Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 2, Episode 36

   Herschel Daugherty
   James P. Cavanagh (teleplay); Thomas Burke (story)
   Edmund Gwenn, Charles Davis
   02 June 1957
   24:02 (total) • 21:33 (film) • 0:57 (Hitchcock)

Father And Son
London 1912. Sam Saunders is 35 years old and short of money so he goes to his father's store to ask him for a small loan until he gets paid, where the two of them get into an argument. His father Joe (Edmund Gwenn) accuses his son of being unable to secure any job; whilst the son accuses his father of being nothing but a drunk. Joe refuses to bail Sam out and basically tells his son that he is a disappointment to him. After Sam leaves the store an elderly gentleman shows up to see Joe but then collapses inside the store.
Sam pays a visit to Mae, a singer at a local nightclub but she isn't keen on talking to him because he never has any money. She tells him she is going away to Brighton for a week or so and he asks if he can go with her. She tells him to come back and see her when he gets some money. Sam goes to see Mr. Schiller and asks him for money and even offers to put up his father's store as collateral, saying that the store will belong to him after his father dies. Disgusted by Sam's comments, he is promptly told to leave. Sam contemplates smashing an iron ornament over Schiller's head but thinks better of it.
Meanwhile Joe and Gus sit at a table with Gus eating a meal when Gus says he is on the run from the police who are looking for him in connection with a murder. Despite Gus's criminal history he claims he is innocent this time. Joe agrees to hide Gus in the cellar after Gus tells him there is a £50 reward being offered for information leading to his arrest. What the two men don't know is that Sam is hiding in the room behind a curtain and has heard every word of their conversation. Hmmmm, you know where this is going don't you?!
Gus tells Joe that he is the only person he can trust not to turn him over the cops before heading off down into the cellar. Sam quickly leaves the shop so as not to be seen but then waits outside before re-entering on the excuse that he forgot his key. He and his father talk in the back room about Sam needing money to secure a business deal and asks - conveniently - for £50, but once again Joe refuses. When Sam tells him there are ways where he could get the money Joe tells him that he ought to do so.
Sam returns to see Mae to confirm that she will keep to her word should Sam get the money. She tells him to go ahead and do whatever it is Sam needs to do, so Sam leaves to give a statement to the police. The police bring in a suspect from the store - Joe, but they fail to find Gus. The officer threatens to jail Sam for giving them false information but Joe intervenes by showing compassion for his son. Joe is arrested and Sam takes his reward money he just earned from screwing his father.... but karma awaits him after he leaves the police station.

•Mae tells Sam she is going to Brighton. Brighton is a popular seaside town in the south of England.
•There is a matter of police protocal being exploited in the scene where the cop asks for the name of the man brought in for questioning. When Joe says his name is "Saunders", the cop then turns to the informant and asks "that's your name as well, isn't it?" I am not sure that it is fitting for the suspect to be openly told the name of the informant - surely such a matter of identity would be kept confidential?
•The cop tells Joe that he will be detained but when he hears Sam fall down the stairs outside the station he goes out to see what happened. How did the police allow a man who was supposedly under arrest just get up and walk out of the station like that?
•The IMDb offers the same cast list as noted in "The ALfred Hitchcock Presents Companion" but the two sources disagree on the characters played by George Pelling and Dan Sheridan. It is my personal belief that the IMDb is correct and the book is wrong. And believe me it pains me to admit the IMDb got something right for a change!
[Hitch is holding a bow and arrow] "Good evening. Have you, erm, seen a small boy with an apple on his head? I know he's here somewhere but, uh, my eyes aren't what they used to be. Oh, oh there he is. [Hitch turns and fires the bow] I missed again. I think I'd better quit. I even missed the boy that time. Tonight the flickering shadows on our magic lantern screen tell a story of life in the big city. It is called 'Father And Son'. First however, we have a brief preamble. It is so short, so subtle and such a delicate work of art, that unless you are unusually attentive, you will miss it entirely. Watch closely."

[Hitch is holding a half-eaten apple] "Unfortunately he wasn't. (Hitch is referring to the last line of dialogue from the story) Sam was one of those persons for whom all things seemed to work out well. No matter what happens to him he always manages to land on his head. That's all for tonight. Next time we plan a similar foray into your parlour. I hope you'll be home. Good night. [Hitch takes a bite out of the apple]"

The cops fail to discover Gus because after Sam talks to Mae, she phones Joe to tip him off that the cops were coming to his store. Joe is held by the cops for harbouring a wanted criminal whilst Sam walks away with his £50 reward.

Another one of those episodes set in early twentieth century London which promises to deliver but just manages to do so. The son is horrible, ruthless and selfish. The father is patient, caring and compassionate. The story is good, the acting is above average and the moral theme of the story is interesting. Somewhere along the line it feels a bit flat despite the positives on show. The ending didn't feel as though it was worthy of the potential which was expected by the viewer. It was an "okay" episode, nothing spectacular but not rubbish either.
Based on another of Thomas Burke's miserable tales of the foggy London of a bygone era, this is one of the bleakest episodes so far, and like its forerunner about the Hands of Ottermole, it resembles a little British movie. It looks entirely authentic too, with outstanding art direction and photography, especially one stunning shot of Charles Davis peering in from his hiding place, and you can just see his eyes. We've encountered the versatile Mr. Davis in slightly comic roles, but here he gives a fine portrayal of an absolute rat. He's in good company : it's nice to see two veteran London stage actors working together at the end of their careers. Frederic Worlock surely should have been in the previous episode about the West Warlock Time Capsule, but what can we say about dear old Edmund Gwenn? There was much more to him than Santa Claus : he'd worked with Hitch several times, and this bit of telly was probably the last thing he did on film. Undeniably it's the performance of a lifetime. Understated, and using his own soft London accent, he makes "Joe Saunders" absolutely real, and we get the old boy's full range. : parental love, self-loathing, disgust, shame, pity and despair. This is hardly a feel-good episode. The gloom is relentless. It doesn't lift the spirits, nor is there anything like a happy ending. But as an example of the art and talent of Edmund Gwenn, it's an important work.

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Joe Saunders... EDMUND GWENN
Sam Saunders... CHARLES DAVIS
Mr. Schiller... GEORGE PELLING
First sergeant... JOHN TRAYNE
Second sergeant... DAN SHERIDAN

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The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin Grams Jr & Patrik Wikstrom (book) [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 15 November 2020