Run for Doom is a novel by Henry Kane that was first published in England in 1960 as #302 in TV Boardman's American Bloodhound series. Reprinted in paperback in the US in 1962, the novel concerns Don Reed, a 27 year old senior in medical school, who drives from his home in New Jersey to New York City with his friend Dora Mason to see a performance at the Hotsy Club by the Bill Floyd trio, a jazz combo. Dora is the 62 year old editor of the Spring Echo Herald, the newspaper in Don's hometown, and she has been a mother figure to him since his own mother died when he was three. Don's father is seventy-four, near the end of a successful career as a lawyer, and it was at his insistence that Don went to medical school instead of pursuing a career as a musician. At the club, Don is captivated by Flame Cortez, a dancer performing with the trio.
|John Gavin as Don Reed|
At home, Don's father tries to talk him out of marrying Flame, having investigated her background. Don leaves in anger after shoving his father backward into a chair. After visiting a bar, driving around and doing some thinking, Don returns home to apologize, only to find his father dead of a heart attack. Feeling like a murderer, Don confesses to Dora, insisting that he still plans to marry Flame. He confronts Flame about Bill Floyd and she denies ever having wanted to wed the musician. Don inherits over $60,000 from his father and suddenly Flame is more receptive to the idea of marriage.
|Diana Dors as Nickie Carroll (Flame Cortez)|
At home again, Flame throws a housewarming party; an unexpected guest is an investigator who questions the newlyweds about Pedro Simone's disappearance. Dora consoles Don, who tells her about the accident but admits that nothing seems to cool his lust for his bride. Don works hard as a hospital intern while Flame entertains a series of men, including Bill Floyd, in the afternoons at home. Called to an emergency, Don meets a beautiful young woman named Alice Horton; he learns that she is a nurse and arranges a job for her at the hospital. Don and Alice fall in love and begin to meet clandestinely; he decides to ask Flame for a divorce, but when she refuses he begins to think about murder.
Time passes and Don visits Dora, who says that Alice's father paid her a visit. She warns him about trying to enlist Bill Floyd's aid in convincing Flame to allow a divorce and, when Don visits Bill at the club, the man refuses to help him. Flame reappears as a dancer and Don, drunk, is thrown out into the gutter. That summer, Flame tells Don that she has cleaned out their bank accounts and is leaving. Things only get worse when Alice tells Don that her family is moving to California to get her away from him. Alice's father visits Don and explains that he is taking the girl away for her own good but if Don gets a divorce they can be together. Soon after that, Don gets a call at the hospital to respond to an emergency at his own home.
|Scott Brady as Bill Floyd|
At just 124 pages in paperback, Run for Doom is a short, fast-paced crime novel that falls squarely in the noir tradition in its depiction of the ruin of a good man by a bad woman. Don lost his mother when he was three years old and was raised by a stern father who was nearly 50 when the child was born. One could suggest that Don spends the novel trying to replace his mother, first choosing Flame Cortez, a fantasy figure of a woman, before settling on Alice Horton, a nurse and a more realistic maternal substitute.
James Bridges adapted Run for Doom for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and it was broadcast on CBS on Friday, May 17, 1963, as the next to last episode of the first season of hour-long shows. In order to compress the short novel to fit the TV show's running time, Bridges cuts out major characters and subplots and focuses on the main thread of the story involving Don and Flame, renamed Nickie Carroll. The televised version is a showcase for actress Diana Dors and opens with her singing "Just One of Those Things," the 1935 Cole Porter standard. The book's first scene, with Don driving to New York with Dora Mason, is gone; also gone from the TV show is the character of Dora in her entirety, replaced in the initial scene by Dr. Frank Farmer, a colleague of Don's from the hospital.
