Faulkner Story is Well Done on TV
“Suspense” Series Draws to Close
By Ray Oviatt
The television version of “Suspense” was closed out Tuesday evening on CBS with an adaptiation of William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning,” one of the better offerings in the series.
We’ve seen three or four of the Mississippi author’s works on TV during the past year, but this one was the most satisfactory as a teleplay. The plot was slight enough and the characters drawn clearly enough so that the story could be well told within the limitations of a half hour drama.
What’s more, the adaptor, Gore Vidal, did not find it necessary to sweeten the story appreciably. As a result, much of the acrid flavor of Faulkner’s writing remained.
“Barn Burning” tells of an embittered war veteran. Abner Snopes, a widower with a young son, living the life of a sharecropper. Snopes develops a contempt for society and takes revenge for all insults, real and imaginary by committing arson. The boy, torn between fear of his father and devotion to him, tries to prevent another crime and, in so doing, inadvertently brings about his father’s death.
E. G. Marshall effectively underplayed the part of Snopes and Charles Taylor did nicely as the boy. Production-wise the play was very well done also. The barn burning scene showed up realistically and the use of a harmonica, rather than the organ, for background music contributed to the mood.
I don’t intend to do a lengthy post mortem on “Suspense,” but looking back, it does seem to have been several cuts above the average of TV’s half hour dramas. On television, the series gradually got away from the type of scripts which characterized the radio series at the height of its popularity. The video version, during the past couple of seasons offered a little more variety by going in for historical stories, documentaries and short story adaptations. This diversification, generally speaking, was all to the good.
Next week “Suspense” will be replaced by a similar series, “Danger,” which moves ahead to make room on CBS for the return of “Life with Father.”
An afterthought, “Barn Burning” reminded me of the many summertime dramas on TV with settings in hot climates. The characters are continually sopping up perspiration with their handkerchiefs. how about a little escapist entertainment—dramas of the frozen North?
“Stop the Music,” a national craze a few years ago, returned to CBS-Radio this week. It’s still the mammoth giveaway. About the only change is Bill Cullen, instead of Bert Parks, as emcee. Don’t worry about ole Bert, though. He’ll be back on the TV edition of the musical quizzer next month on ABC.
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