Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate

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Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate
Genre Mystery/Suspense/Comedy
Based on the novel by
Doris Miles Disney
Screenplay by John D. F. Black
Directed by Ted Post
Starring Helen Hayes
Vince Edwards
Myrna Loy
Mildred Natwick
Sylvia Sidney
Theme music composer Jerry Goldsmith
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Lee Rich (executive producer)
Robert Jacks (producer)
Cinematography Stanley Cortez, A.S.C.
Editor(s) Folmar Blangsted, A C E
Running time 73 minutes
Production company(s) Samuel Goldwyn Studios
Original network ABC
Original release November 9, 1971 (1971-11-09)

Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate[1][2] is an American television film made for the 90-minute series ABC Movie of the Week which broadcast it on November 9, 1971.[3] Directed by Ted Post, it stars Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Mildred Natwick, Sylvia Sidney, John Beradino and Vince Edwards,[4] with the screenplay adapted by John D. F. Black from a novel of the same name by Doris Miles Disney.[5]


Adventure-seeking ladies attract psychopathic writer[edit]

Residing in the Los Angeles County city of Pasadena, four middle class ladies in their late sixties (Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Mildred Natwick, and Sylvia Sidney) habitually meet for lunch and exchange small talk with their waitress (Dodo Denney). During the meal they discuss an "amusing" project to create a fictitious profile of a young woman and submit it to a computer dating service. Several days later, they start receiving letters from potential suitors and derive additional amusement from reading them out loud. Meanwhile, after dark, in a car parked in front of her home on a quiet residential street, a young woman (Diane Shalet) becomes alarmed by the aggressive behavior of her date (Vince Edwards) whose attempts to force himself upon her cause her to scramble out of his car and, when he comes out and attempts to manhandle and restrain her, she tearfully runs into the house, as her mother (Margaret Wheeler) calls out through the window, "Ruthie". The man gets back in his car and drives away while his audible thoughts reveal that he has difficulty relating to women and the resulting resentment and rage he feels towards them. He tries to recall the name of another prospect for a relationship and settles on the fictitious "Rebecca" submitted to the "Scientific Associates" computer dating agency by the aged ladies.

Psychopathic writer responds to the ladies' personal ad[edit]

Composing a letter on his portable typewriter, the man provides an introduction, giving his name, exact address and phone number, which makes his words seem, in the opinion of the ladies, like those of "an accountant". In the meantime, he walks down the street, thinking "it would be a break if Rebecca has a little bread, that's a big plus, yeah, to have a chick with money, makes everything so easy..." Entering a flower shop, he is asked by the European-accented florist (Leonidas Ossetynski), "how goes with the book writing, Mal?", answering, "great, great, I've got two publishers fighting over me". When the florist says, "then I guess you won't sell the movie rights to that guy from studio", he replies, "oh, not yet". Inquiring of the florist, "what've you got that's cheap?", he buys two bunches of spring flowers and leaves.[6]

Returning home, he takes a bubble bath, dreaming of his date, "here she comes down the street, five-seven, blonde, blue eyes, twenty-three, great figure, heh, I'd know her anywhere. Hi, Rebecca, these are for you. I'm Mal Weston." An hour or so later, sitting in his car across from the house, he sees two of the ladies go in, but no sight of a young woman. Going back to his place, he is enraged over wasting time and money on the flowers and smashes them against a lamp. Then, using a pay phone, he pretends to be a physician on an emergency call and gets the phone number corresponding to the ladies' address. Calling their house, he makes a date at the Pasadena cocktail lounge, "The Velvet Trap", at 5:30, even though the ladies try to put him off by pretending to be engaged.

