Episode 76: Twisting the Lion’s Tail, or Burke’s Law and How to Enforce It

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“I’ve come for Collinwood!”

Though not written by Art Wallace, today’s episode takes a big page from Shadows on the Wall, the outline that preceded the Dark Shadows television series.

Page 52 in the series bible tells of a significant shift in the story of Burke Devlin, which to this point, despite his vendetta toward the Collins family aiming through shrewd business machinations for their eventual financial ruin, has been more about proving his innocence in the manslaughter conviction that sent him to prison ten years ago. However, with the county coroner having just that day ruled that Bill Malloy’s death was the result of an accidental drowning, therefore slamming shut the lone remaining window of opportunity for Devlin to clear his name, Burke has now fallen back on the one thing that still drives him forth: revenge.

“…[Burke] leaves no doubt that he won’t rest until he is living in the home of the first family of Collinsport” (Shadows on the Wall, p. 52).

As much as today’s episode takes its basis in Burke Devlin’s relentless pursuit of power over the Collins family, there is also as the main backdrop one of those defining character moments in the life of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, who despite any obstacles and whatever the consequences will stand her ground on the shores of her beliefs, that the good name and standing of the Collins family including its holdings and property must be defending at all cost, despite the gale-force winds of Burke’s persistent warnings and threats.

As Joan Bennett would write in her autobiography, the downfall of her film career came about in 1951 when her husband Walter Wanger found she and her agent Jennings Lang together in a parked car, having suspected they were having an affair:

“Without question, the shooting scandal and resulting publicity destroyed my career in the motion picture industry…” (The Bennett Playbill, p. 306).

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During those lean years when film roles were hard to come by, Bennett seems to have considered work in the theater as something of a saving grace, with plenty of long tours in successful productions to keep her busy through the years, though in the wake of scandal even years later her relationship with the press could be at times tempestuous as when a successful Miami production of Never Too Late was in 1963 transplanted overseas for another lucrative run this time on the London stage:

“I drink whiskey, smoke thirty cigarettes a day, never diet, am fifty-three years old and don’t care who knows it!…” (The Bennett Playbill, p. 317).

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Joan Bennett in fact makes no mention of her work in television up until the point when she talks of taking the job on Dark Shadows and how she felt she needed to “take a rest cure” after just the first thirteen weeks because of the highly demanding daily schedule:

“I reported at the ABC studios at eight in the morning, worked until six-thirty, and at night learned as much as twenty-four pages of dialog…” (The Bennett Playbill, p. 326).

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On page 325 of The Bennett Playbill, Joan Bennett’s path to Dark Shadows is prefaced with: “At the time of John Emery’s death in November of 1964, I’d been out of the running in the entertainment world for almost a full year. I accepted a number of stock engagements and then began looking around for a play in New York again. Nothing of interest presented itself and it was then that my agent, Tom Korman, came up with an offer for a daytime television series, Dark Shadows, for the American Broadcasting Company.”

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No mention is made of the major television series she appeared in the year before, guest starring in an episode of Burke’s Law, a crime drama about a millionaire police detective who would arrive at crime scenes in a chauffeur-driven limousine, which for series star Gene Barry seemed a natural progression from his previous role as Bat Masterson.

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With Gene Barry, in yet another law enforcement role this time as a U.S. Treasury agent, comes another loose Dark Shadows connection, co-starring alongside Mitch Ryan in support of Robert Mitchum for the 1958 film Thunder Road, a racy tale of a family of bootleggers, their mountain moonshine business, and their hot-rod cars.

Thunder Road_IMDb source_screen cap from RealPlayer (Vanilla filter adjustment) (2)

Gene Barry looks like he has his hands full there with Robert Mitchum, but as the star of Burke’s Law it’s one cocktail party murder scene after another.

“Nothing like a whodunit to start the day.”

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“That’s why he’s a cop…”

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Though the series ran with Gene Barry from 1963 to 1966, Burke’s Law and the role of Amos Burke was actually originated a couple years earlier as part of The Dick Powell Show in September 1961.

