Broadcast: December 13th, 1957
Character: Lionel Collins
PETER as Lionel Collins
Nine times out of ten, murder is a sordid affair, and Lyndon Brooks storytellers instinct was sound in coupling death with love and money in their glossiest forms. ‘Love Her To Death’ was a competent and absorbing story set amongst a handful of wealthy people cruising in the Mediterranean aboard the ill-named private yacht, ‘First Love’.
The central character is a handsome young man by the name of Lionel Collins, who has married an older woman – Alicia – purely for her wealth. When by chance he meets his former sweetheart, Aimee, he begins to think how he might rid himself of his wife without losing her money. His idea is to tempt her into adultery and catch her in her lover’s arms, thereafter pleading guilty to manslaughter. Under such circumstances, he reasons, a plea of gross provocation would result in nothing more than a nominal sentence. Rising abruptly during a poker game, Collins carefully times himself to find Alicia in their cabin with another man. In a dramatic display of mock rage, he strangles her. He is caught out however, when a suspicious fellow-player happens to look at the cards he never played: A straight flush. Surely no Englishman would have abandoned such a hand – not even to check on his wife! The final five minutes of the play – in which PETER succeeds in trapping himself – were the best most persuasive part of the production. Author Lyndon Brooks worked up to an exciting climax extremely plausibly by means of intellect, characterization and dialogue. When watching the play, you felt as if the villain’s resource would’ve been more than a match for any accident that inevitably tripped him. I suspect that Brooks didn’t really want him caught at all!
Since this all took place in the Mediterranean with the atmosphere of rich idling (Satan finding work for idle hands to do, perhaps?), the absence of any action was amply compensated by a neat screenplay and Cyril Cokes direction. On the whole, the plot was logically worked out, and with many little touches of suspense – this was as good a murder play as you were ever likely to see. The actors played it in an almost intimate manner, making it appear as if the characters existed only for each other and not at all for the viewer, so that conversations seemed to be overheard and scenes overlooked as if by accident. This was PETER’s first real venture into television theatre, having been all-to-often obscured by costume parts in brave failures, and made a solid figure as the murderer.
“Lionel Collins has a kink not only about money but about another woman, Diane Fellowes. He is unscrupulous, a moral coward, yet likeable. He is the kind of character I like to play: subtle, difficult…”
The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/