A Piano in the House
|"A Piano in the House"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||David Greene|
|Written by||Earl Hamner, Jr.|
|Featured music||Stock plus the player piano|
|Original air date||February 16, 1962|
Drama critic Fitzgerald Fortune, a caustic, cruel man, goes to Throckmorton's curio shop to buy his wife Esther a player piano as a twenty-sixth birthday present. The grouchy owner demonstrates the piano by placing a roll of music inside. As it plays, he begins speaking in a gentle, sentimental manner, even giving Fitzgerald a 20% discount simply because it is a gift. When the music stops, the owner resumes his ill-tempered sniping.
Esther questions why, after she has often said that she wants to learn to play piano, Fitzgerald bought her a player piano. He cheerfully tells her that this will save her the time and expense of taking piano lessons only to find that she has no talent for the instrument. As he demonstrates the piano, the Fortunes' normally solemn butler Marvin begins to grin brightly. He says that he is happy because he is well-paid, enjoys his work, and likes his two employers. When Fitzgerald protests that he treats Marvin poorly, Marvin reveals he finds his ego and temper amusing, to the point where he frequently has to restrain himself from laughing aloud. Again, this change ends when the tune does. Fitzgerald suspects that the piano makes people reveal their innermost thoughts. He tests it further by placing a roll in the piano for Esther. She says she hates him, and has come to believe that he married her because he wanted someone to bully rather than to love. She attributes her marrying him to youthful naivete. Satisfied with the piano's performance, Fitzgerald decides to use it on the birthday party guests.
The first guest to arrive is the playwright Gregory Walker. Gregory professes a distaste for any emotional involvement, but when the piano plays he admits to strong feelings for Esther, and even confesses that they had a tryst while she was on vacation. Esther is mortified, and implores Fitzgerald not to play the piano to the other guests.
The rest of the guests arrive. Marge Moore is the life of the party, enjoying the food and company while making jokes about her heavyset figure. When no one immediately volunteers for Fitzgerald's "party game", he picks Marge as the first to listen to the piano. Marge goes into a trance, identifying herself as a little girl named Tina who loves to dance ballet. Fortune encourages her to demonstrate, and she does so, prompting laughter from all of the party guests except Esther and Gregory. With further prompting, Marge speaks dreamily about her desire to be a tiny, graceful snowflake, melting in the hand of a man who loves her. The guests stop laughing, while Fortune continues to roar with glee. The song ends, and a humiliated Marge takes her seat.
Fitzgerald next has Esther insert a roll for himself, expecting the guests to be shocked by "the devil" inside him. Instead, the music makes Fitzgerald speak in a petulant, frightened voice. At the guests' prompting, he admits that deep down, he is a child who is terrified of everything and everyone. He confesses that he hurt Marge and Gregory because he is jealous of Marge's eagerness for life and Gregory's talent. The guests leave without comment as Fitzgerald makes his final confession: he treated Esther with coldness and cruelty because he lacks the emotional maturity to receive and reciprocate her love. Gregory asks Esther to leave with him, and she does so, leaving Fortune alone.
Fitzgerald, distraught at being abandoned, throws a tantrum, destroying furniture and decorations in the room. He ends his tirade by ripping the roll from the piano. Marvin enters; remembering his earlier confession Fitzgerald orders "Don't laugh at me." A somber Marvin replies, "I'm not laughing, Mr Fortune. You're not funny anymore."
- Barry Morse as Fitzgerald "Jerry" Fortune
- Joan Hackett as Esther Fortune
- Muriel Landers as Marge Moore
- Cyril Delevanti as Marvin (the Butler)
- Don Durant as Gregory "Greg" Walker
- Phil Coolidge as Throckmorton
|“||Mr. Fitzgerald Fortune, theater critic and cynic at large, on his way to a birthday party. If he knew what is in store for him he probably wouldn't go, because before this evening is over that cranky old piano is going to play "Those Piano Roll Blues" with some effects that could happen only in the Twilight Zone.||”|
|“||Mr. Fitzgerald Fortune, a man who went searching for concealed persons and found himself in the Twilight Zone.||”|
- Zicree, Marc Scott. The Twilight Zone Companion, Bantam Books, 1982. ISBN 0-553-01416-1
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0