Friday, May 7, 2010
Alfred Hitchcock Presents:"The Glass Eye" - a toupological analysis.
"The Glass Eye" is a 1957 episode of the famous Alfred Hitchcock Presents series that originally ran for ten seasons from 1955-65. The episode stars the legendary Jessica Tandy, with Bill Shatner serving as both co-star and narrator.
Jim Whitely (Shatner) and his wife Dorothy are cleaning out the apartment of the former's deceased sister Julia (Tandy). Julia lived a very lonely life, with one exception - a story that Whitely is reminded of as he rummages through her belongings and locates a glass eye.
Whitely proceeds to tell his wife how Julia fell for a famous ventriloquist called Max Collodi:
Enchanted by his performances, Julia decides to follow Collodi as he tours England.
She writes him letter after letter...
...until she finally receives a response.
A brief initial five-minute meeting is granted. Julia sets out to visit the reclusive artist.
Collodi, remaining partly in the shadows like some Blofeldian figure, expresses his gratitude for Julia's efforts - he too has lived a very lonely life.
Julia then casts abandon to the wind and spills out her joy at these two, apparently kindred souls, finding each other.
That's where we'll leave it as we don't want to spoil the twist ending for you!
This really is a great little piece of drama - and snappy too, running at just a little over 25 mins. A simple punchy story coupled with strong performances, dynamic shot compositions, great lighting and the overall rich dramatic earnestness of a now bygone golden era of movies and television.
Bill Shatner's performance (one of two he did on this show) couldn't be more understated in this installment.
The actor's style of diction as narrator is so restrained and un-caricature-Shatner-like as to be hypnotic. Whether it's affected "leading-man" speak, an attempt at a British accent or whatever, it's certainly noteworthy and very interesting to listen to.
Let's move to the hair...
This is one of the last toup-less screen performances by Bill Shatner (another is here) - 1957 was a crucial year toupologically, a brief nexus of visible thinning and continued touplessness.
Bill Shatner's hair is already thinning, particularly at the back, but it is still thick enough to provide an illusion of relative plenty with some clever combing, spraying and other movie-magic techniques.
Nonetheless, evidence of fluffiness is particularly visible at the back and despite all efforts, there is a noticeable lack of volume to the hair.
The frontal hairline is still entirely in place, but the longer hair combed back underscores attempts to bulk up.
There's an interesting line of dialogue spoken by Bill Shatner in "The Glass Eye". As the actor holds the artificial eye - which forms the center of the story - in his hands, his character says:
"If ever a life was symbolized by any one single object, Julia's was."
Perhaps Bill Shatner already knew that he would soon be turning to the toupee. As the actor studies the glass eye, also an appliance that provides an illusion, the sheer import of how future toupee use might change his life was perhaps beginning to dawn on the actor.
"The Glass Eye" is available on the season 3 box-set of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; presently, it's also up on YouTube. A wonderful little piece of old-fashioned drama - well worth watching.