Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 1, Episode 29

   James Neilson
   Victor Wolfson, Robert C. Dennis (teleplay); Stanley Ellin (story)
   Robert H. Harris, Meg Mundy
   15 April 1956
   24:57 (total) • 21:13 (film) • 2:23 (Hitchcock)

The Orderly World Of Mr. Appleby
Mr. Appleby is an antiques collector with a store which is struggling to find customers to sell its items to; or so it would appear. One woman customer, Martha Sturgis, registers her interest in some items but Appleby abruptly tells her the items are already sold. Mr. Desar, a foreign businessman whom represents his father, who furnished Appleby with many treasures, enters the store to discuss payment owed to him for the items in the store. Desar reminds Appleby that regardless of whether the items are selling or not, that he is here to collect a payment from him; £12,000 within 2 weeks. Appleby tells him that business isn't doing so well and in fact the truth of the matter is he doesn't want to sell any antiques because he wants to keep them for himself.
The woman in the store accidentally breaks a valuable porcelein camel which angers Appleby, who screams at her that it was worth a thousand dollars. She agrees to write him a cheque to cover the damages. But before Appleby can celebrate the unexpected windfall, Desar snatches the cheque from him and tells Appleby that if he cannot find the money to pay for his stock then Desar will take the items back and sell them elsewhere; a notion Appleby clearly wishes to avoid at all costs.
When Appleby returns home he gets on his wife's case about her being untidy, which leads to a heated argument. He tells her his financial predicament but she refuses to give him the money from her endowment policy. He then consults a book called "Accident Or Murder" (fancy just having a book like that just lying around on your bookself! I mean, seriously!) and after following a set of instructions from within its pages, he carries out the unthinkable. After his wife's estate is sorted out, Appleby is able to pay off Desar and continue trading. As a token of an apology (although not his real intent), Appleby offers an antique box to Miss Sturgis, the customer who broke his camel in the shop, then swiftly proposes marriage to her.
After being forced to meet with her lawyer, who lays it down clearly that Miss Sturgis' wealth must not be a factor in Appleby wishing to marry her, he suggests that Appleby courts his bride-to-be for a period of one month, during which he is encouraged to spoil her. A formal agreement is made between the lawyer and the couple that each will be heir to the other's estates and that a proviso Appleby moves into his new wife's home, where she has always lived. He agrees, but it doesn't take long before his greed overcomes him and he needs a sum of money to prevent foreclosure on his shop and losing his stock. His wife refuses to help, saying it would be nice to have him home with her instead. She buys a cat - something that he loathes. He decides to get rid of her the same way he killed his first wife, but Martha is already one step ahead of him...

•This was the second time that Michael Ansara and Robert Harris had appeared in an episode together: they were both in Shopping For Death.
•The credits list Helen Spring and Edna Holland in the cast but they do not appear in the episode. Strange?
•This story, with the same title, was later filmed as an episode for the television series "Tales Of The Unexpected". The episode aired June 7th, 1980.
•There are some reviews of this episode posted elsewhere that state Martha Sturgis is a widow, yet in the episode she claims to have never been married.
•Other sources, who appear to have simply copied one another, mis-spell the maid's name as "Elly". When Appleby comes to the house and is shown inside he clearly calls her Ella.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minue 15 secs):
[Hitch appears bending forwards before standing up straight] "Good evening ladies. Has your husband recently acquired a far-away look in his eyes? In the event that something unforeseen happens to you, do all of your worldy goods go to him? Is he at this time nervously excusing himself from the room? If you have answered 'yes' to all of the above questions you receive a score of one hundred, a gold star for neatness, and my advice to leave for mothers immediately! That is, immediately after the conclusion of our programme. Our story tonight is called, 'The Orderly World Of Mr. Appleby'. Unfortunately it will do nothing to relieve your fears, if that is what you want. If you want contentment, security, peace of mind, listen to this advice from our friendly philosopher."

HITCH'S EPILOGUE (1 minute 8 secs) :
"Ah well, the bigger they come the harder they fall. By the way, what you have just seen is of historical significance: it was in precisely this way that a housewife carrying an arm load of vegetables invented the tossed salad. Now before I say good night my sponsor would like to bring you an important message. I needn't tell you to whom it is important. [fade to black] That concludes our entertainment for tonight. Once again through a propaganda play we have attempted to make the world a better place in which to live. I'm confident that tonight we struck a telling blow in a cause of wall-to-wall carpeting. Good night."

Martha blackmails Appleby into staying home with her and giving up his shop, as she reveals she knows that he murdered his first wife. If he fails to comply with her wishes, or if she was to suddenly die unexpectedly, there is enough evidence on him in her lawyer's safe to incriminate Appleby. She also tells him that the lawyer will telephone the house every night to ensure she is alive and well. The telephone rings, but Martha slips on the rug as she walks over to take the call and dies. Appleby's time is up.

This was a slow-building episode, which seemed to plod along initially but builds to a tense climax. As usual, I didn't see the twist ending coming!
While watching this I was constantly distracted by the thought of how Peter Lorre would portray Mr. Appleby, instead of Robert H. Harris. Mr. Lorre would lose it altogether, no question, and by the end he'd be tearing the toilet roll off the wall - as he does in "Secret Agent" - whereas Mr. Harris maintains an air of quiet, controlled panic. Was ever a collector as obsessive as this, or so foolhardy as to own an antique shop in which he's unwilling to part with any of the stock ? He's even prepared to marry and murder a rich spinster in order to buy MORE stock that he won't ever sell. It's all most unlikely, but Mr. Harris is such a compelling actor that you're almost willing the evil creep to get away with it. I've said this before : one of the joys of '50s American telly is that star parts are given to some splendid character actors. Mr. Harris turns up all over the place - I saw him being delightful the other day in a 1961 episode of "Target - The Corruptors" - and he's in nine Hitchcock episodes. Apart from Mr. Harris, this is mundane stuff, although I didn't guess the ending. The REAL mystery is what happened to the two cast members who are billed on the credits - but never appear. Probably Mr. Harris bumped them off before the episode started. That's SO like him.

(click any image to enlarge)

Laurence Appleby... ROBERT H. HARRIS
Martha Sturgis... MEG MUNDY
Sidney Gainsborough... GAGE CLARKE
Lena Appleby, the first wife... LOUISE LARABEE
Ella, the maid... MOLLIE GLESSING
?... HELEN SPRING [unseen]
?... EDNA HOLLAND [unseen]

(click any image to enlarge)

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

This page was last updated on: 23 February 2021