Friday, September 10, 2010

Rose's Last Summer: Season 1 Episode 5

First aired: 10/11/60
Starring: Mary Astor, Lin McCarthy, Jack Livesy.
Written by Marie Baumer, based on a novel by Margaret Millar.
Directed by Arthur Hiller.

Years removed from the silver screen, Rose French (Mary Astor) lives in a drunken squalor until a new job gives her one last chance to emote. Unfortunately for Rose, this job involves deception, danger, an eccentric’s will, lots of alcohol, and maybe even murder.

PE: Rose's Last Summer begins fabulously: a wild, drunken scene involving a washed-up actress (think, oh I don’t know, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard) chucking her shoe through the window of a bar and then pinballing off the side of a truck (this scene is a hoot: the stunt woman who steps in for Astor has to be forty years younger and has darker hair!), setting the narrative into motion. It’s all downhill from there.

Rose’s new job, we come to find out through a set of long and contrived scenes, is to replace Mrs. Horace Goodfield (also played by Astor) in case she dies. Rose is the spitting image of the woman and Goodfield’s goofy husband, who died a millionaire inventor of toys, has stipulated in his will that his widow and her son will receive his millions only on her 65th birthday. If she doesn’t make it, the bundle goes to charity. Why anyone would do that is your guess. I won’t bother. This is a Thriller.

Anyway, Mrs. G. is 64 years, 362 days old when she kicks the bucket. Rose’s death is staged and the actress slips into the nightie of Mrs. G and fools everyone (so does Mrs. G’s corpse actually since no one questions the fact that this is really not Mrs. G) but it soon becomes evident to everyone in the cast (we know it becomes apparent because light bulbs literally appear above their heads) that Rose isn’t needed anymore and has become a detriment.

JS: Now, we haven't made any promises about this blog being spoiler-free, but in an effort not to give everything away, I edited out Peter's last sentence above. (so I'll edit it back in--"But surprises await the evil Goodfield family when Rose reveals she's a vampire." -PE) The good news is, this episode offered a positive upswing after the last several disappointments, and while it isn't a classic by any means, it certainly held my interest throughout. I think what works to the episode's benefit is that the audience starts to get what is going on, and is interested in finding out what's behind the elaborate plot. Unfortunately, the 'why' is a bit contrived, and the wrap up fizzles out. But a marked improvement, to be sure. (You're insane -PE)

PE: A few notes:
  • Make that a 3-for-1 sale on “bedridden old biddies” on the Universal lot. Was there a craze sweeping the country at the time? These days, it’s Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron in skimpy suits. Times obviously change. (Charlize Theron? Where? -JS)
  • How stupid is the La Mesa police department (and, for that matter, most of the cops in Thriller)? I know we're 40 years from William Peterson wrapping everything up nice and tidy with talcum powder and a microscope but, really, no one checked the dead body of the famous Rose French to find out if it really was Rose French? "Looks like her. Gotta be her." (Not even a note in the coroner's report that her hair had recently been dyed? -JS)
  • It’s a lot of fun seeing the Universal backlot over and over and over. (Those scenes play to shouts of "Backlot!" in our household. -JS) In some sur-reel world, Rose French is almost hit by a car driven by Connie Walworth (from Worse Than Murder) in front of Dr. Emil Berland’s office (from Mark of the Hand). Look closely - maybe The Beaver and Wally can be seen walking the sidewalks of this Hi-Def wonderland.

  • (At 43:56) When Rose’s ex-husband Haley Dalloway (Jack Livesey) and her friend Frank Clyde (Lin McCarthy) discover that Rose is still alive, they race to the aforementioned rescue in Frank’s car. Dalloway’s sitting so close to driver Frank I was worried something else was going on. The inevitable director’s cut may show just the top of Dalloway’s head. (Now he's just being silly. To accommodate conversations in those process shots, the passenger practically has to be sitting in the driver's lap. There was a similar shot in Mark of the Hand. -JS). (I'll stick to my perspective, thank you. -PE)
  • I must say that, as dull as I thought this drama was, Mary Astor shines through as the only one on the set who knew what she was doing. Several of her scenes (in particular, when she informs her friends of her new job and raises a glass) are well-acted, something that very few of the actors we've seen so far in this run can lay claim to.
  • The inspiration for the teleplay, the novel Rose’s Last Summer (released in the US as The Lively Corpse) was written in 1952 by Margaret Millar, one of the most successful of the few female mystery writers of the first half of the 20th Century. She was married to Kenneth Millar, aka John Ross MacDonald, creator of the mega-popular PI, Lew Archer.


