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Screen Directors Playhouse: The Life of Vernon Hathaway (1955)
* 1/2 (out of 4)
Ernest Stockhoeffer (Alan Young) is a timid clock repairman who dreams of a more exciting life. One day a man walks into his store saying that seven years earlier he had stolen a watch so he wants to give Ernest a thousand dollar bill. This bill allows his imagination run wild and soon he starts to live what he had always fantasized about. THE LIFE OF VERNON HATHAWAY is yet another disappointing episode in this early series. I started watching episodes from later in the series and the majority of them were very good so going through these from the start onwards I must admit that I'm a little surprised to see how weak the majority of these early episodes are. There are a couple very big problems here but we can start with the screenplay that really doesn't seem to know what it wants to do. Throughout the film I kept waiting to figure out if this was meant to be a comedy, a drama or some sort of weird fantasy but no matter what they wanted it to be it pretty much falls flat on all levels. There are some attempts at humor but they're never funny. I'm going to guess we get a few bits of drama but the lead character is so bland that you really don't get caught up in anything. The fantasy aspect is probably the strongest thing that the filmmakers were going for but it too fails because you just simply don't know where they're going or what they're trying to do. It also doesn't help that Young isn't all that memorable in the lead role and even supporting players like Cloris Leachman and Raymond Bailey don't have much to do. Director Norman Z. McLeod really doesn't bring any life to the project and to date this is the worst the series has offered.
Ernest Stockhoeffer lives a dull life in a small, dull town. When a man
who shoplifted a watch from his shop ten years earlier atones by giving
him a thousand dollar bill, Ernest realizes it, stops the express train
to go down to Miami and live a little and winds up bluffing his way
Screen Director's Playhouse was a very good anthology series, but this is one of the weakest entries and it is not helped much by Alan Young's washrag characterization of Stockhoeffer and his alter ego, Vernon Hathaway. Director Norman McLeod could direct a great comedy given a script or talented comics -- he managed to direct the Marx Brothers in two of their more chaotic Paramount comedies -- but can't do much with the script of this one.
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