Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kraft Suspense Theatre; Who is Jennifer;? Gloria Swanson

Click here for the previous episode review.

Season # 1, Episode 13

Who is Jennifer?

Original Air Date: January 16, 1964

Setting/Time: A California town - the present.

Plot/Review/Discussion -

This story is about two people who are trying to deal with their past.

"Jennifer" is a young transient who is secretive about her identity and history. She claims to have lived in orphanages as long as she can remember. There is even some question about whether she is 18 years old. Police charge her with some minor offense and then investigate whether she is the long missing child of a local woman (Mrs. Heaton). The police become convinced that she is not the same girl, but they do not inform Mrs. Heaton of this finding. (Police methods at this time differ sharply with what you might see on CSI - never once do you hear the acronym "DNA.") Instead, they use the girl as part of a ruse to determine if Mrs. Heaton was responsible for her child's disappearance years ago. The police tell Mrs. Heaton that Jennifer might be her child in order to induce Mrs. Heaton to let Jennifer move into Mrs. Heaton's home.

The plot is essentially a mystery story. We are faced with the question of Jennifer's true identity and the mystery of what happened to the local woman's child.

As with many KST episodes, this episode is about choices. Jennifer agonizes over the police scheme in which she takes part. Mrs. Heaton agonizes over choices in the past. It is the resolution of the conflict from those choices that resolves the plot and solves the mystery.

The plot is weak and confusing as it relates to the mystery of Jennifer's identity. [Or maybe I am just used to being spoonfed by less subtle stories in modern television.] It is possible that the Jennifer mystery was added to the plot because the story of Mrs. Heaton's past was not enough to fill up an entire episode. That is just my own speculation. The episode was enjoyable notwithstanding those weaknesses.

Cars -

This is the first KST episode that I know of that features the 1960 Mercury Monterey.

1960 Mercury Monterey

I do not have a picture of the car from this episode, but here is a similar model in Mission Impossible. It has a very distinctive look and appears in at least two more episodes. The car had the same light blue color in all three episodes. It was featured more prominently in the later episodes.

One also sees a 1964 Ford Galaxie station wagon pass by Jennifer on the road. Those Galaxie models usually appeared as police cars in television episodes of that era. It is rare today to see them as station wagons.

Actors -

Gloria Swanson plays the local woman (Mrs. Heaton) whose daughter disappeared years ago. Swanson was a legend of silent films dating back to 1914. Her most prolific period occurred in the mid to late 1920's. Her roles decreased when the silent era ended, but her most noted role was in 1950's Sunset Boulevard. She continued to get movie and tv roles until the mid-1970's.

Brenda Scott played Jennifer. She acted regularly in the 1960's and 1970's, but her roles appear much less often after that.

Dan Duryea starred as the police detective attempting to solve the mystery. He acted for almost 30 years until his death in 1968. He guest starred in numerous well-known television programs and had a regular role on Peyton Place. He was the father of Star Trek's Peter Duryea (who also played a role in KST in season #2), but that is not this episode's "Star Trek connection."

Star Trek connection -

There are two Star Trek connections in "Who is Jennifer?"

David Brian played Mrs. Heaton's attorney, who helped her confront the mystery of Jennifer while becoming suspicious of the police investigation. Brian would later play John Gill (the "Fuhrer") in Star Trek's "Pattern's of Force." He enjoyed a quarter-century career.

George Slavin received writing credits on this episode and Star Trek's "Mark of Gideon." There were no obvious similarities or parallels between the plots or characters in those episodes (except that the Star Trek episode was also a mystery of sorts).

1 comment:

  1. In her autobiography, Gloria Swanson recalled being on a Universal soundstage, filming this episode on the morning of November 22, 1963, when producer Luther Davis walked onto the set, called a halt to the production, and announced that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. Davis then asked the cast and crew to observe one minute of silence, and then finished filming the scene. After that, production ended for the day.

    As 'SilverRedIndigo' commented, while watching the episode on YouTube, "That's genuinely shocking".