A singer rather than a dancer, Nickie approaches Don at his table to the consternation of Bill Floyd; in the book, the musician introduces the soon to be lovers. In the screenplay, Floyd is more visibly jealous of Nickie--perhaps the novel's portrayal of their relationship was too edgy for TV. Don is not a senior in medical school but rather has recently graduated and is already a practicing physician. The TV show has Nickie leave Don after they share a cheap meal together; in the book, he takes her home and spends the night.
|Carl Benton Reid as Don's father|
Don's father talks to him and Nickie sings "How Long Has This Been Going on," a 1927 standard by the Gershwins and another example of how the songs used in this episode provide commentary on the action. Don and Nickie then visit Don's father at home; the old man had Nickie investigated and learned that her real name is Nadine Bryant and she has been married three times. In the novel, Flame Cortez was her real name and, while she had plenty of men, she had never been married before. After Don's father dies, he confesses his feelings to Nickie instead of to Dora. When she agrees to marry him, he tells her: "You make me jealous, I'll kill you," foreshadowing the show's conclusion.
|1962 Signet paperback|
At the club, Nickie tells Bill that she has left Don but also does not need Floyd anymore; she sits down at the piano and sings a few lines of "Just One of Those Things," giving it a darker meaning than it had in the show's first scene, where it suggested that her meeting with Don fit the song's title. Alice Horton is the other major character jettisoned by James Bridges in his TV adaptation; the entire subplot about Don's second love affair and plan to divorce his wife and marry his new love has been eliminated. Instead, events are compressed and hastened along as Don goes to the bank and learns that Nickie has withdrawn all their money. He goes home and confronts her and she points a gun at him when he takes their money from her suitcase. He leaves in disgust after she threatens to tell the FBI agent about his role in Cane's death aboard the cruise ship. Don drives off in anger and we see Bill Floyd sitting in a car outside the Reed home.
|Don realizes what he has done|
|Note the comparison of figures|
|After Don pushes Cane overboard|
With Bridges streamlining the story and adding his trademark repetitive touches, such as the baseball metaphor, the strangely appropriate songs, and the idea of Nickie as a boomerang that Floyd can toss and expect to come back, the script is tight and fast-moving. Girard's direction, mixing a good amount of control over his actors with a variety of shots that work to achieve maximum emotional effect, ensures that the episode is entertaining from start to finish. Finally, the actors all give convincing performances, making "Run for Doom" a successful adaptation of its source novel.
|Diana Dors sings "Just One of Those Things"|
Although "Run for Doom" is a showcase or Diana Dors, John Gavin (1931- ) gets top billing. He started out in movies in 1956 and appeared in such classics as Imitation of Life (1959), Psycho (1960) and Spartacus (1960). Born John Golenor, he was on TV from 1960 to 1981, when President Reagan appointed him the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. He was also the head of the Screen Actors Guild from 1971 to 1973. He nearly played James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) before being replaced by a returning Sean Connery, and he again almost played the part in Live and Let Die (1973) before being passed over in favor of Roger Moore. This was the first of his two roles on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; the second was "Off Season."
|Tom Skerritt as Dr. Farmer|
Playing the tough and unscrupulous piano player Bill Floyd is Scott Brady (1924-1985), who was born in New York as Gerard Tierney. After serving in the Navy in WWII, his movie career began in 1948 and lasted until 1984. His TV career began in 1955. His films included Johnny Guitar (1954) and the TV movie, The Night Strangler (1973); while he was in many TV episodes, this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.
|Gail Bonney as Sarah the maid|
Two other Hitchcock show stalwarts make brief appearances in ""Run for Doom": Robert Carson (1909-1979) plays the detective at the end who discovers Nickie's body and Gail Bonney (1901-1984) plays Sarah, the Reed family's maid. Carson and Bonney appeared in eleven episodes each, always in similar, small parts.
"Run for Doom" is not yet available on DVD in the U.S. but video clips of Diana Dors singing the two full-length songs from this episode are on YouTube here and here.
In two weeks: "The Cadaver" with Michael Parks!