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Burke’s Law comes from a time when men were men and women were still, well, just dames.

There’s no shortage of glamorous chicks dressed to the nines on the phone before, say, a cozy fire.

“Well, I think if I get it, it’ll be the most marvelous…”

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“…part I’ve ever had… Mm-hm, yeah!…”

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“I’ll probably work for two weeks at least.”

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~“I’m going to go out tomorrow and – [doorbell]”

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“Uh, honey, hang on, there’s somebody at the door…”

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That somebody of course is a murderer, and the murderee is played by Carolyn Jones – later known as Morticia from The Addams Family.

Even if the glamor chicks in this thing are lounging before a fireplace and not actually smoking, they’re still actually quite smoking…

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Burke is always about to head out someplace, some exotic locale which requires lots of packing and a millionaire’s bankroll…

“I thought you were in Hawaii… Oh, well uh, I’ll come over and wish you bon voyage… Ohhh,… I’m good at that too…”

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Then of course duty calls and it’s time instead to head out to for yet another crime scene chock full of still other smoking chicks – meaning, of course, chicks who smoke cigarettes.
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Burke’s Law has a sense of humor in how it builds concern, but doesn’t really, for the viewer toward the recently deceased, in this case Julie Greer whose life span was liquidated in this episode’s fourth minute.

Det. Phil Winslow: Were you close friends?
Anne Farmer: Close as anyone else.

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Amos Burke: What kind of a girl was she?
Anne Farmer: Huh… kook!

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Julie Greer’s “close” friend Anne Farmer then proceeds to run her down as loose (with men) and unconcerned about what might happen to herself, taking no further apparent interest in the fact of her late friend’s demise until the detectives produce an address book among the woman’s personal effects.

“An address book?”

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“This thing reads like Who’s Who… Be a Roman holiday if the papers ever get a hold of it…”

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“Alright, you take the names of the first half, and I’ll visit the rest of ‘em…”

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“You’re through with me?”

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“Uh, Joe, take a picture of Miss Farmer, will you?”

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Miss Farmer poses for crime scene photos… anything for a dose of publicity.

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Burke’s Law is a true touch of old Hollywood, the silver screen distilled through the small screen, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t try throwing out a cultural reference to Beat jazz, especially if it means putting a cute chick dancer front and center of screen.

Inspector Phil Winslow: Now don’t you wish you were young again?

Inspector Amos Burke: No, I was never that young.

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That has to be the easiest acting job for an extra, that girl at the table with her head down sleeping; just act passed out and hope someone notices you.
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Dick Powell closing credit for Burke’s Law.

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Back to Gene Barry’s Burke’s Law, showing Burke on his day off.

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“The frog man’s on his way.”

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Behind every Hollywood television type leading man is a Christy (because that’s her name) but curvy woman who, if she doesn’t love him, can at least look after his crime scene wardrobe.


“You can’t go to a murder dressed like that…” says Charlene Holt as Christy in the episode Who Killed Cable Roberts.

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Burke on his way to work in a chauffeured car in Who Killed Cable Roberts.

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Burke’s Law opening theme 1963.

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Of course, regarding his monied social status, Burke isn’t immune to light sarcasm among his colleagues.


“You’re late. Where you been, out buying a couple’a yachts or something?” says Jay C. Flippen in his supporting role as Bill the Desk Sergeant in Who Killed Holly Howard, the 1963 debut episode for the Gene Barry era of Burke’s Law

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“Court. Had to testify against a poor old man…”

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Even with the prototype pilot from 1961 when it was The Dick Powell Show, all the episode titles began with “Who Killed…so-and-so?”, sometimes with hilariously chauvinistic effect with a title like “Who Killed the Surf Broad?”, and even seemingly lampooning the catch-all beginning of episode titles with another one from season 2 like “Who Killed Everybody?”.


