Night They Shot Santa Claus
An eloquent, intensive script drives toward a piercing conclusion.
Christmas Eve, 1930. President Hoover is in office, Santa Claus is doling out gifts at the Sackman Orphan Home. Two little boys reluctantly tell Ness what happened next. “A big black car came around the corner and shot him” outside, he crashed into a lighted shop window, two men were in the car, “they looked like bad men”.
“The man in the Santa Claus suit” was Hap Levinson, everybody loved him, he ran the Criss Cross Club for its mob owner, Mike Volny, “strictly a front man”, a good friend to Ness. “At the front door I was a Fed, at the back door it was neutral ground.”
Into the wee hours of Christmas Day, Ness learns the truth. Hap was a junkie, kept Volny’s books and a junkie mistress as well. He was killed for witnessing Volny’s murder of an associate over “a two-buck bet”.
Volny is acquitted of both murders, laughing at Ness because Hap had a “passport to every cop in Chicago,” their friendship, no such thing as neutral ground exists.
The Photographer and the
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
A burly man in a dressing gown is watching a baseball game on television. He feels a draft, closes the French windows, sits down again in his chair. He looks up and is smashed down in one blow. A man in a trenchcoat takes a picture of the body, pour himself a drink and sits down in the chair to watch the game, admire the picture and enjoy his drink.
This is the advertiser dulling his audience into adherence. The hit man’s rival is Hiram Price, a mortician. Economic necessity dictates one of them must go.
The two meet in the photographer’s studio. The mortician dies, the studio burns, the photographer (whose name is Arthur Mannix) is thought to be the charred victim.
Rudy, his boss, has a rival whose name is Ernest, the father of Mannix’s fiancée. The hit is assigned, Mannix disguised as a hipster lets Ernest beat the bushes for him.
Ernest insisted on a certain amount in the bank before a marriage. Mannix has that, now.
The Big Bounce
A great satire of the world’s eighth largest economy, and a charming seacoast imbroglio handled with masterly refinement by March, following on Allen H. Miner’s unknown Chubasco, and laying the foundation for Bud Yorkin’s masterpiece, The Thief Who Came to Dinner.
of the World, Ma!
If you come to the city of New York from outside the pale as conceived by the city of New York, you have to be prepared. “Bubba” White has weak knees like “Broadway” Joe Namath (or John Doe with a bad elbow) but the Red Devils of Dayton don’t pay him much. For an operation, he strongarms some deadbeats on the rolls of Barney Sweetwater’s Dayton collection agency, but Sweetwater doesn’t pay up. No, he tells Bubba, it’s the big guy in New York, Jack Faraday, and that little aide-de-camp of his, Gruber, they stiffed you. So Bubba and his mother Ernestine put up at the St. Richard Hotel (“so elegant,” says Mrs. White, “it doesn’t even look American”) in the finest suite available (“the Presidential Suite is being fumigated,” says the bellboy—“top of the world, ma!” says Bubba) while he calmly sets about in Sweetwater’s car to track down and collect his $10,000 commission.
Larry and Dave are Gruber’s henchmen. Every day at one o’clock, Bubba is told, the pair eat lunch at the Lavender Doily Bar (“it's a saloon,” says Gruber, or “a joint on Seventh Avenue”). While waiting, Bubba goes next door and meets Jackie Dawn at Fifi’s Live Models. Later on, he’s framed for Sweetwater’s murder and shot once or twice, but his innocent soul knows “everything’s going to be all right” in the end.
Bo Svenson’s performance is huge, lumbering, graceful and dignified, everything it should be. Stefanie Powers goes about as far as she can with the sort of environment depicted in 52 Pick-Up and Hardcore, and so does Alex March. Rather than dwell on details, he moves his unit outside on location to get some real local beauty on film, and give his office interiors (especially Jack Faraday’s) some tint of nature. This is where Faraday tells cigar-smoking Gruber, “keep that thing out of my office,” and where he cajoles Sweetwater into confessing his theft of “five or six per cent” off the top, monthly.
McCloud stumbles into all of this because Chief Clifford puts him on Stolen Car Detail, calling him “an exchange student.” Sgt. Broadhurst slaps the report book for the last six months down on McCloud’s desk. Where is the marshal supposed to begin, at the back or the front? “With the next one that comes in,” says the sergeant.
Marker to a Dead Bookie
Twenty pounds of pure heroin are poured out with the garbage by a cook’s mate on a freighter at the docks, over the side and down to frogmen, like feeding guppies.
The stakeout goes awry, a courier is shot and killed, the dope is seized but the top man isn’t nailed. Kojak deals for the dope, he’s got a detective on the take to all appearances. The top man deals through underlings.
Kojak himself goes on the take, loses a year’s salary to a bookie at poker, signs a marker for it. The bookie owes him a favor.
The top man buys the marker, has the bookie killed. The widow shoots the wrong underling, a hood named Miami who is the go-between. The top man buys the dope in person. “How smart can he be,” Kojak that is, “on twenty thousand a year?”
“Buy me?”, Kojak says to “a dead East Side gorilla”.
The Thigh Bone’s Connected to the Knee Bone...
Lou Shaw (working with Tony Lawrence) first puts together his account of “dry bones” in accordance with Ezekiel 37, so that a femur unearthed at the building site of a new Student Union is built up, fleshed out as a police artist’s rendering and identified as a murder victim twenty years earlier, then drastically reduces the narrative to a singular point of reference pivoting on the name of Gideon in accordance with Judges 6-8.
The point at issue is presented in this way, the victim participated in a robbery and proposed to give the loot to his father, a poor farmer, but his accomplice and partner in crime disagreed. The victim drew a pistol, they wrestled over it, one shot when into the victim’s thigh, the second killed him.
The partner’s name is Gideon, who was commanded by Jehovah to throw off the oppression of Israel by the Midianites, starting with his father’s altar of Baal. The surrealistic compression of this is so extreme that it gives a visionary quality to the work quite far beyond the confines of the police drama and medical story, while rigorously adhering to these forms.
Among the many striking instances of arresting imagery is a scene which demonstrates how a John Doe in the morgue can be falsely identified and buried under another name. Dr. Quincy is told to his face that he has “the leprechauns’ gift,” an ability “to make the most insane things sound right.”
The Hot Dog Murder
The plutocrat who folds a company has his office in a swimming pool above the city, nymphs attend him. A shrine is there, he has the comforts of religion, it rises behind his chair in March’s camera angle.
An exposé is stifled with a conviction for embezzlement and a maximum security cell, the witness is choked with a frozen hot dog.
A little ascorbic acid in the plutocrat’s drink prepares the illusion he is dying of his dyspepsia, Quincy does absolutely nothing whatsoever to dispel it.