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.

But wait...

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.


  1. looks like his own frontal hairline but with a Ted Danson style fill in rear piece here which soon later had to be changed to a full toup with the front lace fixing as more hair vanished at the hairline, judging from the recently discovered pub photo..?

  2. no rear hare piece. just a combover

  3. Huzzah and kudos to the digital video disc for making great old shows like this accessible to a wider audience again. Shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, One Step Beyond, and The Twilight Zone still hold amazing charms.

  4. We have been trying to encourage non-registered commenters to select the "Name/ URL" option and type in a username (anything at all). This eliminates the "anonymous" tag and helps other commenters to know who is saying what. Thanks! -ST

  5. Yes it does look like his own frontal hairline (maybe grown longer?) combed over a rear toup - from the recently found Shatpic it doesn't look like there would be enough of his own Shathair to make a successful backwards comb-over, this looks too dense after seeing that recent new toupless pic....

  6. toup of the morningMay 8, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    you can see the depression in back where there is the attempt to comb over it. A hairpiece would cover over the back in a more uniform, less patchy fashion.

  7. It's weird to see Bill Shatner with a hair so "natural", even with the elaborated combover and tons of spray.

  8. It's worth mentioning that Dorothy is played by Rosemary Harris (Aunt May in Spider-Man, among many, many other roles).

  9. Here's a classic pic for a toup analysis :

  10. Shatner does not wear a toupee

  11. Has anyone seen the photograph that appears in one of Bills books that he wrote and the edge of the toupee, is clearly lifting up, amazing how he ever allowed it to be used

  12. Yes, some people have mentioned that pic a few times in the comments here. If anyone has one of the books wih this pic, perhaps you can have it scanned and then send it in to Shatner's Toupee.

  13. Shatner was wearing the enormous flowing wig with the minor widows peak, in Mother May I Go Out to Swim in a 1960 Hitchcock episode. A long scene had he and a woman sitting talking in front of a film of a waterfall. Shat was in left face profile. A full HD closeup of Shatner's left face profile appeared. I paused my dvr to examine him closely. It was clearly a fake. The slight widows peak was never part of Shat's real hair as shown above. This guy's been wearing hairpieces in roles, including the Outrage and the Brothers Karamazov, for nearly 60 years!

  14. To pre-code horror comic fans, this might seem to be a rework of "Fate Has a Thousand Faces" which first appeared in the October 1952 issue of Strange Fantasy. Actually the reverse is true: the original story by John Keir Cross was first published in the UK in 1944! Are there any earlier examples of the ventriloquist-dummy "switcheroo" concept?

  15. Anyone know where I can find the full episode of this?


  16. Oh cool beans!! Thanks doll omg

  17. i was trying to figure out the end scene with billy barty in the glass eye with him wearing an eye patch....i'm missing something

  18. Thank you, Brian Byczek, me too! The larger "dummy" is shown missing an eye, so I assumed that's what Jessica Tandy grabbed. So did Billy Barty pluck out his own eye in a fit of heartbreak or just decide to wear a patch for the rest of his life. Driving me nuts!