Sunday, September 5, 2010

Kraft Suspense Theatre; Doesn't Anyone Know Who I Am?; Cornel Wilde; Kathryn Crosby; Malachi Throne, Willoughby

Click here for the previous review.

Season 1, Episode #17

Doesn't Anyone Know Who I Am?

Original Air Date - February 27, 1964

Setting/Time - Most likely the present [update - April 26, 2013 - the present in [1] a suburb of Seattle and [2] a small northwestern town some hours away].

Plot/Review/Discussion

I have not seen this episode, as I do not believe RTV has run it over the past two years. IMDB.com includes the following plot description:
An overly stressed, financially strapped, high powered businessman goes on a sales trip and wakes up suffering from amnesia after being assaulted. He settles in a small town, meets a nice girl and gets a simple satisfying job. Then his memory returns. He goes back to his old life and finds unhappiness. What will he do?

This description makes me want to see this episode. It appears from the description that the main character will face a choice. The best episodes feature difficult choices between right and wrong.

The description makes the episode sound like it could qualify as an episode of Twilight Zone or Hitchcock Presents. But I have higher expectations for "Doesn't Anyone Know Who I Am?" Hitchcock episodes always suffered from self-congratulatory cleverness, which reduced the realism of the program. Twilight Zone would have used some unexplained supernatural event to create the predicament that faces the main character. While I am all in favor of science fiction being used to create dramatic situations, KST plots result from naturally occurring scenarios that are resolved through difficult choices of the characters instead of cleverness or supernatural intervention. We can identify with KST episodes more easily as a result.

I hope only that this episode lives up to its description.

[Update – April 26, 2013 -  I have now seen this episode (twice). I can say that it does live up to its description.

This episode is one that makes the viewer envy the main character (despite all that he went through). He was able to disappear into a small town, leave his troubles behind him, and start a whole new life with a new wife and a less stressful job. All of the responsibilities of the old life were gone – so long as he preferred it that way.

Cornel Wilde plays Eric Blaine/George Press, the executive that finds a new life in a small town with a new girlfriend and a new job after being assaulted and suffering amnesia. The main conflict in this story is internal to Eric/George. The plot is basically as described at IMDB.com (quoted above). Eric/George spends the episode fighting against himself. After the amnesia takes away his past, he struggles to remember his old life, but he refuses to take steps that would help him learn the truth. Specifically, he refuses to go to the police and access their records (which pale in comparison to modern databases, but which are considerable nonetheless). He visits a psychiatrist (Malachi Throne), but resists Throne’s advice and seems impatient with Throne’s techniques for accessing old memories.

By visiting a local doctor, Blaine/Press discovers that he has very high blood pressure – to the point of being uninsurable. He later learns that his blood pressure has become perfectly normal after he has become acclimated to his new life. There are hints that his refusal to go to the police may result from fear of what he may find out about his real past (and maybe fear of whatever caused him to develop high blood pressure).

While amnesia has been a common theme of television shows in the past, amnesia is only the tool for the writers to create a conflict for the main character in this episode. When Eric/George later learns the truth, he must choose between his two lives – thus continuing the George v. Eric conflict. The amnesia makes it possible for the character to face such a choice. KST is best when the characters face difficult choices instead of mere physical danger or other such confrontation. Without the amnesia, Eric’s/George’s choice would not have been possible unless he had willfully abandoned his family and committed adultery. Amnesia thus helped the writers maintain audience support for Eric/George while letting the writers open up this whole new world for him.

This episode reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode entitled, “A Stop at Willoughby,” in which an executive dreams of a fictional, peaceful small town where he can get away from the people and problems that make his life miserable. In this KST episode, Eric/George does more than dream and Willoughby is a real place. While the “Willoughby” episode was satisfying and complete, it left the audience wanting more. This KST episode takes the next step and allows the audience to experience life in “Willoughby.” Where the audience would be sympathetic to the executive in “Willoughby,” the audience might be envious of the executive in this KST episode.

This episode has also been compared to a 1949 movie named Impact, which I have not seen.

