“The Thirty-First of February.” An episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (Season 1, Episode 15). First air date: 4 January 1963. David Wayne, William Conrad, Elizabeth Allen, Staats Cotsworth, William Sargent, Bob Crane, King Calder, Bernadette Hale, Kathleen O’Malley, Robert Carson. Teleplay: Richard Matheson, based on the novel The Thirty-First of February (1950) by Julian Symons. Director: Alf Kjellin.


   As the play opens, an inquest is being held into the death of Valerie Anderson (Kathleen O’Malley), who evidently tried to walk down a flight of steps to her cellar, despite a burned-out light bulb, stumbled, and broke her neck in the fall. Everything seems to point to accidental death, and the coroner rules it that way.

   Val’s husband Andrew (David Wayne) decides the best thing to do would be to go immediately back to work. But it’s there among his colleagues that things begin to deteriorate.

   Little items which would ordinarily be minor annoyances begin to crop up and incrementally erode Andrew’s sangfroid: a desk calendar marking the date of Val’s death, an unsigned poisoned pen letter implying Val was having an affair with someone at the firm, two interoffice memos that get mixed up and sent to the wrong people, a new employee who seems to be following Andrew around, another desk calendar with the nonsensical date of “February 31st” inscribed on it, and even having his house ransacked.

   And then there’s that police sergeant (William Conrad), who on every occasion they meet keeps insinuating that Andrew murdered Valerie but insists he isn’t implying any such thing.

   Not only is Andrew’s emotional composure slowly cracking, but his vulnerabilities are also becoming more obvious. You see, Andrew never loved Val; he admits as much to the woman he really loves, Molly O’Rourke (Elizabeth Allen) — but he does so just before he tries to choke her. He also comes to believe that several of his colleagues, as per the letter, were having an affair with Valerie and irrationally accuses them to their faces, making him look even more paranoid.

   One thing’s for sure: If Andrew did kill Val, then his guilty conscience is tearing him apart — but, if he didn’t kill her, then he’s in the crosshairs of a plot not just to put him in prison but also to drive him insane ….

   David Wayne’s criminous credits include Hell and High Water (1954), as The Mad Hatter on four episodes of TV’s Batman (1966-67), Arsenic and Old Lace (TVM, 1969), one Banacek (1973), as Inspector Richard Queen (sans moustache) in 23 episodes of Ellery Queen on TV (1975-76), and an appearance on Murder, She Wrote in a clever locked-room mystery, “Murder Takes the Bus” (1985).

   William Conrad was always playing heavies, both figuratively and literally. Credits include The Killers (1946), Body and Soul (1947), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), Tension (1949), East Side, West Side (1949), One Way Street (1950), Dial 1119 (1950), Cry Danger (1951), The Racket (1951), Cry of the Hunted (1953), The Brotherhood of the Bell (TVM, 1970), as Nero Wolfe on TV (14 episodes, 1981), and in the series Jake and the Fatman (104 episodes, 1987-92).

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