iris Adrian's character of Macey is incorrectly called "Nickie" in the Grams/Wikstrom book.
•The dead man's character is Luke Ockham. He was a juggler.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (42 secs):
"Good evening. This misty bit of ectoplasm forming on the inside of your television tube, is one Alfred Hitchcock. Coming to you from across that great barrier that divides the quick from the dead: the Atlantic Ocean. I have materialized with the expressed purpose of warning you that during tonight's sales you will witness a playlet entitled "And So Died Riabouchinska". Oh yes, before we have our play I would like to make an announcement to those of you who can't stay until the end. [Hitch looks from side to side] The butler did it."

There were two alternative narratives:
"Good evening. This misty bit of ectoplasm forming on the inside of your television tube, is one Alfred Hitchcock. I have materialized for the purpose of warning you that following a word from our dear patron, we shall present tonight's story, entitled "And So Died Riabouchinska". That is all I have to say just now, but don't be alarmed, I shall return. Old television actors never die, they only fade away." [fade out for commercial]

Second alternative narrative:
"Good evening. This misty bit of ectoplasm forming on the inside of your television tube, is one Alfred Hitchcock. We shall present tonight's story, entitled "And So Died Riabouchinska". That is all I have to say just now, but don't be alarmed, I shall return. Old television actors never die, they only fade away." [fade out for commercial]


HITCH'S EPILOGUE (23 secs):
"That was pleasant. It also reminded me of my youth. When I was once a part of a vaudeville act called 'Dr. Speewack And His Puppets'. But I never cared for Dr. Speewack, he thought he was better than the rest of us. But so much for tonight's entertainment. Until the next time we return with another play. Good night".



SPOILERS
Fabian is so in love with his doll that he truly believes it is alive. Even to the point of discriminating himself by allowing the doll to tell the truth about his past. Fabian killed Ockham because he was trying to blackmail him for $1,000. Ockham threatened to expose Fabian and his love for the doll which Fabian knew would make him a mockery among his fans. Riabouchinska also decides she can no longer be with Fabian because he lies and is a murderer (seriously, I'm not making this up!) Her voice then fades away and Fabian falls into despair. The detective then takes him away.



IN MY HUMBLE OPINION...
When I first viewed this episode a few years back I didn't think much of it and rated it a 5/10. As I revisited it I figured I would give it another try. And my opinion of it had not changed at all. 5 is a fair mark for a rather bland episode. I wish I could say that Claude Rains was superb, but he wasn't. A young Charles Bronson is an interesting inclusion in the cast but he doesn't really make much of an impact either. The doll is creepy and Claude Rains's character desperately needs to seek out psychiatric help. Something not quite right about him! The lists of suspects for the murder is minimal but has an obvious conclusion. Virginia Gregg provides the voice of the dummy (she also voiced Mrs. Bates in Hitch's "Psycho" four years later). Hitchcock's intro is priceless: "for those of you who can't stay until the end.... the butler did it!" All in all a pretty mediocre episode.
GEOFF THINKS...
I'd rate this one higher than a 5 because of its atmospheric vaudeville setting, and the variation on the "vent possessed by his creepy doll" story. The most wooden thing in it was Bronson as the cop. Otherwise the supporting cast was excellent. Loved Charlie Cantor as the agent: JUST right, with more than a touch of Allen Jenkins. Claude Rains is one of those actors I'd watch in anything: a star character actor. And that doll was so spooky that Archie and I hid behind the sofa, didn't we, Archie?

THE CAST
(click any image to enlarge)



John Fabian... CLAUDE RAINS
Detective Krovitch... CHARLES BRONSON
Alice Fabian... CLAIRE CARLETON
Mel Douglas, Fabian's manager... LOWELL GILMORE
Zander, Booking agent... CHARLES CANTOR
Dan Silver... HARRY O. TYLER
Macey... IRIS ADRIAN
Stagehand... BILL HAADE
Riabouchinska (voice)... VIRGINIA GREGG


GALLERY
(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements:
The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin Grams Jr & Patrik Wikstrom (book)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0508122/ [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 18 February 2021