Steve Lawrence as a smooth con artist who conducts séances for wealthy patrons in the Night Gallery story “The Dear Departed,” reviewed here.
“The Dear Departed” **1/2
Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story by Alice-Mary Schnirring
Directed by Jeff Corey
Steve Lawrence as Mark Bennett
Maureen Arthur as Angela Casey
Harvey Lembeck as Joe Casey
Patricia Donahue as Mrs. Harcourt
Stanley Waxman as Mr. Harcourt
Rose Hobart as Mrs. Hugo
Steve Carlson as the Policeman
Mark Bennett (Steve Lawrence) is a former carnival hustler who’s moved way up in class. Billing himself as Radha Ramadi, he’s a fake swami with the good looks and charm to lead a high-priced swindle of wealthy clients looking to get in touch with dead loved ones. But he can’t do it without the help of his former carny partner Joe Casey (Harvey Lembeck) who is the technical brains behind the scenes, or Joe’s wife Angie(Maureen Arthur), who assists in the séances and who is also having an affair with Mark.
After a successful séance where one woman, Mrs. Harcourt (Patricia Donahue) is so moved that she gives Mark an extra $500 at its conclusion, Joe admits concern for the importance of his role in the operation.
Apart from forgetting to extinguish his cigar, which brought a slight whiff of unwelcome reality into the séance’s proceedings, he performed admirably. His timing and execution of the performance’s special effects—a floating, self-playing tambourine, a disembodied head hovering about the room, sounds and voices, and the well-timed appearance of a stuffed animal—all contributed greatly to the séance’s success. And Mark makes sure Joe understands his gratitude and how he needs his partner for the business to succeed.
Reassured, Joe leaves to get ready to go out to dinner with his wife and partner. Alone with Mark for a few minutes, Angie tells him she can’t postpone her passion for him much longer and they decide that after dinner, they’ll send Joe off to the movies by himself so that two of them can…well, use your imagination.
Later, at dinner, Joe suggests the three of them go to a movie together. Mark says he’s got work to do and Angie claims she has a headache. Joe leaves the restaurant to cross the street to get her some aspirin and Angie and Mark discuss the increasingly difficulty of keeping their affair a secret. They get an unexpected solution to that problem moments later as a police officer comes into the restaurant and informs them that while attempting to cross the street, Joe was fatally struck by a vehicle.
At the first séance after Joe’s sudden death, Angie tries to fill in on the behind-the-scenes effects, but can’t match her late husband’s professionalism and the event is steadily going down the tubes. Mrs. Harcourt has brought her husband, a cigar-smoking unbeliever and the scent of cigar smoke along with the technical snafus has Mark near his breaking point.
Suddenly, Mark and Angie realize that Mr. Harcourt’s cigar was put out upon his arrival and that the scent of this cigar is from none other than Joe, whose ghostly, green-tinted visage has suddenly appeared above them, stunning the two of them plus the rest of the paying customers.
“Here I am, Mark,” the ghost of Joe says. “You said you needed me, so I came. You didn’t think I’d let you down, did you? We’re a team, remember? And we’re gonna stay a team. For life.”
Steve Lawrence and Maureen Arthur are particular good in this segment, which does what it can with thin, fairly familiar material, and Jeff Corey’s direction is solid as well.