Alfred Hitchcock Presents Noir: The 2023 CMBA Spring Blogathon

Alfred Hitchcock Presents, a half-hour anthology series created, produced and hosted by – you guessed it – Alfred Hitchcock, aired on CBS-TV from 1955 to 1960, and on NBC-TV from 1960 to 1962. Presented as a mashup of the mystery, horror, and thriller genres, the episodes varied from the undeniably humorous to the downright macabre.

One of my favorite – and most-often watched – episodes in the entire series is one with an unmistakable noirish bent: “Enough Rope for Two,” the seventh episode of the third season, with an original airdate of November 17, 1957. (Are there enough sevens in that sentence?) It’s not only the plot of the episode that’s tinged with noir, but its cast and crew have an impressive noir pedigree as well, with starring roles occupied by Jean Hagen and Steve Brodie, and direction by Paul Henreid.  

— Max and Madget don’t like each other.

The story – and if you don’t want to be spoiled, I recommend a swift detour at this point – concerns three main characters: Joe Kedzie (Steven Hill – who you might recognize as the original leader of the team on Mission: Impossible, or from his more recent TV work on Law and Order), Madge Griffin (Jean Hagen, not long after the end of her three-year stint on The Danny Thomas Show), and Max (Steve Brodie, in his second of four appearances on Hitchcock Presents). Shortly after the start of the episode, we learn that Joe has just been released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence for an armed robbery that netted $100 grand. We also learn several other intriguing tidbits: (1) At the time of the robbery, Joe and Madge were romantically involved but, unbeknownst to Joe, Max and Madge were, too! (2) Max snitched on Joe to the cops, which resulted in his capture and conviction. (3) Joe was supposed to have stashed the money in a bus station locker in Barstow, California, but he didn’t – and only Joe knows where the money is, and (4) Max and Madge had planned to skedaddle with the cash while Joe languished in the hoosegow – and they’ve been waiting 10 long years for him to reveal the whereabouts of the money.

— This ain’t no ordinary road trip.

It turns out that Joe hid the money in an abandoned mine shaft located in the Mojave Desert, 100 miles from civilization. When Joe meets up with Madge and Max upon his release, he instructs Max to purchase a pick-up truck and the threesome head out the following day to retrieve the bundle of cash. On the way, they stop at a store where Joe picks up a few incidentals: rope, a shovel – and a gun. Unfortunately for all concerned, this little excursion isn’t going to end well.

As I mentioned, this episode has noir written all over it – from the very first scene, we know that we’re dealing with people who aren’t exactly candidates for Citizen of the Year. Madge and Max are apparently a couple, but they don’t appear to like each other very much. Rather, it’s as if they’ve simply been marking time together, watching the dates on the calendar slide from one year to the next, until they can get their mitts on the stolen cash. Max is anxious and hyper, prone to spitting his words out like they leave a bad taste, while Madge is bitter, bemoaning the line Max fed her a decade earlier that made her switch partners: “’What would you rather have, Madge,’” she recalls in a mocking tone. “’Fifty thousand and Joe, or the whole hundred and me?’ You were a real nice boy, Maxie. A dreamboat.”

— Joe is not here for play-play.

And when Joe shows up, freshly sprung from the pen, he’s grim and subdued — we’re not quite sure what to make of him. Is he glad to see Madge? What does he think when Max arrives? Does he know that Max has put the moves on his girl? Does he suspect the part they played in his capture? We don’t have to wait long to find out. He gives us a hint of his state of mind when he informs Max that the money won’t be split three ways; instead, Max will receive a quarter and the rest will belong to Joe and Madge. “A little extra for Madge and me because she’s been waiting, too, haven’t you, honey?” Joe asks cryptically. “Take it or leave it. I’ll let it rot before you get any more of it. Let it rot the way I rotted.”