Joan Bennett was still more than a year from taking on the role of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard when she appeared in the season 2 episode “Who Killed Mr. Colby in Ladies’ Lingerie” (as Denise Mitchell; aired March 3, 1965).


“They had a deal with the [William] Morris Agency…” recalls Jeffrey Hayden, who directed two season 1 Burke’s Law episodes including the above referenced Who Killed Cable Roberts.

Jeffrey Hayden with wife Eva Marie Saint in Los Angeles, 1959.

Jeffrey Hayden_with Eva Marie Saint_1959 (source_Michael Ochs Archives_Getty Images)


The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) offers up the following summary for the Burke’s Law episode in which Joan Bennett guest starred in 1965: “With Burke in Chicago, the unit must solve the murder of a blackmailing department store maintenance man with unsavory connections past and present and who has a penchant for the horses.”

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All this time you thought it was those ruthless department store executives plotting murder and mayhem from their lavish penthouse apartments, when all the while it was those wiley old maintenance men in on the ground floor with all their unsavory connections.

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The shot here conveys a subtle play on the masculine images of the time, with the fellow in the window doing the sort of work associated with women and whose demeanor would immediately suggest an effeminate suaveness – a mannequin’s man rather than a man’s man.

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Television viewers in 1965 would have recognized the actor in this scene as Jonathan Hole, having appeared in many other shows ranging from The Twilight Zone


(Team Doctor in “The Mighty Casey”; aired June 17, 1960)

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…to Petticoat Junction.


(Putting Billie Jo on hold in “Kate and the Dowager”; aired April 14, 1964)

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Alexander’s job is Maytag lonely. Remember those 1970s ads for Maytag washers and dryers that were so reliable you never needed to call on the Maytag repairman?

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At least the Maytag repairman didn’t spend all his productive work time talking to dummies.


“You Alice, it’s the black chiffon for you. It’s your turn to starve…”

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“Now Babette… let’s not be catty…”

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“Diana, I thought we’d selected that position… Really, you girls are being very naughty!…”

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“Mutiny just doesn’t become you…”

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Don’t you just hate that? You do your best at keeping your inventory in order and some dead guy gets in the way, the eponymous Mr. Colby who isn’t even credited among the episode’s uncredited. Hopefully the actor was paid enough for the train fare back home.


“How ghastly! A body in my window, what is the world coming to?”

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Burke’s Law could hardly be considered a crime drama – a crime comedy would be more accurate. It’s a detective series with a touch of camp, yet quite serious in its lavish tributes to the golden age of Hollywood, being one of the few film or television projects through which Joan Bennett could still be presented to mainstream viewing audiences, for reasons outlined above.


“I’m Executive Assistant said she modestly…”

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All that’s missing is the oak paneling and this moment plays out quite a lot like the Collinwood drawing room scenes to come on Dark Shadows, where Elizabeth Collins Stoddard would receive prominent local visitors to discuss business or other related matters. Both of Joan Bennett’s scenes in this episode of Burke’s Law are done with only one other actor in the room. That’s Regis Toomey, one of the main stars of the show and who has his own background with the Bennett acting family, having co-starred in a 1929 motion picture with Joan’s older sister Constance.


(Regis Toomey and Constance Bennett in Rich People; IMDb source)

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From watching Joan Bennett on Dark Shadows, one thing stands out about her appearance in this episode of Burke’s Law: Whereas on Dark Shadows the way her hair is done up would suggest a look whose hermitage would have resisted the influence of changes in fashion over time, her hairdo here in Burke’s Law is contemporary mid-1960s…

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…more in the style of the somewhat younger episode co-star Arlene Dahl, whose character Maggie French heads up women’s high fashions and recommended Colby for the job.

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The acting roles chosen by Joan Bennett during this time, whether for stage or television, set her apart from other noted actresses of her generation. During the decade of the 1960s, it became fashionable for actresses of a certain vintage to take on the roles of characters who had traveled the hard road through life, both physically and mentally, what has been termed the grande dame guignol cinematic portrayal more unflatteringly referred to as the type of “hag horror” epitomized by Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

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…but whose motion picture genre was preceded on television by Mary Astor in “Rose’s Last Summer” from the anthology series Thriller.