JS: Our emphasis has obviously not been on the technical aspects of these DVDs, so much as it is on the episodes themselves. That said, thus far all have looked and sounded fine. Not pristine, perhaps, but for the most part nothing to take away from our ability to enjoy the episodes (now the stories, on the other hand...). There has been much discussion on the internet in the first few days of release regarding audio issues on some episodes where the music and effects track appears to be mixed at a significantly higher volume than the dialogue track. That appears to be the case with Rose's Last Summer. If we run across any other technical issues along the way, we'll be sure to point those out as well.

We plan to rate each episode on a scale of 0 to 4 Karloffs, with the occasional half-Karloff as necessary. We're just warning you in advance so you don't freak out.


  1. I just discovered your great THRILLER project due to a head's up from Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine blog. I've watched all the episodes over the years thanks to a bootleg set of dvds and I just received the "official" set from I'll be rewatching the episodes along with you and comparing my comments with yours. I see I'm behind 5 episodes but I'll catch up. The early shows were mediocre, or worse, but things improve alot when the horror starts.

  2. Okay Walker, you've got four hours to catch up :> We'll wait here for you. No fair skipping "Worse Than Murder." And welcome!

  3. This episode has been occasionally cited as a total bore, but I disagree. It ain't the "Thriller" that we all know and love by any means, but it's still entertaining. The fact that it's a showcase for a major actress of Hollywood's Golden Age is enough to recommend it, and Mary Astor runs the gamut of emotion quite effectively.

    Karloff's spoken intro is totally cool and...WHAT'S THIS?.....the first suggestions of the spooky elements that would eventually take over the show?; the great old photos, magazine covers and paintings of Mary Astor from her prime, the creepy doll's face AND---the first appearance of "Thriller's" trademark SKULL, superimposed over the doll's face!

    Could the network have been pressuring the producers to incorporate at least A BIT of horror into the show, as fleeting an afterthought as this one seems to be?

    I like the two guys coming together and teaming up to solve the mystery, even though the overall dullness of the show's direction renders their performances pretty lifeless. (I also wondered what was going on between these two manly dudes as they cuddled up in the car on the way to the big rescue).

    And how about that goofy guy who reveals the info on Goodfield Sr's doll-toy manufacturing past? The pace of the scene was deadly, and I only managed to stay awake by wondering how I might style my own hair to look as bizarre as his.

    All in all, one of the better crime shows--- an interesting plot that unfolds in a comprhensible way (for crime-show dummies like me), and a stand-out performance by Mary Astor--who convincingly goes from drunk to hopeful to bed-ridden (including her double-duty dialogue with herself in the one scene), to terrfied, pursued victim.

    2 more observations:

    I thought it was a real stretch that we believe that Mother Goodfield --- an aging biddie if there ever was one---had not yet reached the age of 65!; 75 or 80 would have been more believable.

    Also, the credits list Percy Helton in the cast;
    his scene must have been cut, since I didn't see him anywhere.

    I would have given this show at least one-and-a-half Karloffs', especially since "Twisted Image" received 2. But I'll get over it.


  4. My comments from 2007:

    Here we have yet another typical early "Thriller" crime story.
    Veteran Mary Astor plays Rose, an aging former film star and current
    alcoholic who leaves her dreary, boarding-house existence for a new
    job, one she's particularly vague about – then turns up dead, hit by a
    car. There's something fishy here, though, and her ex-husband and a
    friend start poking around for answers. It turns out Rose isn't dead
    – her new job is masquerading as the wealthy matriarch so that a nasty
    husband-and-wife can collect their inheritance.

    Again, like most of the other early crime episodes, this is enjoyable
    stuff but nothing really special. Worth seeing if you intend to watch
    the entire series. I did enjoy Mary Astor's sympathetic performance.

  5. I couldn't find Percy Helton either. The same for George N. Neise, who's also in the credits. Speaking of the credits, the role of "Mrs. Goodfield," played by Mary Astor, is credited on-screen to "Helen Quintal." I thought that might turn out to be Astor's real name or something, but ... no. I wonder who dreamed up that name, and why. This might be one of the few (the only?) THRILLER written by a woman. Originally they planned to call the episode "The Lively Corpse"; that would have been a much better title IMHO.

  6. I thought Margaret Millar's unusually spelled name rang a distant bell, and now I see that it's because she was Mrs. Ross MacDonald. Talk about your power couples! Tom, you're right, the novel's U.S. title would have been better. I'm always amused by such credit errors, like the fact that Bill Shatner's wife in the TWILIGHT ZONE episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" is widely credited as Ruth (the name of screenwriter Richard Matheson's own wife), yet he clearly addresses her throughout the episode as "Julia." Hunh?

