Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962): Season 1, Episode 31 - The Gentleman from America - full transcript

In 1940, a rich American named Latimer is visiting a club in England. Sir Stephen, a gambler deep in debt, befriends Latimer in the hope of winning some money from him. With the help of his friend Derek, Sir Stephen tells Latimer about a ghost that supposedly haunts a manor home that Sir Stephen owns. The ghost is supposed to appear and threaten anyone who tries to spend the night in a certain room of the house. Latimer agrees to bet 1000 pounds that he can make it through the night, and they agree on the terms. Latimer suspects that the two Englishmen plan some sort of trick, and he prepares himself accordingly.

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Good evening.

Do you believe in ghosts?

Of course not.

I knew you didn't.

Noise is the mortal enemy of
good motion picture making...

and television broadcasting.

That is why I hired
this particular house.

It is deathly quiet--

[people screaming]

Most of the time.

And its reputation
for being haunted...

keeps away the curious.

The shifting of scenery
also seems to be better here.

The human element
has been removed.

So, if you would just
lean back and relax...

I'll tell you
a little ghost story.

Please don't hesitate
to turn out your lights.

I'm sure the warm glow
from the picture tube...

will be sufficient to melt
all your fears of the dark.

But before we view
with alarm...

allow us to point with pride.

(man on radio)
It's Brown Meadow leading
by two lengths...

from Harry's Rose.

Then Headstrong,
then Pretty Polly,
and Sabrina.

Then Curly Top,
then Healtheon, and Nutmeg
falling well behind.

Two furlongs to go.

Hello, Stephen.

Have you got something
on this race?

What horse?
Brown Meadow, the favorite.

But he won't pay anything.
You can't have got better
than 3-to-1.

Two and a half,
but I've got to win.

I'm in the red nearly ?600
here at the Club...

I've got to report
to the Admiral
the day after tomorrow.

I'm being called up,
you know.
But so am I.

England expects every man
to do his duty,
and pay his debts.

Come on, Curly Top,
come on, let's go, Curly Top.
Let's go! Come on!

...Curly Top, if Lanning
could hold the pace.

Yes, it's Curly Top
by half a length.


I had ?500 on Curly Top.

Well, I'm in ?1,000 now.

I had ?500 on Curly Top.

No, not really.

Listen to that, will you.
Latimer had ?500
on Curly Top at 10-to-1.

However did you pick him?

Well, I had got a tip
from the hall porter
at my hotel.

He needs ?5,000 like he needs
another oil well.

Do you know him?
An American, name of Latimer.

Does he play poker,
do you suppose?


I think I should like
to meet Mr. Latimer.

Why don't you ask him
to join us in the bar?

All right.

Stephen, I'd like you to meet
a friend of mine.

Mr. Howard Latimer,
this is Stephen Hurstwood.

How do you do?
Sir Stephen, I am honored.

Have you been in England long,
Mr. Latimer?

No, sir.
Only a couple of weeks.

I'd been on the Continent
the last few months.

I have no family
to worry about...

so I've been trying to see
as much as I can, while I can.

I have a feeling
this "phony war"
won't last much longer.

I quite agree.

Things will probably
get started any day now.

Derek and I were organizing
a game of poker for tonight.

Would you care to join us?

Well, thank you very much,
but could we make it
some other time?

It's just that I feel
in the mood for something
more frivolous...

maybe a show
and then a nightclub.
Thanks, anyway.

Would you care for a drink?

Good. What will you have,
Latimer, whiskey and soda?

Yes, that will be fine,

Maybe we could play poker
tomorrow night?

I'm afraid, I can't make it
tomorrow night...

I've got to go down
to Hurstwood.

The government is taking over
for the duration.

Make a rest home of it,
or something, I suppose.

You know, it must be
very satisfying,
and sort of wonderful...

to own a place like Hurstwood,
you know, with everything
that's back of it.

Yes, I suppose it would be.

I'm afraid I don't understand.

It's only that
with the mortgage holders
and the death duties...

my inheritance of Hurstwood
is purely nominal.

Stephen's father died
only a few months ago.

And as I am being called
into the service
day after tomorrow...

I shan't be around.

So, the death tax people,
and the mortgage holders...

can fight it out
with the ghost
for possession.

And good luck to all of them.

The ghost?
The Hurstwood Ghost.
It's very well known.

You're kidding?

Not at all.

Do you mean to say
that you actually believe
a ghost exists?

Have you seen it yourself?

It doesn't appear
to members of the family.

It only appears if you try
to spend the night
in the Cromwell Room.

You know, I really believe
you're serious.

Well, I just don't happen
to believe in ghosts, you see.

Really, a lot of people don't,
you know.

Of course.
They've never seen one.

Do you mean to say
that whenever anyone tries...

to spend the night
in this room,
the ghost appears?

That's right.

I don't suppose...

I could spend the night there?

I should be very happy
to let you try to
spend the night in the room.

Wonderful. You know,
I always wanted to--

I should also be very happy
to bet that you can't do it.

