Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 4, Episode 24

   Bretaigne Windust
   William Fay (teleplay); Joe Pidcock (story)
   Roger Moore, Hazel Court
   22 March 1959
   25:41 (total) • 21:58 (film) • 1:37 (Hitchcock)

The Avon Emeralds
Set in London, the story begins with the Criminal Investigation Department and its assistant commissioner Sir Charles Harrington (Alan Napier) who tells his Inspector Benson (a youthful-looking Roger Moore) about a Lady Avon who recently tried to sell some jewelry and conveniently 'forgot' to declare her share of the proceeds due to the Treasury. Sir Charles suggests that Lady Avon is too young to be a widow and adds a touch of suspicion to her circumstances before announcing that her precious, famous emeralds necklace, the last major item of her inheritence is now up for sale. He adds that Lady Avon has already received an undisclosed offer from an American source and that it is Sir Charles's guess that she intends to sell the emeralds and live abroad to avoid paying any claim made by the Treasury. Sir Charles instructs Benson to follow Lady Avon when she travels to France to make sure she doesn't try to get the emeralds out of the country and if she does then it will be his job to bring them back.
Benson first visits the London hotel in which Lady Avon is staying and asks to see her emeralds which are being kept in a safe. The precious stones are appraised by an expert who confirms they are indeed real. The hotel manager tries to pursuade Lady Avon to put her valuables in a bank vault instead of in the hotel for safe keeping but she refuses, whilst stuffing her face with caviar for breakfast. When Benson reports back to headquarters a telephone call comes in from the hotel to report that the emeralds have been stolen from the safe, which was only discovered when the expert came back to do another appraisal on them (suspcious, don't you think?)
Benson questions Lady Avon at the hotel but she acts very nonchalant and tells him that she intends to join her aunt in France the next morning. At the check-in Lady Avon's baggage is searched but nothing is discovered. She is then searched in a back room by a customs officer but he clears her. When they land in France a detective tells Benson that the aunt has been under surveillance and questions why Lady Avon is even wanted. Benson explains that Lady Avon stole her own jewels which were meant to pay towards the death duties of her late husband and that she is trying to smuggle them out of the country so that she can sell them quietly. The French detective laughs at Benson and refuses to arrest Lady Avon based on his farcical story.
Lady Avon does indeed sell her necklace for £250,000 but there is a twist...

•Lady Avon is staying in room 407 at the hotel. Her dog's name is Julia, though Lady Avon claims that it is "not a dog". Strange person.
•When we see the plane in the air we also catch a quick glimpse of the aircraft's wing from which the filming was shot. Don't think we were meant to see that!
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 2 secs):
[Hitch is standing by a picket fence with a large trunk beside him and a sign above his head which says CUSTOMS] "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I decided quite suddenly to go abroad. It seems a very rich but distant aunt has disappeared. I decided to console myself on the Riviera until the matter is cleared up and the insurancy policy paid off. [Hitch looks down and we see some dark liquid oozing out of the bottom of the trunk] Catsup. It's perfect for travel. I find a bottle or two will make any dish taste like home cooking. [a security officer approaches Hitch and holds out his hand] I've already told him I have nothing to declare. The upturned palm, the symbol of travel. However, I'm afraid he wants the key to my trunk. I think this would be the perfect moment for you to look the other way. Those of you who know of no other way to look will have to endure the following."

HITCH'S EPILOGUE (35 seconds):
"My difficulty with the customs official turned out to be rather serious. He found my aunt in the trunk, quite dead of course, but it was a peculiar place for her to be. He was terribly upset. You see, she had no passport and they're very strict, you know. I'm very much afraid I'll have to change my plans and continue without her. But my trip is a short one. I shall be back in a week, until then Au revoir. "

Well now, who saw that coming? In a story where it was becoming increasingly like a whodunit-type episode, we discover that Inspector Benson and Lady Avon are in fact in a relationship and that it was he who orchestrated the entire thing.

Wow. Didn't see that one coming! After a rather prolonged and dialogue-riddled opening first few minutes the episode settles into a mystery of whodunit when we find out the jewels have been stolen. Right up until the end I kept wondering where this was going and the story did its job and kept the suspense up until the very last scene. Nice to see Roger Moore in an early role, and Hazel Court looked delightful every time she smiled. The list of suspects grew longer as the story developed but I must admit the ending surprised me. Certainly not predictable, but a credible conclusion to a decent episode.
There's nothing worse than a corrupt policeman. Oh dear, I seem to have given the game away.....but that may save you the bother of sitting through twenty minutes of this Hollywood approximation of a British B-movie, one of those 1950s support features that always seem to be about jewel robberies. There's a tasty twist but it takes a while to get to it, backing up Hitch's arch comment about having to "endure the following". Roger Moore still has a following, and the only reason for unearthing this episode is to enjoy him in full flight in his splendid police raincoat, hair perfectly in place and raising a disdainful eyebrow every few minutes. In its favour this episode does look entirely English, much like an episode of "The Saint" but without the action, "France" being signposted by a couple of guys in the airport wearing berets. The opening shots of London seem like old friends. We've seen these many times. Also like an old friend is reliable veteran Alan Napier as Roger's boss : and it was fascinating to catch a glimpse of one of the many Lupinos who populated stages and screens a generation ago, in this case Richard, son of Wallace and nephew of "Nipper" Lane, he of the Lambeth Walk. Nor must we neglect the lovely Hazel Court, later a star of horror films - but do we really care about the chicanery of rich people on the Riviera, avoiding taxes and getting even richer ? Maybe times have changed. This one's interesting for all these reasons : but it's still a B-picture.

(click any image to enlarge)

Inspector David Benson... ROGER MOORE
Lady Gwendolyn Avon... HAZEL COURT
Mrs. Catherine Smedley... GERTRUDE FLYNN
Sir Charles Harrington... ALAN NAPIER
Mr. Saunders, hotel manager... RALPH CLANTON
Ives, hotel clerk... RICHARD LUPINO
Police Sergeant Hodges... BARRY HARVEY
French Commissionaire Jouin Clement... LOUIS G. MERCIER

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 18 October 2020