  7. I enjoyed this episode, especially Mary Astor's performance. She played a similar role a few years before on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. She was not nearly as old as the characters she played, but apparently her hard life aged her.

  8. It was cool seeing Mary Astor in a TV role. I only knew her from The Maltese Falcon and a few other old movies. The ending totally sucks.

  9. Mary Astor ruled! Other than that, this is another dismal episode.

  10. I believe I am slowly slipping into a coma. Even the opportunity to see Mary Astor on television can't save this one. Another drab, ordinary crime drama from the 1960's.

    As has been mentioned in previous reviews, what's the deal with all the bed-ridden matriarchs? Did these hags all lose the ability to walk or feed themselves when they turn 60? Was this a result of attending too many Tupperware parties back in the day?

    I love how Lin McCarthy immediately comes to the far-fetched (but accurate) conclusion that the two women have swapped identities, tells the police, and then finds her in the alley.

    "1/2 Karloff"... even Boris's brief introductions can't save these episodes anymore.

  11. This is the last episode on the first DVD and still no horror. What were the producers of Thiller thinking?

    I'll add an umpteenth two thumbs up for Mary Astor's acting in this here 'Thriller'. After watching numerous episodes one gets used to samey quality of acting, but when Mary shows up, she indeed outshines all those that proceeded her.

    Since I wasn't around during the era of filming, most episodes enrich my knowledge of those times. Alcoholism. They actually treated you for it back then? I thought these things were kept hush-hush and only brought to the media's attention when the recently departed Betty Ford founded her facility.

    Mary's talent helps this entry because I actually cared about what happened to her. Without Mary, this one have been a real dull one. Frank is a likeable guy, but Haley as Rose's ex from year's past seems to be too much of a plot contrivance. That multi-millionaire tycoon just couldn't tame Rose and he never got over her. His acting sure doesn't do a good job of portraying those sentiments.

    I hate to say it, but I was still interested in the story when Frank and Haley were investigating on the grounds of the Goodfield estate. The Goodfield inheritance scam is pretty contrived, but I'm still following along with interest. Add me to the list of reviewers who a amazed that 65 was the age of human longevity limits back in those days. Hell, my mom is 63 and she doesn't look anywhere near the one foot in the grave look role Rose is playing.

    Obviously, grandma Goodfield doesn't make it to 65. Rose plays her insurance role and it's time to go. Tempting the old lush with some hooch is a nice trick. So is Rose's fakery of taking the booze bait. Of course it comes down to the chase scene with the Frank and Haley speeding to the scene of a rescue.

    I was entertained, so One and half Karloffs from me.

  12. Maybe I blinked, but I didn't see Percy Helton in the episode, even though he was in the credits.

    Things to like about Thriller regardless of whether the episodes dealt with horror:

    It's in black and white. This automatically connects it with film noir and adds an other-worldly quality. (Numerous modern horror movies would have been more effective in b&w than in color.)

    You discover familiar faces, whether Clem Bevans, Elisha Cook, Jr., or Jack Carson.

    There's the nostalgia factor, at least if you'd seen some of the episodes when they first appeared.

  13. I loved Mary Astor (like most of you) and thought the piece had a decent score. But the whole plot made no sense. Why didn't Rose realize she'd have no chance of surviving Mama's 65th birthday? Why did the old geezer write that ridiculous will? Why didn't anybody suggest getting Rose off the sauce at the end? Until I read about the novel here, I thought this had been some strange juvenile novel. Please, bring in a ghost--soon!

  14. Not bad. I enjoyed the ex-husband and friend's determination to find Rose.

  15. I found the plot crazy enough that the police might be fooled simply because it never occurred to them. It was a little strange, though, that the autopsy mentioned the state of her heart, but not that her hair had been dyed.
    Also, why do so many wills in mysteries have those weird stipulations? Who wrote the first story about a will with some kind of weird requirement in it?

  16. How about that. A Columbo episode is well done along these lines. See “Forgotten Lady.” An aging song-and-dance star is Lt. Columbo's quarry in the fifth season opener. The disheveled detective suspects the actress of killing her wealthy husband to finance her dream, a comeback on Broadway.

    Sam Jaffe was her ill-fated husband.

    1. Another year goes by as Thriller continues it's late night run on ME-TV.

      This episode is good on its own terms--no supernatural element, but some good acting.