Psychopathic writer mistakes a woman for his date and kills her[edit]

Arriving at "The Velvet Trap", the ladies are shown to their table by the hostess (Patrecia Wynand). Mal arrives soon thereafter and as they observe and critique him from across the lounge, an attractive young woman in a minidress (Barbara Davis) comes in and sits at a table. Mal introduces himself and tells her that he's been waiting for her. She says that she has an appointment at 6:30, but offers to have a drink with him at her place. As they leave, the ladies comment that he may not have been "our Malcolm Weston at all, he was too thin" and "she was too heavy to ever be Rebecca". As Mal and the woman arrive at her place, he thinks, "I could move in here and work on a book while she's at her aunt's", and then she says, "twenty dollars honey, in advance". Astonished at hearing this, he calls her "tramp" and she replies, "well, I've been called worse". Anger boiling over, he says that he wouldn't give her twenty nickels and when she tells him to leave, he pours out his anger over being deceived and, since she then threatens to call the police, kills her by smashing a candlestick over her head. Back home, while the ladies wonder if they had, indeed seen "Malcolm Weston", at the murdered woman's place, police detective Hallum (John Beradino) arrives and asks Sergeant Lutz (Larry D. Mann) the woman's name and is told, "Brenda Bauer. Brenda Ames everywhere, but at the station." Returning to his own place, Weston realizes that he neglected to wipe his fingerprints at the murder site, so he packs his belongings, stuffs his typewriter into a duffel bag and drives to Brenda's apartment, but sees that her body had already been discovered, and drives away.

At the precinct, detective Hallum questions a man (Paul Smith), "Don't get yourself in an uproar, Mr. Cutter, we really don't care why you went there". Cutter turns to his lawyer (Gary Vinson) and asks, "Do I answer that?" and the lawyer replies, "If you think you can…safely". The exasperated Hallum says to the lawyer, "For crying out loud, Mr. Jonas, you're making this guy sound as guilty as sin. Stop with the cagey act, will you, and explain to your client that unless the coroner declares Brenda Bauer hit herself on the head with that candlestick five times, we've got a murder case here. He's not a prime suspect. His fingerprints don't match the prints on that candlestick. Now tell him to start talking to me and you stop dancing and maybe we can go home. I'm tired." The diffident Jonas replies, "Well, seems reasonable, but I must insist on protecting my client's best interests". Hallum retorts, "then go out and hire him a lawyer who knows what he's doing. Like I said, I don't care why you went there. I just want to know when you made the appointment and if she said anything to you at all about what she expected to be doing before she met you. Now is that so hard to answer?" Cutter then says, "Well, as a matter of fact, we... we had a standing appointment...uh... every Tuesday at 6:30. we never saw each other any other time, or even talked on the phone. Just... uh... every Tuesday night at 6:30".

The police pursue the killer, but the ladies capture him[edit]

The next morning, the ladies look at their morning copy of The Pasadena Herald and see Brenda's photo under the front page headline "Girl Victim in Bludgeon Murder" and recognize her as the woman who left with the man presumed to be Mal Weston. Weston also sees the paper and realizes the victim wasn't Rebecca and calls the ladies' number, but they had already left the house to investigate and go to visit the hostess who is in the midst of bottle-feeding her baby and recognizes Brenda's photo in the paper. They then proceed to the address given by Weston to confirm if he is the same man they saw in the lounge. The door to his room is open and they go inside, commenting on his poor housekeeping. A man comes in, introducing himself as Tubbs (John Mitchum), the building manager. The ladies tell him they were paying a surprise visit to their nephew and leave. Weston calls the ladies again, but hangs up just before they walk in and pick up the phone. Hallum and Lutz arrive at Weston's apartment and learn from Tubbs that the ladies had already been there. Lutz says, "Have to be the same four that were at The Velvet Trap this morning and went to see that hostess after", and Hallum replies, "Looks like they got a jump on us. Got everywhere before we did." The ladies' phone rings again, but they are in the midst of visiting the precinct where, as they sit waiting, a handcuffed gum-chewing miscreant (William Sumper) stares at them and, as he is led past them, whispers something into the ear of one of the ladies (Mildred Natwick) and she promptly faints. In the meantime, Weston still gets no answer as he keeps calling the ladies' house.

