The man who helped establish the Hitchcock persona

Alfred Hitchcock in the James Allardice-scripted introduction for The Jar, an episode on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

Alfred Hitchcock was long known as the “master of suspense.” But it was writer James Allardice who helped mold the director’s image with the public.

Allardice (1919-1966) wrote all of the introductions and epilogues performed by Hitchcock on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Each week, audiences witnessed Hitchcock making droll remarks, including jibes at his unnamed sponsors. (“And speaking of business,” he says with disdain, “we come to this item.”)

Norman Lloyd, still with us at 103, discussed Allardice in a 2000 interview for the Archive of American Television. Lloyd worked at a producer on Hitchcock’s television shows after being an actor in the director’s Saboteur (1942) as the villain who fell from the Statue of Liberty.

Allardice “was a little fella, he looked not unlike Woody Allen,” Lloyd said. “Actually a little better looking. But…same height, the glasses and everything.”

The writer “had an absolute genius for creating this character Hitchcock played every time the show went on the air,” Lloyd added. “Hitchcock said every word this man wrote. Never changed a comma…What he was doing was precious in regard to the success of the show.”

Hitchcock’s creative team would send summaries of several episodes for Allardice. According to the Lloyd interview, Allardice sometimes didn’t even begin writing until a few days before the deadline but always delivered his work in on time.

To be sure, Hitchcock already was famous when Alfred Hitchcock Presents debuted in 1955. The director’s name had long been attached to the titles of his films (“Alfred Hitcock’s To Catch a Thief,” “Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window” and so on.)

However, now Hitchcock himself was coming into millions of homes via television. No silent, momentary cameos like in his films. The director was now truly a performer. Because the two shows were anthologies, Hitchcock was the only face the audience could count on seeing every week.

And it was Allardice who was feeding him his lines and establishing the settings.

What settings they were. Hitchcock in a giant bottle. Hitchcock holding a ticking bomb, describing it as a dynamite-powered clock. Hitchcock’s brother “George” manipulating Hitchcock like a marionette (a dual role, of course).

Allardice spent a full decade working for Hitchcock on the two television series. (Alfred Hitchcock Presents ran seven seasons, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour ran three.)

“Jimmy had a voice, so to speak that he used Hitchcock for,” Lloyd said in the 2000 interview. “It became the Hitchcock persona but it was Jimmy saying a lot of things about the world through these mad introductions and conclusions.”

You can view an excerpt from Lloyd’s interview where he discusses Allardice below.

Gone (and mostly forgotten): The Name of the Game

Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Franciosa in a publicity still for The Name of the Game

Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Tony Franciosa in a publicity still for The Name of the Game

Over the weekend, on a Facebook group, there interesting give and take about a television series that doesn’t get much attention these days: The Name of the Game.

The 1968-71 series consisted of 90-minute episodes dealing with three major figures at a magazine publishing company: its proprietor, Glenn Howard (Gene Barry); a top reporter/writer, Jeff Dillon (Tony Franciosa); and Dan Farrell, an FBI agent turned journalist (Robert Stack). Universal dubbed this the “wheel,” with rotating leads. Susan St. James as Peggy Maxwell would end up assisting all three.

The “wheel” concept would become a staple at Universal with the NBC Mystery Movie in the 1970s.

There’s a bit of spy connection. During the series, there was an episode that revealed Glenn Howard worked for the OSS during World War II. The episode concerned accusations by a Washington politician that Howard used an OSS operation to obtain the funds he’d use to start his publishing empire.

Essentially, Glenn Howard was a younger, handsomer version of Henry Luce (1898-1967), who founded Time, Life, Fortune and Sports llustrated. Like Luce, Glenn Howard was an influential man and traveled the globe.

The series had its origins with Fame Is the Name of the Game, a 1966 TV movie starring Franciosa as Jeff Dillon.

That TV movie also included George Macready as Glenn Howard, Dillon’s boss. But when NBC decided on a series, either Universal, NBC, or both, decided they needed a better known actor. As a result, Gene Barry, who had already done at least two Universal TV movies by this point, got the nod.

The Name of the Game attempted to deal with contemporary issues: the environment, race relations, corruption.

Over time, the 90-minute format fell out of favor for television syndication. The preferred formats are either 30 or 60 minutes or two hours. As a result, The Name of the Game is not seen very much these days. The show ran 76 episodes — hardly a flop, but syndicators usually prefer at least 100 episodes.

Nevertheless, a number of talented people worked on the show. Among them was Steven Spielberg, who directed a third-season Glenn Howard episode about environmental dangers. That episode, LA 2017, has a Twilight Zone quality. Did Howard really travel into the future or what it just a dream?

Other crew members included Norman Lloyd (producer of some Franciosa episodes), Dean Hargrove (a writer-producer who worked on Glenn Howard episodes), Steven Bochco (who was story editor for the Robert Stack episodes the last two seasons) and Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits who produced the first-season Franciosa episodes.

The show also featured a snappy theme by Dave Grusin, seen below: