|"Change of Murder" was |
first published here
The first of the Woolrich episodes was "The Big Switch," broadcast midway through the first season on January 8, 1956, and based on the story, "Change of Murder," which was first published in the January 25, 1936 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly. Nevins points out that this was one of the author's earliest crime stories. It takes place in Chicago and begins as Brains Donleavy calls on his friend Fade Williams. Fade's office is in the back of a bar in the Loop and he can provide an alibi for a price; after Brains pays Fade for the last time he used this service, Fade quotes a price of $500 to alibi Brains for killing a man on Chicago's North Side.
|The story was reprinted|
in this 1945 digest
Hitch tells Brains that he married Goldie and that they had a baby and named it Donleavy Hitchcock after Brains. Brains lets Hitch go after learning this news and leaves the way he came. Hitch laughs at how he tricked Brains: the baby that Goldie referred to in a letter he showed to Brains was a gun! Brains uses the rick telephone booth to return to Fade's office without being seen. Just then a crowd rushes in and restrains Brains, who sees Fade slumped over dead behind his desk, accidentally shot by his own gun while cleaning it.
|The trick phone booth|
Nevins points out that the characters in "Change of Murder" are reminiscent of those that Damon Runyon wrote about and that the ending, where Brains is accused of a murder he did not commit after having gotten away with real murders, recalls the end of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, where Frank is convicted of murdering Cora, whom he did not kill, although he had gotten away with killing her husband, Nick.
|George Mathews as Sam Donleavy|
|Joseph Downing as Lt. Al|
We first meet Sam (not Brains) Donleavy in his apartment, where he talks to his pet bird, Edgar, and his pet cat, Schultz; Sam has a pronounced accent that is a mix of Brooklynese, Irish, and Chicago gangster. A police lieutenant named Al pays Sam a visit; the two have known each other since childhood and Al recalls how a teacher once took a switch to Sam. Sam asks Al if he'd like to do the same and Al replies that "The only switch big enough for you now is the one that throws the juice to the chair." This explains the episode's title, "The Big Switch," though it could also refer to the switch of places Sam later makes by means of the trick phone booth.
|Goldie talks to Morg about Baby|
The show then picks up where the short story began, as Sam visits the speakeasy owned by Barney (not Fade). Humor continues to be the dominant theme as Sam complains that Barney's demand of $2500 for an alibi for murder is dishonest--as if the idea of committing murder and getting away with it is honest! Unlike in Woolrich's story, however, this time Sam plans to kill Goldie rather than her boyfriend. Al, the police lieutenant, comes to the speakeasy to keep an eye on Sam.
|George E. Stone as Barney|
|Beverly Michaels as Goldie|
"The Big Switch" is a fairly faithful adaptation of "Change of Murder" that adds the character of Al, the police lieutenant, and changes the target of Brain's wrath from his former girlfriend's new boyfriend to his former girlfriend herself. Both new characters are welcome, partly because of good performances by the actor and actress. In fact, the performances in this episode are all good.
|Al cleans his gun once too often|
Don Weis (1922-2000), who directed "The Big Switch," directed five episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid" and Henry Slesar's "First Class Honeymoon." He worked in movies from 1951 to 1978 and on TV from 1954 to 1990, directing many episodes of various TV series. He directed a Twilight Zone, four Batmans and four Night Gallery segments. An entertaining article about his career may be found here.
|Entering Goldie's room|
The sultry Beverly Michaels (1928-2007) plays Goldie with the same tawdry sensuality she brought to other roles, such as her starring turn in Wicked Woman (1953). She had a brief career, appearing in 11 movies and three TV episodes between 1949 and 1956, but those roles were memorable. She was born in the Bronx and this was her only appearance on the Hitchcock show. She appears to have given up acting soon after it was filmed.
|Pretending to play cards|
Joseph Downing (1903-1975) plays Al, the police lieutenant. He was in movies from 1935 to 1957 and on TV from 1949 to 1963. He appeared in Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) and was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times.
"Change of Murder" was also adapted as a half-hour live TV broadcast on May 21, 1950, as part of the Colgate Theatre series; newspaper listings report that the cast included Bernard Nedell, Charles Jordan, Alfred Hopson and Martin Kingsley. This show is almost certainly lost.
"The Big Switch" is available on DVD here and may be viewed online for free here.
"The Big Switch." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. CBS. 8 Jan. 1956. Television.