By all means,
let's have a bet.
You name the stakes.

Very well, ?1,000.


Well, if you feel
you can't afford It.
Of course I can afford it.

It's just that
it seems ridiculous
to bet ?1,000 on something...

I'm certain to win.

I'm sorry, I never bet
less than ?1,000.

All right, it's a deal.


Well, good haunting.

Latimer? Derek?

None for me, thanks.

I want to be certain that
any spirit I see is genuine.



Here you are.

Now, just to be certain
we all understand
the terms of the bet...

I have your check for ?1,000
and I have Stephen's.

If you spend the entire night
in the room, you have won.

If you leave it
for any reason before 6:00
tomorrow morning...

Stephen wins.



And you're to be allowed
one candle and one match only.

You'll understand that better
when you know more
about the ghost itself.

That's just what I've been
trying to find out.
Whose ghost is this, anyhow?

What is supposed
to be the story--

You'd have to use candles
in that wing, in any case.

It's never been wired
for electricity.

That's all right
about the candle,
but what about the ghost?

Oh, yes.
There's one other thing.

So that you may be
absolutely certain that
anything which does appear...

is not mortal...

you can have this.

Really, I'm afraid
I don't need it. I don't know
too much about guns.

Nonsense, it is very simple.

Here's the safety.
You have seven shots in all.

Here, try It.

Try it? Well,
how am I gonna try it?

Just shoot it
into the fireplace.

You won't hurt anything.

Really, this isn't necessary.
Go ahead!

You'll see how simple it is
and then you can take it
or not, as you please.

All right.


Now just aim it into the fire
and pull the trigger.

[gun fires]

You'll have to be
a bit more accurate
than that, old boy...

unless it's
a very large ghost.

Of course, I don't suppose
you'll need it...

unless the ghost
comes quite close to you.

There, now the safety
is on again.

Well, do you want
to keep it or not?

I think I shall.

And I think I should tell you
that I shall use it
if the occasion arises.

You still want me to keep it?

By all means.

Then at least
you'll be prepared
for anything...


Well, are you ready?

Come along, then.

Well, here we are.

You can't have a fire,
of course,
under the circumstances.

I hope you won't be
too uncomfortable.
That's all right.

In fact I sleep better
in a cold room.


Do you actually
mean to sleep?
Of course.

Interested as I am
in the phantom...

especially since I can't pry
any information
from either of you...

I'm afraid I can't sit up
all night for it.

Yes, if the ghost
wants to have
any dealings with me...

it can wake me.


You were interested
in the ghost.

You'll find it all in here,
I believe.

Yes, here it is.


Sir Stephen, I had no idea
that the ghost was written up.

Let's see now.
"The Hurstwood Ghost."

Yes, very interesting.

I see.

You wanted me to read this,
while I was alone
in the room...

so that the shadows
and the silence would make it
that much more convincing.

No need to read it at all,
if you'd rather not.

It's not in the bet.
I shall. I wouldn't miss it
for anything.

Well, here's your candle.

You have the pistol,
and here is the match.

You haven't any others,
I take it?

Here's my lighter, though.
Thank you.

Would you care
to light it now?

No, thank you,
I think, I'll wait
until after you're gone...

so there won't be any drafts.
Good idea.

Yes, very prudent,
I should say.

Here is the key.



[door closing]


"The tale of
the Hurstwood Ghost...

"dates from early
in the 19th century...

"when the
of the present baronet...

"first inherited Hurstwood.

"He was expecting
his two young daughters
to return from school...

"on the Continent...

"but as it happened,
they came a day early...

"and he was away
when they arrived...

"so there was no one
to greet them
but an elderly caretaker...

"who finished her work
and left before dark.

"Indeed, they could find
only a stump of a candle...

"with which to light
their way to bed.

"But once there, the two girls
were not dismayed...

"especially Julia,
the more venturesome
of the two.

"They lay chatting for a time
in the candle's
feeble light...

"when, suddenly, they thought
they heard a sound
from somewhere below.


"A sound, as of someone
moving about the house.

"Geraldine was frightened,
but Julia said she was going
to investigate.

"Geraldine tried
to dissuade her,
but it was useless.

"Julia took the candle
and departed...

"while Geraldine
fearfully awaited her return.

after a long silence,
she heard a muffled sound...

"which she could not identify.

"She waited, straining
her ears, but the noise
was not repeated.

"Finally, she heard
the sound of footsteps
coming up the stairs.

"They came along the hall
and turned into the room.

"She called out to her sister,
but there was no answer...

"as the steps came on
across the room.

"Geraldine laughed anxiously
and begged Julia
not to play jokes...

"but only silence answered,
as the footsteps paused
beside the bed.

"Geraldine reached out
her hand and felt
a wave of relief...

"as it touched the soft edge
of her sister's dressing gown.

"She lifted her hand
to touch her sister's face...

"but felt instead
something wet and warm.


"When their father arrived
the next morning...

"his eyes were assailed
by a dreadful sight.

"On the stairs,
a trail of blood...

"the footsteps
leading upward...

