Tag Archives: Frank Maxwell

Something for an Empty Briefcase (1953, Don Medford)

For a while, it seems like Something for an Empty Briefcase is going to have some grit. It’s set in a rough New York neighborhood, albeit constructed out of cardboard (Briefcase is a “TV play”). Lead James Dean is a recently released ex-con who’s looking for one big score to get him into a new life. So it’s strange when it turns out that big score is mugging Ohioan immigrant Susan Douglas Rubes. She’s willing to risk her well-being to pursue her ballet dreams. Dean’s just looking for a score. And a Briefcase. He really wants a briefcase.

It later turns out Dean’s a great pool hustler so there’s no reason he’d have to mug Rubes or anyone else. But S. Lee Pogostin’s teleplay is pretty weak. Dean’s got some great scenes in the first half and Rubes seems like she’s going to have some good material, but it all goes in the second half.

Instead of being about Dean and Rubes, it’s about Dean and local crime lord Robert Middleton. Dean wants out. Middleton won’t let him out. And previously mildly annoying didactic themes increase until they’re drowning out everything else. Dean’s performance suffers, though nowhere near as bad as Rubes’s.

Dean’s supposed to be a numbskull punk, Rubes is the one smart enough to make her dreams happen. But she gives him a dictionary (for his Briefcase) and it changes his life. Well, not as much as the next book he gets. No spoilers but it’s real obvious.

The writing for Dean and Rubes is uneven the first half, but not bad. Both actors do well with it, though Dean gets a little erratic at times. Director Medford follows Dean through his performance, not really directing him. Well, hopefully he’s not directing him because the histronics are way too loud. Also because Pogostin’s writing isn’t there.

Something for an Empty Briefcase is almost half good, which isn’t bad all things considered.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Don Medford; television play by S. Lee Pogostin; “Campbell Summer Soundstage” produced by Martin Horrell; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring James Dean (Joe), Susan Douglas Rubes (Noli), Don Hanmer (Mickey), Robert Middleton (Sloane), Frank Maxwell (Lou), and Peter Gumeny (The Policeman).


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A World of Difference (1960, Ted Post)

It’s another man in a weird world “Twilight Zone” from Richard Matheson. This time, Howard Duff is a regular American middle class guy who all of a sudden wakes up in a world where he’s an actor playing that regular guy.

There’s a lot of great panic from Duff–he’s startlingly effective. Matheson and director Post keep finding ways to make it even worse for Duff. Post’s direction Eileen Ryan’s scenes (as Duff’s alternate universe wife) is outstanding.

Matheson’s script leaves a lot unsaid, including any explanation for Duff’s character losing it, but the episode’s best moments are the ones when Duff visually responds without a dialogue. The madness plays across his face.

After Ryan departs, David White takes over as a somewhat supportive ear (another Matheson “Twilight Zone” norm), but he’s nowhere near as compelling. When Ryan starts doubting reality, she’s wondrous.

Besides a rush finish, Difference is excellent.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Post; written by Richard Matheson; “The Twilight Zone” created by Rod Serling; director of photography, Harkness Smith; edited by Joseph Gluck; music by Van Cleave; produced by Buck Houghton; aired by CBS Television Network.

Starring Howard Duff (Arthur Curtis), David White (Brinkley), Frank Maxwell (Marty Fisher), Eileen Ryan (Nora Reagan), Gail Kobe (Sally), Peter Walker (Sam), Susan Dorn (Marion Curtis) and Bill Idelson (Kelly).