A Review of “Dear Uncle George”, Alfred Hitchcock Hour
by Amber Doll Diaz
Episode title - “Dear Uncle George”
Director – Joseph Newman
Series - The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Broadcast date - May 10th 1963
Teleplay by - James Bridges, William Link, and Richard Levinson
Good evening. It is well known to authoritative fans and casual watchers alike, that Alfred Hitchcock was a singularly identifiable artist, in physique as well as technique and signature archetypes. In “Dear Uncle George”, episode thirty in season one, we are afforded the treat of multiple Hitchcockian watermarks…but as has always been the case, blood is much thicker than water.
When you’re seeking a hare-footed, basic rendering of something truly Hitchcockian, be it for personal reference or for showing some noir novice a thing or two, do try consulting your “Dear Uncle George”. It may seem more efficient to break out your limited edition collector’s set for North by Northwest or Psycho, but hear me out: you have your unfettered, metallic-tongued platinum-blonde female lead, the innocent man accused of a crime, and in case you’re missing the kitchen sink, there’s even a charming duo of fairly incompetent police officers who can’t be bothered to follow up on fingerprint checking after a particularly suspicious murder has taken place. Astonishingly, all of this is well coordinated into just one finely written hour.
Meet John Chambers, advice columnist known to his many troubled and lovelorn readers under the pseudonym “Uncle George”. He resides in a swanky Art Deco-inspired penthouse on New York City’s famous Park Avenue with his sharp-witted and beautiful, full-bodied wife, Louise. Seems he’s got it made, but that’s not where our writers intended to keep him. Ironically, the man, who from the opening scene is leisurely dictating expert counsel to his secretary for his loyal fans, soon finds himself devoured by his own emotions and commits a heinous crime of passion (Well, he IS cutting up female paper dolls in that scene). Naturally, we then meet our officers of the law: Duncan, a young sergeant vying to further establish himself in the force, and Wolfson, a seasoned veteran who is just about to end his run as lieutenant.
Speaking of seasoned veterans, “Dear Uncle George” was directed by none other than Joseph Newman who produced ten episodes in total throughout Alfred Hitchcock Hour’s run. This is unquestionably an episode that was richly-conceived, having also been borne from a trio of the prolific and masterful: James Bridges, William Link, and Richard Levinson. Link and Levinson were lifelong collaborators, and creators of the well known mystery series’ Murder, She Wrote. I suppose they might have changed the ‘she’ to ‘he’ this time around.
Furthermore, “Dear Uncle George” is simply brimming with interesting nuances such as symbolism achieved mise-en-scène (a technical term meaning ‘the look of the scene’). For example, a lover’s fatal wound is inflicted with nothing less than a small statue of the god Cupid, as well as modernist paintings and abstract art are visible-even emphasized- in most shots of the apartment, featuring distorted faces, symbolizing the fact that a character is not what he or she seems. Not to mention a hot steam room in which a character’s true intentions are revealed, denoting human purification and emotional absolution, making the intimately enclosed room a confessional of sorts.
Due in part to Gene Barry’s (John Chambers) regrettably over-emotive ham acting, this installment is rich in comic relief, even if it does resort to falling back upon racial stereotypes such as a subservient Asian woman, and an Irish repairman who can’t resist a drink. Personally, I wouldn't come down too hard on such setbacks, being that production time was thin and many writers were forced to lean on such trappings. Hopefully “Dear Uncle George” does well to scratch any persistent ‘Hitch’ you might have. Here is where I end my own editorial advisory, but all I ask is that no reader approaches me seeking personal advice, lest I too meet a passionate, mysterious end.
A young Dabney Coleman plays the accused man, Tom Esterow.ReplyDelete
Another nice takeaway from this episode. Before "Murder, She Wrote", Link and Levinson were co-creators of the equally famous detective show, "Columbo". As someone on IMDb noted, the charming incompetents from the police force remind one of the title character from that great series, though, of course, Columbo only seemed to bungle.ReplyDelete
Despite his overacting, Barry's take in the final scene at the police station, when busybody neighbor Mrs. Weatherby volunteers a wee bit too much about "Uncle George", is priceless: From a look of smug triumph after she identified his wife's lover, his expression goes to stunned shock and he slowly sits down, after she unwittingly implicated him. Great fun moment of Hitchcockian humor.
The character of Mrs. Weatherby brings up another popular Hitchcock trope, that of voyeurism, which is a central aspect of the "Rear Window" plot, and also is found in other of his films.
Thanks much for your thoughts. It's such a fantastic episode.ReplyDelete