The Movie Waffler Hitchcock in Reverse - <i>Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat</i> (1960) | The Movie Waffler

Hitchcock in Reverse - Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat (1960)

A cheating wife receives a parting gift from her lover.

Starring: Audrey Meadows, Les Tremayne, Stephen Chase

Unbeknownst to dentist Fred Bixby (Tremayne), his wife (Meadows) has been conducting an affair with the Colonel (Chase), an upper-class Baltimore resident. Mrs Bixby fools her husband into believing her twice monthly trips are to visit an elderly aunt and appeases him with potato chips as part of the packed lunch she delivers to his surgery. On one trip, the Colonel breaks off the arrangement and gives Mrs Bixby a parting gift of a lavishly expensive mink coat. Mrs Bixby is quite content to be paid off in rare fur but knows she can't go home to her husband with the coat. She devises a plan involving leaving the coat in a pawn shop but things don't go as smoothly as she had hoped.
Originally aired on September 27th, 1960, Mrs Bixby & the Colonel's Coat was the inaugural episode of Season Six of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It was one of six episodes based on a Roald Dahl short story. Dahl's tale was originally published in a 1969 issue of 'Nugget' magazine and would again be adapted for TV as a 1965 episode of Thirty-Minute Theatre, starring Shelley Winters as Mrs Bixby, and a 1979 installment of Tales of the Unexpected, a popular British series that adapted numerous Dahl stories. The adaptation here was written by the prolific TV writer Halsted Welles, best known for adapting Elmore Leonard's short story '3:10 to Yuma' into the successful Delmer Daves western.
If there's an authorial voice at work in this episode it's most definitely Dahl's as opposed to Hitchcock's or Welles'. Possibly out of huge respect for his fellow countryman, Hitch takes a backseat and lets the story play out in a simple manner. There's really nothing visually to suggest this is the work of Hitchcock which makes one think he was attracted to the story's tawdry theme of infidelity rather than any opportunity to pull off technical tricks.
Hitch reveled in the idea of making the viewer empathize with the villain and despite our awareness of Mrs Bixby's deception of her husband, we still find ourselves hoping she gets away with her plan. Meadows is well cast in the role of a stay at home femme fatale, despite her association with comedic shows like The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show. Every comic performer has a darkside, they say, and Meadows seems to enjoy exploring hers here.
As with most Dahl stories, everything is leading up to a punchline and Mrs Bixby getting her comeuppance. It's a great punchline though it does come off as slightly sexist today, as it asks us to cheer Mrs Bixby's husband's unfaithfulness while pouring scorn on hers.

The Intro
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to a new season of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. As has been our custom, we shall present homely little stories of an unusual nature. We shall continue to give the little man, or woman, his due. When crime is occasionally dealt with, it will be crime as practiced by ordinary people, like the fellow next door. I think that by Spring, a large number of you will be thinking of moving. There is one aspect of this program which has changed. If you have tuned in to hear me make snide remarks about an innocent sponsor, you are doomed to disappointment. I'm proud to say I have resolved my antagonisms and have become completely sponsor-oriented. I have met our new sponsor and find him to be agreeable, charming, witty, honest, sincere, intelligent, dependable, trustworthy, loyal, brave, clean and reverent.
Tonight's show is entitled 'Mrs Bixby & the Colonel's Coat' but first, unfortunately, we have one of those... But first, fortunately, we have one of those intelligent, amusing, dignified, provocative, brilliantly conceived but painfully short commercials."

Eric Hillis