"Man in the House" was first presented on the radio show Suspense in 1945. When the story was brought to television four years later, its tone was changed from one of desperation to nervous suspense. The radio version delved into the unhappiness of a mother and daughter trapped by the unfortunate circumstances of their lives and by an intruder in their home. On television, the story was lightened up a little and, oddly, the intruder becomes the most sympathetic character. In the radio version, Emily is a spinster librarian who lives with her invalid mother, and Ted is the man she gave up. On television, they are a married couple separated by the Emily's duty to her mother.
"Man in the House" begins with Ted and Emily, looking forlorn and standing in front of paper background painted to look like an orchard. They are upset. Emily must leave Ted and stay with her mother, who is a sick and unpleasant, old bitty. Her husband wants her to stay with him, but she can't. Emily must sacrifice herself for her mother. She tells Ted that he could come and stay with them, but he points out that they tried that --and it didn't work. So, they part. Ted, a doctor, consoles himself with a cigarette.
Emily walks up to the front door and finds their dog -- dead on the doorstep. When she goes inside, she finds a madman who has tied up her mother! The intruder tells her to cooperate with him and he won't hurt anyone. He explains to Emily that he had to put a gag on her mother because she is obnoxious and complains constantly. As soon as Emily removes the gag, we realize that the intruder is right. This is where we first begin to sympathize with the intruder more than with his two hostages.
The intruder tells them that he has killed before, but that he has escaped from the mental hospital where he was confined. He claims that the things that were done to him there were worse than death or jail. Our sympathy for him increases again because it does sound bad. The intruder doesn't want anyone to find him because he does not want to return to the mental hospital. He has decided to stay with them until he can decide what to do. The intruder is not worried about anyone unexpectedly dropping by because he knows that no one can stand the old woman.
Emily's mother isn't happy about any of this, so the intruder gives her sleeping pills to make her sleep. Then, he talks to Emily about how they are going to handle the situation. He tells Emily that she must to go to work to avoid suspicion. If she tells anyone about him, he will hurt her mother.
After a very long pause for an Auto-lite commercial, part two opens in the library where Emily works. There are a few teenagers draped over a library table trying to study, and Emily is in the background looking nervous and shelving books. When the teenagers get too rowdy, Emily disciplines them for talking in the library. (Uh-oh Emily, you spoke too soon.) Here comes your husband to have a loud talk with you about how your mother should be put in a home. The teenagers in the library are spellbound by the drama, but Emily soon chases them out. She tells not to come back until they have learned how to behave in a library. That seems a wee bit hypocritical coming from Emily.
Ted tries to talk to her, but Emily has shut down. She can't tell anyone what is going back at the house. Emily has to keep it all inside. Ted says that he can't take the situation anymore. He tells Emily that he wrote her a letter last night, that he now regrets, but that she should be receiving it today. Ted tells her to call him after she reads the letter.
Next we see that the letter has arrived at her house, the madman is reading it to Emily's mother. In it, Ted calls her mother "acid" and a few other unpleasant names. The intruder agrees with Ted. The mother doesn't.
The next day Emily finally goes to her husband's office and tells him what has happened. He grabs a gun from his desk and tells Emily that they are going over to rescue her mother.
"Man in the House" (episode #29) was written by Leslie Edgely and adapted for television by Joseph Liss. The Intruder was played by Alan Baxter. Emily was played by Kim Hunter. Mrs. Barrett was played by Ruth McDevitt. Ted was played by Boyd Crawford. This episode aired on November 29, 1949. It is available on disc one of Suspense: The Lost Episodes - Collection 1.
For information about the radio version visit www.escape-suspense.com.