- Broadcast: Sunday, 26th September, 1965
- Episode: A Case of Murder
Character: Sir Richard Westby
PETER as Sir Richard Westby
The original six-part series, which was simply entitled ‘Gallagher’, made its American TV debut in early 1964, and was followed later that same year by ‘The Adventures of Gallagher’.
One of ten children growing up at the turn of the century, Gallagher is determined not to stay a copyboy for long. Despite the complaints of Mr Crowley – editor of the Daily Press, who is forever maddened by Gallagher’s inability to keep his mind on his real job (but secretly admiring the boy’s “get up and go”), Gallagher is incessantly chasing clues and gathering information in the vain hope that Crowley will someday appoint him a reporter. Gallagher’s closest friend at the paper is senior journalist, Brownie, who’s often forced to cover up or excuse Gallagher’s schemes, as well as trying to persuade Crowley to re-hire the boy.
A third series – ‘The Further Adventures Of Gallagher’ went into production in March/April, 1965, and PETER was invited to play the part of Sir Richard Westby – a successful actor who arrives in town with his touring theatrical company to perform a work of Shakespeare. However, Westby’s reputation as a self-important womanizer has preceded him, and it wasn’t long before he’s made himself a great number of enemies in town.
In the opening scene, we see Gallagher (Roger Mobley) – a Copyboy and budding reporter at the Daily Press newspaper, walking down the street of a 1900 American town. He’s on his way to the Bijou Theatre to see a matinee presentation of Hamlet, starring renowned English actor, Sir Richard Westby (PETER WYNGARDE).
PETER as Sir Richard Westby as Hamlet in the final scene of the play
Outside the theatre, a sign proudly announces that the performance is completely sold out, and as Gallagher takes his seat inside, we’re treated to various sections from the play, including the dramatic finale, which leaves the rather well-to-do-patrons fixated. As Westby’s utters the immortal words “Horatio, I am dead!”, and his head falls, the curtains close and audience rise as one to applaud his magnificent performance.
None in the theatre that afternoon has been more affected by the play than young Gallagher, who acts out some of the scenes he’s just witnessed en route back to the offices of the Daily Press – fencing with a waiting cab driver, and quoting Shakespeare to a local policeman on his beat.
When finally he arrives at the newspaper office the Editor, Jefferson Crowley (Edmond O’Brien), demands to know where the lad has been all afternoon. He reveals cheerfully, that his colleague, Brownie (Harvey Korman), had given him his Press Pass to the theatre, since he himself had no wish to see the play.
When Crowley enquires why Brownie had not attend the theatre as instructed, the journalist explains that he’d seen Westby “massacre” Hamlet in New York the previous year, and had written a review based on that – not on the Bijou Theatre performance.
At that very moment, in strides a very aggrieved Sir Richard Westby, carrying a copy of the day’s edition of the Daily Press: “WHO is Mr Brown?” he demands, and turns his gaze in Brownie’s direction. “Are YOU Mr Brown?” the actor persists; “Are you the wretch that wrote this illiterate misrepresentation of my performance?” The thespian then reaches over and slaps the Reporter across both cheeks with the rolled-up newspaper he’d been carrying.
“Who is Mr Brown?”: (Left to Right) Crowley, Sir Richard, Gallagher and Brownie at the Daily Dress office
Brownie is stunned, and looks to Crowley to clarify the meaning of such an assault: “It means that we’re going to be sued!” the Boss laments.
Westby disagrees, however: “Nothing so maudlin, Sir.” And with a wry smile, adds: “This is a matter of honour, and I demand satisfaction!”
Crowley chortles knowingly, and asks Westby how much his “honour” will cost the newspaper: “His life… or mine,” the Englishman expounds. He then turns to Brownie, adding: “You, Sir, have the choice of place, time and weapons.” And with this, he throws a glove down on the desk in front of the beleaguered hack. “This, Sir, is my gauge. Pick it up or forever be branded a coward!”
Brownie is overcome: “A duel?” Crowley immediately picks up the glove and thrusts it into his employees hand with delighted, given that such a contest was like to cost the newspaper not a dime!
As Sir Richard stalks dramatically from the office, the Editor can hardly contain himself. He rushes over to his Printer, Pete (Jon Lormer), who he instructs to change the headline for the late edition to announce the news of Westby’s challenge to Brownie.