Detective Hallum says to the ladies, "She'll be alright now. Sergeant Lutz was number one in his first aid class." He then tells Lutz to "get a steno in here to take this all down, we'll want an official record." After the story is told and the ladies are about to leave one of them (Helen Hayes) asks Hallum, "Would you like me to find out what that man said to Mrs. Saunders?" Hallum replies, "We know that character, m'am, we can guess what he said" and she asks, "What was it?" Hallum says, "Probably...", then stops and adds, "I really don't think you'd like to hear that" and she replies, to Hallum's consternation, "Oh, yes, I would." Before the ladies arrive home, Weston had already gone to their house, knocked on the door and then hid in the backyard. After the ladies enter the house, he confronts them and quickly erupts with rage, shouting threatening recriminations about their deceit, but when Mrs. Saunders faints again, he trips over her body, falls, is partially stunned and then is completely knocked out when the ladies smash a vase over his head. Back at the precinct, after the ladies again give details to Hallum and Lutz and then leave, Lutz wonders, "How'd they do it?" and Hallum tugs at his tie and replies, "I don't know." Lutz continues, "I mean he really could've killed them all. Even without a gun. He could've done 'em all in. He could've." Hallum surmises, "He's not a pro. He killed that Bauer girl in a panic and a fit of passion. Maybe he didn't get panicky or passionate." The ladies walk away from the precinct, exchanging small talk about the experience, ending with, "It certainly has been one hell of a day, hasn't it, girls?"[7]

Brief continuation in a similar form[edit]

On December 16, 1972, thirteen months after the November 9, 1971 ABC broadcast of Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate, NBC presented The Snoop Sisters, a two-hour television film about two aged sisters who write mysteries as well as solve crimes which take place wherever they happen to be. Although they were not the same characters as those seen in Do Not Fold, they were played in the same style by two of the earlier telefilm's cast members, Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick.

The sister relationship from the earlier film, with Helen Hayes presented as the adventurous one, wandering into dangerous situations, and Myrna Loy as the cautious, level-headed one, was repeated in the 1972 film as well as the additional four ninety-minute episodes (seen between December 1973 and March 1974),[8] with Mildred Natwick who played Helen Hayes' friend and co-adventurer in the 1971 film, taking over from Myrna Loy as the cautious sister.


Evaluation in film guides[edit]

In its title heading for this telefilm's write-up, Leonard Maltin's TV Movies & Video Guide (1989 edition) inserted a comma between "Spindle" and "or", although no such comma appears in the production's on-screen title. Maltin rated it "Average" (the other two rating possibilities being "Above average" or "Below average"), with the comment that "[W]ay in which prank turns frightening could've been handled far, far better; otherwise, good performances." Steven H. Scheuer's Movies on TV and Videocassette (1993–1994 edition) had a lower opinion of it, assigning 1½ stars (out of 4), with the opening sentence stating, "[T]his all-star comedy about murder tends to be a bit coy..."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Punched card readers sense the uniform rectangular holes in cards but damage to a card may make it unreadable. Frequently, office workers organize papers and forms by stapling or folding them together, or by impaling them on a spindle - all damaging to a card. Thus, beginning in the 1950's when punched cards became widespread, manufacturers printed a warning on cards that would be individually handled. IBM's "Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate" was the best known." — Balaban, Naomi E.; Bobick, James E., eds. (April 1, 2011), The Handy Science Answer Book (Fourth ed.), Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press, p. 34, ISBN 978-1578593217 
  2. ^ Spindle" refers to a pointed vertical metal pin on a weighted base that many office workers utilized on their desks to hold stray notes and documents; the sheets of paper would be "skewered" on the pin to form a stacked bundle of pierced pages. This device is less in use nowadays because of the injury hazard presented by the sharpened tip.
  3. ^ "Helen Hayes Tops Cast Of 4 Veteran Actresses" (Schenectady Gazette, November 6, 1971, TV section p.19)
  4. ^ "Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 24, 2016. 
  5. ^ Disney, Dorris Miles (1970). Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate. New York City: Doubleday. OCLC 98757. 
  6. ^ Maxwell, Brini. "Helen Hayes & Myrna Loy in Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate" (The Obscurity Factor, April 3, 2011)
  7. ^ Photos, screenshots and other images related to Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate
  8. ^ The Snoop Sisters at AllRovi

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