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Note the house Astor’s character Rose French is holed up in, Collinwood West with the palm fronds out front.

Thriller_Rose's Last Summer_Act I_Collinwood West (exterior shot)

Note also the early publicity photo of Mary Astor that the camera slowly and mournfully pans across in the opening scene, a striking similarity to the look and pose of an early Joan Bennett photo.

Thriller_Rose's Last Summer_opening scene with Mary Astor (1A)

Having been more the exception to the rule of actresses from her generation who took the less dignified but more profitable career path as cited above, Joan Bennett by contrast brought to the character of Elizabeth Collins on Dark Shadows a more grounded quality of steadfast integrity, making the role definitively her own.

Today’s episode will see this quality put to the test, kicking off with Burke Devlin’s firm and decisive knock at the front door, as Roger’s face shows the dread in knowing the confrontation that lies just ahead. The look on Carolyn’s face is something else altogether, a strange admixture of eagerness and dread.

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Episode 76 has those character-defining moments, particularly with Roger. There are numerous episodes one can point to that say This is Roger Collins, and the case in point here is when Burke names the price he will pay to acquire Collinwood, after joking about founding a dynasty once the acquisition is made.

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“Collinwood is not for sale!”

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“Did you say…more than it is worth?…”

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Roger is willing to try appeasement in letting Burke have what he wants, if it will take his fevered mind away from that nasty old manslaughter business. Roger does his best to persuade Liz with whatever sales pitch he can think of on his feet.

“But you yourself have said that it’s dreary, draughty, and desolate. Why not get rid of it?”

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“I can’t imagine Collinwood belonging to anybody but a Collins.”

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Roger’s character-defining flaw is that he has no filial piety, given how his sister should feel the need to outline the obvious about family tradition and real estate. Roger is simply irredeemable as a Collins, as a brother, as anything; he is the show’s main villain at this early stage, and the episodes through the first year are loaded with moments like this.

Ironically, when it comes to respecting and admiring Elizabeth, it’s her main adversary Burke who expresses it. When Elizabeth asks Burke why he wants Collinwood, he explains that he wants to raise himself to the status of a Collins.

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“Why do you want this huge gloomy house?”

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“Liz, don’t you see? He wants to move in here and pretend like he was born to it.”

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Elizabeth advises Burke that it takes more than money to be a Collins, and then the bitter edge of Burke’s acute class consciousness kicks in as he makes personal remarks about Roger’s lack of responsibility and her own unwillingness to set foot off the estate grounds all these years since her husband Paul walked out eighteen years earlier. She manages to extract from Burke a sincere apology, something she’d never hear from Roger.

“My personal life does not concern you!…”

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“…but I don’t apologize for wanting this house, these grounds… for wanting Collinwood.”

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Despite his outspoken contempt for the Collins name and all it represents, Burke has no choice but to acknowledge a grudging admiration for his most formidable adversary.

“When it’s over, you’ll know you’ve been in a fight!”

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For Carolyn, Burke’s visit today represents the crumbling of a heroic image, admittedly though one that existed only within the ill-informed imaginings of her own mind.

“You said you meant us no harm!”

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“That’s what the politicians call… campaign oratory…”

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“You’re not necessarily expected to believe it.”

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Francis Swann, the writer of today’s episode, turning on the literary charm with a touch of the elegant iconoclast. Recorded and broadcast in October 1966, these memorable sentiments would have fallen within a month of whichever local, state, and national elections were ahead for that November, but it’s a bit unfortunate when you have an underdog like Burke Devlin, someone the audience should be rooting for as he tries against near impossible odds to clear his name… and you’re writing him as a virtual politician. As Dark Shadows would eventually demonstrate, you can humanize a vampire through the magic of television, but how on earth do you even begin to go about humanizing a politician?

