Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 18

   Robert Stevens
   Marian Cockrell (teleplay); Stacey Aumonier (story)
   Mildred Natwick
   02 February 1958
   24:49 (total) • 22:24 (film) • 2:05 (Hitchcock)

Miss Bracegirdle Does Her Duty
It's afternoon tea and biscuits with Miss Bracegirdle (MILDRED NATWICK) and friends before she embarks upon a trip to France from her home in England to meet up with a friend of hers. She arrives at her Paris hotel at 2am and checks into her room courtesy of her English-speaking French maid. Miss Bracegirdle (here and after referred to by her character's christian name of Millicent) asks for a bath before she retires to bed and asks not to be disturbed in the morning. Millicent prepares for her bath by unloading her luggage and getting undressed (fortunately for us viewers she stops before it's too late for us to un-see what we might have seen).
After spending ages in the communal bathroom and talking to herself in voice-over she eventually goes back to her room - except, it isn't her room at all but the one next door to hers. She closes the door from the inside and the doorknob comes off in her hand. Deciding not to call for the chambermaid on account of how late it is, Millicent sees a man asleep in his bed (it's pretty obvious he's not actually asleep). Not wanting to be seen/discovered in the room with a strange man because she knows it would cause a scandal, and she worries about how the guy will react if he wakes up to find a strange woman in his room. (Pretty happy, if it was me!)
Millicent considers her options and looks at hiding in a wardrobe until morning but decides against it. Her second option is to hide under the bed and lay on the hard floor all night. Minutes pass (it feels like hours) and she lies under the bed talking to herself, praying, feeling paranoid, anxious and uncomfortable. After a while she gets up off the floor, turns on the light and tries to wake up the monsieur but then realises he is dead. Desperate to get out of the room ("my duty") Millicent lights a candle and uses the wax to melt a hairpin in order to grasp the door spindle to pull it through and reattach the knob so she can open the door from her side.
Morning does finally come and after successfully managing to open the door, Millicent quickly makes her way back to her own room before she can be seen. Unfortunately she forgets her towel (it has the incriminating initials to her name etched on it) and has to go back. But narrowly avoids being seen by the room service man bringing the breakfast up. He discovers the dead body and leaves, with Millicent following suit straight afterwards, back to her own room. The maid enters Millicent's room and reports the dead guest discovered next door and reveals that the guest was actually wanted for murder. Millicent counts her lucky blessings that she was not caught in the room with him. Then the room service man enters Millicent's room with her breakfast... and a surprise.

•Based on a short story from 1916 by Stacey Aumonier.
•The story takes place in Paris, 1907.
•Miss Bracegirdle brings her own towel which bares her initials MB on it.
•Miss Bracegirdle is in room 116.
•The words "Salle De Bain" on the bathroom door translate to "Bathroom". Fancy that?
•This was Mildred Natwick's second and last appearance in the series. She also starred in the earlier episode, "The Perfect Murder" (1956) - and was also in Hitchcock's 1955 feature "The Trouble With Harry".
•Millicent makes several remarks about foreigners which almost borders on her sounding racist.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 19 secs):
[Hitch is standing next to some heavy duty film lights and behind a chair with MR HITCHCOCK on it] "Good evening. [sound of crashing] That sound you just heard was made by a guillotine. I brought it home from a recent trip to France. We just can't make them the way the French do. [more crashing] A motion picture company borrowed it to use on the adjoining sound stage. They're shooting a picture about the tragedy of a rich, middle-age ruler who falls hopelessly in love with a woman old enough to be his wife. Of course they're not using the guillotine in the picture. They just happen to have a leading man who's very vain and exceedingly short. Every one of the extras who reported this morning was about a head too tall. We have no such problem. The leading character in our picture is an English spinster. You shall meet her in a moment. Many of our finest motion pictures are made from best sellers. Here is one made about a best seller."

"That concludes the life and loves of the intrepid Miss Millicent Bracegirdle. As for Monsieur Bodeaux, the corpse in the story, he was buried in accordance with his last request. He was cut in pieces, places in two barrels and thrown into the river. There's been a development next door. The extras have rebelled and overthrown the star. [sound of crashing] There he goes now. I'm afraid he's through being tall in the saddle." And I'm through being wide on the screen, so until next time good night."

Miss Bracegirdle finally makes it back to her room but she has left one of her stockings in the room next door, which could be used to identify her as the potential killer. The room service guy comes into her room with breakfast and produces the stocking which he had lifted from the crime scene which he then hands to her, winks knowingly and then leaves. Miss Bracegirdle is relieved and will not be considered a suspect in the case because the staff are covering for her.

This was tediously slow for pretty much the whole story. Flat, rather boring and despite a couple of almost humorous moments from the leading lady, I can honestly say I wasn't at all thrilled by the story, the actors or the ending. Other than that it was fine!

(click any image to enlarge)

Millicent Bracegirdle... MILDRED NATWICK
Dean Septimus Bracegirdle (priest)... GAVIN MUIR
Mrs. Crump... VERA DENHAM
French chamber maid... ARLETTE CLARKE
French room service man... ALBERT CARRIER

(click any image to enlarge)

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

This page was last updated on: 02 July 2021