"and on the floor
in the girls' room...

"Julia's body, its head
severed from the trunk...

"and on the bed
his beloved Geraldine...

"her hair snow-white...

"her lips mumbling
the tortured fancies
of a maniac.

"In time they pieced
the story together
from her ravings...

"but she remained
completely mad.

"The deed was attributed
to a homicidal lunatic...

"who had just escaped
from the nearby
Sunnyview Sanitarium. "


What a lot of tripe.

[door creaking]

What's that?

[footsteps approaching]

Well, here we go.

Hello, Sir Stephen,
or is it Derek?

Now, I'm glad you showed up,
because things were getting
pretty dull.

By the way, old boy,
you forgot something.
Your head.

I'd ask you in, but it seems
a little late for that.

That was a neat trick,
coming in.

How did you do it?
A sliding panel?

Now that's a nice effect,
I'd love to know
how you did it.

You do this professionally,
or just to entertain friends?

By the way, old boy,
when you get
to the foot of the bed...

you can hold up there,
if you don't mind.

You're a mighty
taciturn ghost, aren't you?

I think I should tell you
that I have a gun...

I'm quite willing to shoot,
if you don't stop now.

Look, don't come any closer,
do you hear me?

Don't come any closer!

All right! All right!

Look, didn't you hear me?

I said don't. I said....

[gun firing]

Don't come any closer!

You want me to run.
But, I'm not gonna run!

I won't run!

I suppose it is better
than having the old place
pulled down.

But it's a gloomy business,
anyhow, isn't it?

At least I come out of it
with a bit of money this way.

More than it's worth, really.

Yes, there's that.

You say it's a Canadian
who's buying?
Yes, a flyer.

He stayed here
a few weeks once...

when he was wounded
in the Battle of the Bulge
and liked it.

Very wealthy.
Oil, I believe.

Like that American.

Lorimer, or whatever
his name was.

Do you remember him?

Did you ever hear
from him again?



No, I never did.

I suppose he went back
to the States and joined up
once they got in.

Seems a century ago,
doesn't it?

I wonder how he came through.


[doorbell ringing]

Why, it's the gentleman
from America.

Mr. Latimer.

Hello, Latimer.

You seem to have come through
the recent mess very well.

Looking very fit,
I should say.
Thank you.

It's nice of you to say so.
I feel quite well, in fact.

Latimer, how nice.

And how odd.

You know, we were just now
wondering about you.


Stephen here got himself
a game leg,
but we all made it...

and I suppose
that's the main thing.
Yes, isn't it?

You know, you gave us
quite a fright
that night you stayed here.

When you passed out.
We thought you were dead.


It took us forever
to find a pulse.

We thought the doctor
would never get here.

It was a tremendous relief
when we telephoned
the doctor next morning...

and he told us you were simply
in a state of shock...

and would come out of it
all right.

Always meant to get in touch,
you know, but never quite
got around to it.

I paid Stephen the money,
of course.

We decided that
a faint from fright
was equivalent to running.

Seems obvious that
you would have run
if you'd been able.

And of course,
Stephen needed the money
so much more than you did.

It was a life-saver, really.

Yours was one of the most
successful apparitions...

we ever staged, I believe.

I've always thought
it was the way
we handled the blanks.

The blanks?

By putting one real bullet
into the clip and letting you
fire it into the fireplace...

you'd be less likely
to realize that the remainder
were blanks.

I always thought that story
about Julia and Geraldine...

and the headless ghost
and all of it
was far too theatrical.


Then you're the one!


You won't escape this time!

To murder an innocent girl!
What's the matter, you fool?

Get away from me!

Come here.

No, you won't
escape this time.

To murder an innocent girl!

What's wrong with you?
Have you lost your mind?

Get away!

No, you don't!

Never escape from me again!


Get away from me!

Get off.


Stephen, are you all right?

I'm terrible sorry, sir.
He gave us the slip.

Lucky we knew
where to come to right away.

Always comes here, he does.

Comes here?

From where?
From Sunnyview.

It's the sanitarium
right over the hill, sir.
You know.



No, no.

[Latimer moaning]

Harmless as a baby, he is,
between his attacks.

But he'd kill a man
just like that,
when one of them's on him.

And that's a fact.

Seems he's got some idea
his sister, Julia,
was murdered.

And he's got to be revenged
on the man
that cut her head off.




May God have mercy on us.

And just because
a silly girl...

Iost her head
over some imaginary noises
years before.


Apparently some people
can't read.

[rattling continues]

It's all right.
Just a young lady...

who needs help
to put the chains on her car.

I'll be back shortly.

considering the gravity
of our next announcement...

I think this is
more appropriate.

A very interesting experience.

It's been years since I saw
a Stutz Bearcat.

Now for a few
posthumous announcements.

The bullets used
on tonight's program...

were made with new
enriched gunpowder.

Furs by Feline.

Tonight's guests were flown
to Hollywood...

by the world's
oldest airlines.

Next week,
we shall fly some more in...

if space is available.

Until then, good night.