The base natures of these three characters become even more transparent when they make their trek into the desert to retrieve the money. I won’t spoil the ending – it’s too good not to let you see it for yourself – but it’s clear as glass that each member of this trio has their very own, very specific, agenda. Behind their collective facades of civility lie years of mistrust, avarice, duplicity, self-absorption, and resentment, all waiting to bubble to the surface and make themselves known. And they do.

— You may know Jean Hagen better as Lina Lamont.

Three noir veterans helped to bring this episode to life. Although she may be best known for her comic turn as Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Jean Hagen can be seen in numerous features from the classic noir era, including Side Street (1949), The Big Knife (1955), and the film featuring my favorite Hagen performance, The Asphalt Jungle (1950). As for Brodie, he played a small but pivotal role in one of noir’s most famous films, Out of the Past (1947), and he was also memorable in such films noirs as Desperate (1947), Crossfire (1947), Armored Car Robbery (1950), and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950). And the film’s director, Paul Henreid – most notable as the guy who wound up with Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca – straddled the noir fence both in front of the camera and behind. He appeared in noirs including Deception (1946) and Stolen Face (1952), and served as producer, star, and uncredited director of Hollow Triumph (1948), also known as The Scar. It’s no wonder that this episode was filled with cynical characters wallowing in a world cloaked in figurative darkness.

It couldn’t help it.


This post is part of the 2023 CMBA Spring Blogathon, Big Stars on the Small Screen: In Support of National Classic Movie Day. Please click here to read the other entries in this annual event – you’ll be glad you did!

~ by shadowsandsatin on May 16, 2023.

13 Responses to “Alfred Hitchcock Presents Noir: The 2023 CMBA Spring Blogathon”

  1. This I’ve got to see! Love the plot and along with that, three of my favorite actors. Wonderful write-up, Karen, and thanks for the heads up. Good grief, Jean Hagen, Steve Brodie and Steven Hill (I’m a Law & Order addict and he is my favorite of the DAs) scheming against each other all at once. Woohoo.

  2. This sounds like a fantastic episode, and I really love how you ended your review!

  3. I remember this episode well! You’re right about the actors being perfectly cast for their characters. Another episode with a noirish feel (at least plotwise) is The Creeper, in which a serial killer is murdering blonde-haired women in New York City during a hot spell. It’s another taut tale that benefits from Constance Ford’s excellent performance and an atmospheric setting that captures the discomfort and unease experienced by the characters.

    • When I was searching for episodes to cover for this blogathon, I selected those that had noir vets — and because of Steve Brodie (again), The Creeper just happens to be one that I watched. It came very close to being the one that I selected, too — it was so good!

  4. Wonderful post! I haven’t watched this series in many, many years and I think I am really missing out. This one sounds so intriguing (might have something to do with the writing here…), but, in truth, you had me at Lina Lamont.

    • Thank you so much, Marsha! I am becoming completely obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock Presents — it is like perfect, bite-sized morsels of your favorite candy. They’re so delicious and you just can’t stop eating them!

  5. Nice overview of this episode! I haven’t seen very many of the Hitchcock TV series in recent years, but now I’ll have to go back. Especially since I’ve seen very little of what Henreid directed and I’m curious about his work.

    • Thank you, P.M.! I perked up when I saw that Paul Henreid had directed this episode. His directorial efforts fascinate me, too, and I’m trying to see as many as I can. This was a really good one!

  6. Gotta love the noir irony of a good Hitchcock Presents suspense yarn! Loving the Blogathon! Loved Hagen in The Asphalt Jungle! – Cheers, Joey

    • You’re so right about Hitchcock and his noirish irony (or ironic noir?) — I can’t get enough! And I share your Hagen love — her performance in The Asphalt Jungle was Oscar-worthy!

  7. Sweet deal!! I don’t remember watching “Enough Rope for Two.” What a terrific title and why is Jean Hagen so overlooked? It seems to be anyway.

    Enjoy the noir connections in this as I pictured the big screen mentions as I went along. Enjoyable read, Karen.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: