Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 21

   Paul Henreid
   Robert C. Dennis (teleplay); C.B. Gilford (story)
   Joan Tetzel, Scott McKay, Richard Shepard
   23 February 1958
   24:39 (total) • 20:33 (film) • 2:18 (Hitchcock)

Guest For Breakfast
Eve Ross (JOAN TETZEL) serves breakfast to her husband Jordan (SCOTT McKAY), though he criticizes both her and her coffee during a spiteful confrontation between them. A year ago Jordan had an affair with Sylvia Lester, an author whose books Jordan helped to get published through his company. Their bickering culminates with Jordan telling Eve that their marriage is ending with a sneer rather than a laugh. The doorbell rings and Eve answers it to a stranger who barges his way into the home, knocking her over onto the stairs. He pulls out a gun and tells her he has been on the run all night and has nothing to lose and suggests she should co-operate with his instructions. Eve leads the man into the kitchen where Jordan sees his wife with the strange man and at first thinks he is her secret lover - until he notices the man's gun and then thinks his wife has hired him to come to the house and kill Jordan. The intruder quickly reveals that he is not there for either of them.
The stranger is Chester Lacey (RICHARD SHEPARD) who reveals he has killed two people - his wife and her lover and that he is on the run from the cops. Chester sits at the breakfast table and demands coffee and something to eat as Eve obliges him. The unwanted guest declares that he will be staying until night but Jordan explains that he must get to work because he is due for an important appointment. Surprisingly, Chester allows Jordan to go to his scheduled appointment but warns him that if any police show up at the house he will kill his wife. Eve protests by saying it is Jordan's perfect opportunity to get rid of her, and convinces the gunman to reconsider. He buys it and orders Jordan to phone in sick.
The three of them go into the lounge where Chester weighs up taking one of his hosts with him in order to get through any roadblocks he may encounter during his escape. The husband and wife each become enthusiastic in giving reasons reasons why they would be more beneficial to be chosen to accompany him. Eve reasons that with a woman in the car it would cause less suspicion but Jordan thwarts her idea by telling Chester she cannot drive and would be on no use to him.
When Chester chooses to take Eve with him Jordan plays his hand by saying he could supply Chester with $500 if he takes him along instead of his wife. It works and Chester orders Jordan upstairs to give him money but Jordan tricks him and barricades himself in the bedroom. Chester takes Eve downstairs and threatens to kill her in one minute unless Jordan comes out of the bedroom. Eve screams for her husband to help her and Jordan races down the stairs. Just as Chester fires his gun at him Eve knocks the gun from his hand and Chester is apprehended by Jordan. He has saved Eve's life and she has saved him.
Chester is taken away by the police, leaving the married couple to discuss what has just happened and each ask the other why they helped save each other? Eve and Jordan are reunited.

•Episode number 99.
•Based on the short story "Guest For Breakfast" by C.B. Gilford, originally published in the October 1956 issue of "Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine".
•When Chester threatens to turn the radio on, how did he know exactly where it was?
•When Eve opens the door to Chester you can clearly see the background is a painting. See here. The manner in which she opens the door is also a bit odd, throwing it wide open and not keeping her hand on it, allowing the man to barge his way in very easily.
•During the episode Chester alternates holding the gun in both hands.
•Only three actors are seen during the entire episode.
•The title of the episode implies that Chester was invited?
•Jordan is a book publisher for Hobart Paisley Company.
•The secretary whom Jordan speaks to on the phone is called Mary.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (46 seconds):
[Hitch is standing behind a table with as assortment of cutlery upon it] "Good evening. I just happened upon this abandoned breakfast table. It was set for two persons and is complete, down to the morning paper which was lying on the floor. [He picks up the paper and sits down] With evidently a bullet hole through it. It looks as though someone's husband missed the 8:20 this morning. In fact he may have missed it for good, for the bullet seems to have struck him between the society section and the wants ads. While you're watching tonight's show, 'Guest For Breakfast' I think I shall help myself to some toast. First, however, let us pause for the unseemly sight of a man toasting himself".

HITCH'S EPILOGUE (1 minute 32 secs):
"As you have already guessed, tonight's show illustrated man's inhumanity to man. His indestructibility in the face of obstacles. The senselessness of war, the need for a dream, the value of spiritual action to combat the lust for profit and finally, the corrosion of life, the depletion of energy and the frustration of love which results from following a philosophy of romantic opportunism in an idealistic society. Naturally, we don't believe any of that but we felt that the author deserved to be heard. Did you ever... did you ever have the feeling you were being followed? That something vaguely ominous was following you? I do, on this program, uh... Let's have a look at him, after which I shall slink back. [commercial break] You know there are times when I find myself wishing my television tube would blow out. I'm sure you have the same feeling, but if you thought that was bad you should have tasted this toast. Burnt to a crisp. However, it indicates to me that it was the wife, and not the husband who was the victim of this little 'faux pa de deux'. And justifiably too. She was no cook, she was an arsonist. next week we shall be back with another story. Until then, good night".

It all ends well with a happy ending for Mr. & Mrs. Ross. Despite their animosity towards each other, Jordan was willing to protect his wife from the gunman and risk his life for her by attacking Chester. Also, Eve could have let Chester shoot her husband during the struggle but instead pushed his hand away when he fired the gun. The couple are reunited by the incident.

For a viewer to become invested in a storyline first you have to make them care about the characters and I really felt that there was nobody of particular interest here to sympathize with. It is quickly established that Jordan is the adulterer who takes pleasure in mocking his wife over how useless she seemingly is to him, comparing her to the woman he has been seeing behind her back. When the intruder comes between them both the married couple desperately try to convince the gunman that they are the individual who could benefit his cause better, each trying to outdo the other. It's an interesting portrayal of cat and mouse and how far somebody is willing to go to dump on the other. Ultimately though the story's unexpected turn at the end brings the quarrelling couple back together and everyone is happy. Well, except for Chester that is.
The performances are nothing special. Scott McKay as the husband is stiff whilst Joan Tetzel as his wife is nothing more than a spare part. But it's let down mostly by Richard Shepard's unconvincing performance as the intruder whose character is just a bit too bland. Hitch's closing remarks seemed extraordinarily long-winded!

(click any image to enlarge)

Jordan Ross... SCOTT MCKAY
Chester Lacey... RICHARD SHEPARD

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

This page was last updated on: 08 December 2021