Original image: The Knowles Gallery
You Were Wonderful
Starring: Lena Horne
Originally aired: 9 November 1944
Plot synopsis: During World War II, an American singer arrives in Buenos Aires to perform at a nightclub, but soon finds herself embroiled in espionage, intrigue and murder.
Favourite line: 'You remind me of a preacher I used to know back home. He figured he was such a good preacher because he knew so much about sin. He said he'd sinned more than anybody else in the whole congregation.'
Review: Far and away the best scenes in this episode are the three times that its star, Lena Horne, is allowed to sing, including a fine performance of 'Embraceable You'. These demonstrate what a great star she was. The story itself, though, is nothing very special, a fairly standard piece of patriotic wartime propaganda; it's not bad, but nothing particularly memorable. What is most interesting, perhaps, for a modern audience are the occasional allusions to race, unusual as this generally was in mainstream popular culture of the time. Although Horne herself was black, the episode is very coy about referencing this, and I imagine that some might listen to this today and not even realize that she was. In any case, there are various comments about the racism of the Nazis, as well as the (supposed) racial prejudices of other nations, yet one has to read between the lines to detect anything at all about the issue of black civil rights in America - nobody mentions, for example, that the US military was racially segregated during the Second World War. As for the plot, it does have moments of interest, and it's worth noting that its main conceit - SPOILER ALERT! - that the radio broadcast of a song might be used as a secret signal, is not entirely far-fetched; for example, the Sid Field song 'I'm Going to Get Lit Up' was apparently played on the radio as a signal to European resistance fighters that D-Day was about to commence.
Rating: * * *
Starring: Santos Ortega and Larry Haines
Originally aired: 17 December 1961
Plot synopsis: Following a visit from a ghost, a convicted criminal - who is attempting to evade his parole officer - agrees to fulfil a dying man's request to deliver Christmas presents to the latter's mother and sister.
Favourite line: 'We had to take the door down to get the tree into the house and we had to find an extra stomach apiece to accommodate the turkey.'
Review: Suspense's Christmas episodes are often sentimental and mawkish - and this one is no exception. It's a half-baked ghost story that attempts to pull at the heart strings, but isn't very successful in doing so; mine remained unpulled throughout. The supernatural element is given no real explanation and at least some of the characters' behaviour and motivations are dubious at best (not least those of the parole officer). Moreover, the blatant attempts at allegorical significance, such as the fact that the main character must travel to Bethlehem (the city in Pennsylvania, presumably, not the one in Palestine), are not very subtle. Still, the episode is well enough written and performed, and others may find this festive story more heart-warming than I did.
Rating: * *