The title has two meanings. Not only does George/Eric need to know his real name, he needs to know who he really is. Even after regaining his memory (and thus his name, address, executive position, etc.) he still must discover his true identity and where he belongs in this world. A name and other matters of record are not the same as what establishes and creates a true identity.  Eric/George must learn what makes him truly happy, productive and healthy.  The answer to those questions will determine which life he will choose for himself.




Eric’s/George’s situation is truly enviable. Whichever life he chooses, he has a ready-made job, wife, friends, family, etc. waiting for him. Even if he chooses a new life, he does not need to spend years of uncertainty before he makes a stable, comfortable life for himself. That level of security exists no matter which life he chooses.  Both lives are waiting for him. He need only choose where he truly belongs and discover who he truly is.]

Actors

Cornel Wilde appears to play the main character. [Update - April 26, 2013 - Wilde, indeed, plays the main character - Eric Blaine/George Press.]  He acted in TV and movies for over 50 years, including guest roles in several well-known series in the 1980's.

Kathryn Grant (AKA Kathryn Crosby) played a major role also - [update - April 26, 2013 - Crosby played the new girlfriend in the small town where Eric/George ended up after the assault that caused the amnesia]. She is the widow of Bing Crosby. Her acting since the late 1970's was limited to the stage until 2010. A new movie in which she appears is now in post-production.

Martha Hyer plays in the first of her two KST roles. [Update - April 26, 2013 - Hyer plays Eric's/George's original wife in the suburb of Seattle.  She is a gossip who brags about her husband's career and the status it brings.  She is bitter, petty and vicious when her status is in jeopardy.]

Charles Alvin Bell makes the second of his two KST appearances in a small role.

[Update - April 27, 2013 - Paul Newlan played Doc Pierson (see the film excerpt above). Newlan's 40 year included many movies and television roles, including guest roles on Twilight Zone and KST spinoff Run For Your Life.  His longest running role was as a police captain on M Squad  in the late 50's and 1960.

Barney Phillips played a co-worker of Eric/George.  He played many, many roles in movies and television from the late 1930's until his death in 1982, including regular guest work on Ozzie and Harriet, Have Gun Will Travel and many others.  What I consider his most famous part (and the one for which he is usually instantly recognizable) is his role as a three-eyed lunch counter attendant on Twilight Zone.]

Cars

[Update - April 26, 2013 - Before he lost his memory, Eric Blaine drove a white Lincoln from sometime between 1962 and 1964.  An identical car can be seen parked on the street of the small town later in the show, but it was not intended to be the same car. Eric/George sees what appears to be a black Lincoln from the same era later in the episode, but it is difficult to tell, as viewers do not get a good look at most of the cars in this episode.  One also sees a blue 1964 Ford Thunderbird parked on the street near the white Lincoln. 

One car that is seen clearly is (probably) a 1953 Chevy driven by Crosby's character.  The difficulty in identification comes from damage and wear to the car's exterior - especially the front grill. The following excerpts and photos are from this episode.]















Star Trek Connection

Malachi Throne is this episode's Star Trek connection. Throne made the second of his three KST appearances here. Throne's Star Trek role is more prominent and historic than that of most guest stars. As I wrote in my review of The Machine That Played God:
He portrayed the voice of Star Trek's first villain in the original pilot ["The Cage"]. His voice was dubbed out before that episode aired, but Throne played a more pivotal role in the final product, which became Star Trek's only two-parter.

4 comments:

  1. I saw this episode just a couple of days ago. Do you want me to review it?

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  2. Mark - sorry I didn't respond earlier to your offer. I didn't keep up with this blog for a couple of years. I welcome your thoughts in a comment if you still want to share them. Thanks.

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  3. This is back on a network called Antenna TV under the title "Crises," at rotating times. I saw this episode there and watched again today on YouTube. I agree that it's reminiscent of “A Stop at Willoughby." It also reminds me of another Twilight Zone episode called "Walking Distance." From Wikipedia: "While driving his car in the countryside in c.1959, thirty-six-year-old advertising executive Martin Sloan (Gig Young) stops to have his car serviced at a gas station within walking distance of his hometown, Homewood. After walking into town, he sees that it apparently has not changed since he was a boy and it is the year 1934."

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  4. That '53 Chevy 210 convertible really got around - it was used as Wally Cleaver's car on Leave it to Beaver, as well as Peter Fonda's car in the movie The Young Doctors.

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