On publication of the ‘paper, Crowley receives a call from the local police department, to advise him that duelling is illegal, and that death as a result of such a contest would be viewed as murder. He’s then instructed, in no uncertain terms, to cease with any further mention of combat in future editions.
Crowley, however, advises the police lieutenant on the other end of the line that no crime had as yet been committed, and as such, he was free to print whatever he saw fit. On replacing the receiver, the Editor directs Gallagher to take a note to Sir Richard at the theatre, informing him that Brownie accepts his challenge.
Gallagher delivers a note to Westby at the Theatre
When the boy arrives backstage at the Bijou, he’s directed to Westby’s dressing room, where he finds the actor running through a script. He hands over the message, which Sir Richard reads with delight. “Absolutely superb!” he bellows theatrically, realising that he and Crowley are both on the same page. As long as the story of the proposed duel continues, the more theatre tickets and newspapers will be sold – benefiting both parties in the process.
Crowley assigns Gallagher to stakeout the theatre and to report back on any unusual activity. Whilst watching Sir Richard perform from the wings, a young woman dressed all in green and with a veil covering her face, sweeps in and waits for the actor to leave the stage. As she lifts her veil, Westby immediately recognises her as “Katherine” (Victoria Shaw). He takes her hand and kisses it, saying that it had been ten years since they’d last met.
Sir Richard meets his former fiancé, Katherine
The young reporter immediately calls his Editor, who instantly envisages the headline: ‘Who Is The Lady In Green?’ Meanwhile, Katharine boards a carriage, which Gallagher follows to a large house on the outskirts of town. As the young lady climbs from the carriage, the driver – John (John Marley), spots the Copyboy and grabs him by the scruff of the neck.
Gallagher asks to know who the lady is and what is her connection to Sir Richard, but John remains tight-lipped. The boy suggests that since many women send Westby flowers and love notes, there’s no mischief in his asking a reasonable questions. “For those women to have their name printed in a paper does no harm,” John barks in reply. “But for her – scandal!”
On hearing their voices, Katherine rounds the coach to see what’s happening. Gallagher introduces himself, and after conversing with the young lady awhile, agrees not to publish her name or anything about her visit to the theatre.
At that moment a man’s voice calls out to Katherine and demands to know what’s going on. The voice belongs to her brother, Charles Van Raalte (Liam Sullivan), who requests to know what she’s doing out so late. When finally she responds, she declines to impart to him that she’d been to see Sir Richard. Instead, she tells him that she’d been unable to sleep and had asked John to take her for a drive. Meanwhile, the Coach Driver, who is still holding onto Gallagher with a vice-like grip, intimidates to the boy that a terrible end awaited him should any word of that night’s events pass his lips.
Back at the newspaper office, Crowley finds Gallagher rifling through the archive files, where he’s managed to unearth several old cuttings about the Van Raalte family. One of the headlines reads: ‘MRS J.P. VAN RAALTE DENIES ENGAGEMENT OF DAUGHTER’. Based on Sir Richard’s response to her at the theatre, it appears that he and Katharine had at one time been engaged to marry. When the boy is caught red handed by his Boss, he says nothing of his find – instead he declares that he’d merely been looking for a baseball result. Crowley, who’s angry to hear this, sends the young man back to the theatre to continue his assignment – telling him not to come back until he has some news.
At that moment, Charles Van Raalte arrives at the Daily Press office and asks to speak with Crowley. He demands that the paper drop the story of the duel between Sir Richard and Brownie, but Crowley refuses.
Meanwhile over at the theatre, Gallagher is watching the latter stages of the latest performance of Hamlet which, again, sees Sir Richard engaged in a sword fight to the death. As he steps back towards the stage curtain, his face is suddenly filled with pain and he staggers forward into the arms of the actor playing Horatio.
“I am dead, Horatio”
When the audience and other players realise that Sir Richard’s death scene is for real, there are screams throughout the theatre. Gallagher, who is still concealed in the wings sees a man, wearing a black cloak and top hat, scurrying towards the Stage Door – his arm raised to cover his face. As he pushes past the young reporter, Gallagher makes a grab for him, but only succeeds in tearing something from the man’s cloak.
Directly, the boy rushes back to the Press Office, where he runs into Crowley who’s just leaving for the police station. The Editor informs Gallagher that Brownie has been arrested for Westby’s murder, so when the Copyboy divulges that he’s seen the killer, Crowley frogmarches the young man into the 7th Precinct with him.
