Sign of the Zodiak - 1961

The Barbara Stanwyck Show - Sign of the Zodiak - Broadcast April 3, 1961 on NBC. Directed by Jacques Tourneur

Joan Blondell (as Helene Terry) drags her sister-in-law Madge (Stanwyck) to see a fortune teller (Pierre, played by Dan Duryea). Cynical and bitter after the death of her husband, Madge arrives at the occult parlor under protest and interrupts the proceedings when the fortune-teller begins to claim to see Madge's dead husband trying to communicate with them. Angry words are exchanged and Madge leaves in a rage. Later she realizes she left a prized sentimental pocket watch at the parlor, an item that had belonged to the dead husband. She returns the next day and the smooth-talking Pierre claims he kept the watch in a safe place, but when he goes to retrieve it for her, it's gone. Later, Madge discovers the watch is back at her home already...

Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell work together well (they teamed up in the 1930s films Illicit and Night Nurse) and they're joined by Dan Duryea (who worked with Stanwyck on Ball of Fire) in a nicely done three-way vehicle about madness and revenge, though the compacted runtime (30 minutes) doesn't allow director Jacques Tourneur to explore more than the relationship between Blondell and Stanwyck's characters, which is radically different from what it first appears as the story starts.

The camera work tries to fit faces into the screen as largely as possible, perhaps to compensate for the small-sized TV screens of that era, but it is sometimes distracting since Stanwyck's face at times has her eyebrows as the center of the frame (instead of her eyes). But Tourneur otherwise gives us good work, considering the smallness of the TV show sets, and Stanwyck, Duryea and Blondell are as good as ever, with better than average TV level writing and performances which makes for the obvious question: why didn't The Barbara Stanwyck Show last longer than one season, with 37 episodes, between Sept 1960 to July 1961?

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Original Page July 2013

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