TV… Recalling an Early TV Role for George Segal

 

Remembering George Segal in Alfred Hitchcock’s Hour…

 

In this episode, Segal has a leading role as an up and coming actor who has an affair with a casting director. But her husband won’t give her a divorce.

 

The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – Bande announce, Digital Ciné

 

I was sad to hear of the passing of George Segal, an actor who I watched in the cinema the recentish disaster movie, 2012 (2009). More recently, I spotted him in his early film role in a drama with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). This was one of his first film supporting roles and his performance won Segal an Oscar nomination.

However, my favourite film role of his career was in the romantic comedy A Touch of Class (1973), and here he starred in a leading man role. Segal won a Golden Globe for this performance as a married man who starts a casual affair with Glenda Jackson’s character Vickie, only for the pair to fall in love. These three performances in three different genres showing just a little of the versatility of this much award winning and often award nominated actor.

I have of course seen him in other movies – as diverse as Rollercoaster (1977) and Look Who’s Talking (1989) and more – but none of his television work. It was with some luck I discovered this episode of Alfred Hitchcock Hour, in a Season 2 Episode 2 called A Nice Touch (1963).

This episode is presented by this famous director of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and movies such as Family Plot (1976). Other stars that appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Hour included Christopher Lee, Telly Savalas, Lawrence Harvey and Lee Majors. Actresses included Angie Dickinson, Vera Miles and Carol Lynley.

The A Nice Touch episode starts with a physical fight between a drunken husband, Ed Brandt (Harry Townes) and his wife Janice (Anne Baxter). This as Ed confronts Janice about her affair in her New York Home. At the end of the fight, there is broken furniture, she is in tears and he’s collapsed unconscious on the floor in a drunken stupor. Their fight really is painful to watch both literally and figuratively.

After this fight, Janice phones her younger lover, Larry Duke (George Segal) rather than call the police. She is in a bit of a state, and it’s late at night in New York, and she wakes him up to ask him for advice. Her lover is a successful actor, Larry Duke (George Segal) who is in Hollywood. He looks like he is doing well for himself too as he’s got a debut role as a leading man coming up and a lovely apartment.

Larry takes charge of the situation as Janice is pretty hysterical. She tells him she is missing him and wants to be with him but Ed won’t divorce her. As she talks to Larry, Janice then remembers how they met and how they fell in love while her husband was out of town.  And by the power of flashbacks, this story is told.

Janice and Larry meet during a casting call in New York. She’s a happily married casting director whose husband away. Larry gets a bit angry that he doesn’t make the final three actors that she selects for an audition and he tells her so. But despite her telling him he hasn’t made the audition, he brazenly pushes past her and makes his way into the office and auditions.

Larry and Janice meet accidentally after his unsuccessful audition after he doesn’t convince the crew and doesn’t get the role. He confronts her as she’s waiting for a taxi, and asks her to lunch. She turns him down, but he is very persistent and seems keen to spend time with her.

After she sprains her ankle as she walks to the taxi to go home, he scoops her up and takes her to the taxi. He then goes home with her. At her place, after some more sparring, they end up kissing. In time after their affair starts, she recommends him for roles over other actors. She ends up losing her marriage and career, for this man who she would do anything to please.

Back in the present day, however, Larry tells her he is keen for them to get together as a couple but only when she is free from her marriage. But he doesn’t want to cause a scandal by her moving to Hollywood to be with him, in case it harms his acting career. So he chillingly encourages her to kill her husband, by smothering him with a cushion… as he gives Janice precise instructions on how to kill Ed and then how to dispose of the body. But will she do it? Tune in to discover all…

I did like this creepy and sinister role from Segal. Segal played his character so ambiguously at first. Initially, when his character answers the phone to Janice, he seems a nice guy, concerned for his lover and wanting the best for her. However, in time it was clear as this story continued that this bolshy character was concerned about himself first and then his girlfriend. Darlin Husband found him a bit of a cad from the get-go after they clashed at their first meeting.

Little clues are given during the episode of Larry’s intentions, however, he did seem quite controlling with Janice from the start. It is clear Janice, would do anything for him, and she appears torn on the right thing to do. This even after Larry suggests that murder is the only answer to their predicament and it the only way they can get together. Darlin Husband then believed he was trying to set up his lover in her husband’s murder and then frame her by taking the rap for her husband’s death.

In the flashbacks telling their story, this pair convinced me slowly as lovers, although it was pretty clear that he was the dominant one in the relationship. It seemed from the start that it was him calling the shots. Janice appeared vulnerable to his advances after he seemed to push his way into her life by joining her in the audition room and then the taxi knowing her husband away. However there did seem too many flashbacks, and I wondered why the story told in flashback rather than the story told in real-time.

Janice did seem genuinely in love with him, and he with her as he stressed he did want her to join him in Hollywood whatever the cost. Segal’s on-screen performance as her lover was remarkably cool, calm and collected, and he continued to act this way when he talked of murder. Realistically Janice has some minor and major hysterics at the thought of killing her husband and these emotions were displayed credibly by Anne Baxter. Segal enacting his phone call with Janice realistically and credibly.

I was impressed with this early role from Segal who in his character as an actor meant that he could easily convince his distressed girlfriend into anything, and us into believing anything he said. (with me?). I would urge you to watch this early menacing and chilling TV role from that Oscar nominated actor where George Segal was seen and heard in this only his eighth role and brought a nice touch of class acting to a TV show.

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