Once inside the Station, Gallagher reveals to the officer in charge that he’d seen the killer as he’d made his escape, and although he was unable to identify him, he knew for certain it wasn’t Brownie. He then explains how he’d grabbed at the stranger and tore a fastener from the man’s cloak as he’d passed. Since Brownie had been at the opera that night, and is wearing a cloak similar to the one worn by the assailant, they check the Reporter’s attire and find the fastener intact. However, the Police Lieutenant informs Crowley that his officers have already questioned both the cast and crew at the theatre, and were satisfied that none of them had a motive to kill Sir Richard. In that case, they intended to lock Brownie up for the night.
On leaving the Precinct, Gallagher heads straight back to the theatre – entering the building through a first floor window. Although he’s initially startled by the sudden appearance of the Copyboy Pops, the Night Watchman and general dogsbody, recognises the lad and agrees to help him search for the missing fastener that had been torn from the murderers cloak.
Pop’s tells Gallagher that, after sweeping up the theatre after the final performance, all the garbage was put outside in the bins at the rear of the building. Happily, the boy is able to find what he’s looking for, but when he’s spotted by a police officer rummaging through the trash, he’s forced to make a run for it, back to the Daily Press Office.
While there, Gallagher takes another look at the newspapers he’d found earlier, and studies a sketch of Charles Van Raalte who he figures might be the person responsible for Sir Richard’s demise. After carefully placing the papers back in their rightful place, he beats a hasty retreat back to the theatre.
Once there, he begins to tell Pop’s of his suspicions, but is interrupted by the arrival of a carriage from which Katherine emerges. It soon becomes clear that Gallagher has arranged to meet her there, as she has her brothers’ cloak with her. The boy reminds the young lady of a line from Hamlet: “The play is the thing we’re in. I’ll catch the conscience of the king,” which the young lady acknowledges.
Gallagher explains to Katherine how the killer had dashed past him from behind the curtain directly after Westby was stabbed, and he shows her the fastener he’d torn from the cloak. When they check it against the cloak owned by Charles, they find that part of the fastener is missing, but Katherine can’t believe that her brother is responsible for such a heinous crime.
At that moment, John emerges through the Stage Door and confirms that Katherine is correct – Charles is indeed innocent, since it was HE who killed the actor.
The Carriage Driver says that he’d served both Katherine and he mother faithfully for many years, and that Sir Richard had been an evil man who’d brought disgrace and scandal down on the Van Raalte family. If it hadn’t been for Gallagher’s interference, he suggests, this might’ve been the perfect crime.
Katherine tells Gallagher to run, but John manages to block his exit, and forces the young man to about turn and take flight up on the gantry above the stage. Aloft amongst the ropes, pulleys and ladders, the boy swiftly climbs with John, knife drawn, in hot pursuit.
The day is saved, though, when Crowley arrives with the police, who are able to apprehend and arrest John. The Editor tells Katherine and his Copyboy that he’d found the papers Gallagher had unearthed earlier, and knew that Charles would be at the opera that night. On realising that the budding young reporter would’ve returned to the theatre, he’d contacted the police who’d headed down there… and just in the nick of time.
PETER with Edmond O’Brien in the scene at the Daily Press office
‘A Case of Murder’ was first screened in the United States in September of 1965, but unfortunately there is little evidence that it was ever shown anywhere else. One of the main reasons for this may have been Walt Disney himself who, it appears, had been concerned by some of the rather enthusiastic love-scenes between Peter and his Co-Star, Victoria Shaw, which he’d insisted were too explicit for a Disney production. Inevitably, most of these sequences were cut from the final print. However, the episode’s editor, Mr Jeffrey Hayden, did reveal how impressed both he and his colleagues had been by PETER’s portrayal of the vain and conceited player:
“When I saw the first cut of ‘Gallagher’, I thought PETER was absolutely great,” he said. “Really, truly. The people who saw him in this picture flipped over his work – he came through like a comet blazing across the sky, so help me, I’m not kidding!
“The Shakespeare was so beautifully done and, thankfully, the scene in the dressing room was left intact in the master shot because the Producer, Ron Miller, said he would not allow the cutter to touch the film, it was too beautiful a performance. My favourite scene, however, was in the newspaper office – ‘Who… is Mr Brown? Are you Mr Brown?’ PETER was just brilliant!”
The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/