It’s as if Swann is hitting the ground running with this Monday episode, drawing battle lines between the principals in the story as the struggle is set to heat up toward some resolution soon while also perhaps cleaning up any other sidebar stories and their development left dangling. It looks from today’s episode like Carolyn and Burke are done as a possible item, so for thoroughness we may as well see if Burke and Vickie still have possibilities.

“Vickie, where do you stand in all this?”

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There might actually be possibilities for the Burke and Vickie pairing yet. Recall that back in episode 34 Burke was warning Vickie about the whirlpool to come, how the vortex might pull her under with the rest of the Collins clan, whereas here he was only threatening to muddy up her shoes a little – it means he’s warming to her. Bookmark the moment for future reference.

Regarding Victoria Winters and the unresolved story of her parentage, one other thing about this episode stands out – Elizabeth actually comes right out and says that she is “practically a member of the family” while insisting that she be included in the drawing room discussion that will send Burke off with a warning about the fight that lies ahead. Perhaps it is Francis Swann’s way of writing Vickie into the closing scene with Burke after having sent Carolyn running off nearly in tears, or perhaps it’s an indication of where they may be going with the mystery of Vickie’s background, that it may indeed have some familial connection to Collinwood. How else would one explain that your groundskeeper/handyman that you gave a cottage to and a job for life is merely a “good friend” after eighteen years of service while the governess you hired only eight days ago – and very nearly fired earlier that very day for missing David’s lessons – is now something of a… long-lost daughter (?), perhaps. Another moment to bookmark for future reference.

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(Joan Bennett in her second scene from the 1965 episode of Burke’s Law)

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Joan Bennett sings “Sentimental Moments” from the 1955 motion picture We’re No Angels.

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(Twisting the Lion’s Tale, a cartoon by J. S. Pughe published in Puck Magazine, 1895)

Background/Production Notes:

Episode 76 is the 10th episode to be set only in Collinwood, with the only sets in use being the Collinwood drawing room/foyer and Vickie’s room. This is the fourth Monday episode to be set only in Collinwood; the other three were episodes 6, 31, and 66.

Daily studio schedule for Dark Shadows in 1966

7:00-11:00 a.m.   Lighting

8:30-10:30           Morning Rehearsal

10:30-11:30         Break/Make-Up

11:00-12:00         Engineering Set-Up

11:30-2:00           Camera Blocking & Run Through

2:00-2:30             Dress Rehearsal

2:30-3:00             Test Pattern

3:00-3:30             Episode Taping

3:30-4:00             Knockdown

3:45-4:15             Technical Meeting

4:00-6:30             Dry Rehearsal for Next Episode

4:00-7:00             Reset Studio

Set Design:

To this point on Dark Shadows, despite the elaborate detail given to the design of the drawing room and foyer set, the dressing for the exterior outside the double front doors has always seemed more like an afterthought, somewhat one-dimensional as if represented by a sheet of paper with general imagery drawn in. Today’s exterior however is sporting an especially lavish touch as shown in the opening scene as Roger reluctantly allows Burke entry to the foyer, that row of hedge work below Roger’s arm as he reaches to close the door…

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…so that in Act I they can present this exterior shot looking into the foyer through the front doors as Carolyn explains to her mother why she is wanted in the drawing room.

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This exterior angle looking into the foyer will be used again in these early episodes, a bit of additional creativity in presenting scenes when limited by fewer set design changes, as in this episode when the drawing room/foyer is one of only two sets in use.

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Bloopers/Story Continuity:

In the opening scene, a microphone is visible over the front doorway…

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…having no doubt been positioned there to amplify Burke Devlin’s triple knock at the front door.

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In Act II, as the actors move about and the camera angle is adjusted for the change, the top of the drawing room set is shown along with a studio light.

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In Act IV, Joan Bennett says: “I [also] refuse to discuss even the remote possibility of selling Collin – Collinswood.”

Coming next: Episode 77: Little David’s Big Brother

— Marc Masse
(aka PrisoneroftheNight)

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