Saturday, January 1, 2011

Where the Woodbine Twineth

I took these still shots to capture, study, and share the black doll featured in the 1965 episode of Alfred Hitchcock, "Where the Woodbine Twineth." 



Top to bottom images feature Numa (the doll), Eva (role portrayed by the young actress Eileen Baral), and Suse (the maid, actress Juanita Moore).

Hitchcock's "Where the Woodbine Twineth" is about an orphaned girl who goes to live with her grandfather and his stern sister, her great-aunt.  Grandfather gifts Eva, who already has imaginary friends, with a black doll that she calls, Numa.  In classic Alfred Hitchcock style, a turn of events brings the doll to life (live doll played by actress, Lila Perry). 

After viewing this episode, I wondered whether Numa was on the market in or around 1965 or if she was a mere set doll.  After viewing the episode, taking and examining the still shots, I believe Numa was a white doll painted black/brown. 


Click the play button to watch this 45-minute episode.

Commentary:  During the 1960s when this Alfred Hitchcock episode aired, status and perceived privilege were often  depicted in televised shows as well as in film.  Art imitated life, particularly southern American life where most whites were quite blatant in their actions to prove and maintain their "privilege." The portrayal of  African Americans as insignificant beings or hired help was the unfortunate norm on film and TV, as evidenced in this Hitchcock show.

We've come a long way here in America, but we still have an even longer road to travel. 

dbg

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24 comments:

  1. Interesting!
    I couldn't access the video because it is only streamed in the US. The stills and your description are great though.

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  2. Hi Susie,

    I'm sorry the Hulu video link did not work for you. I found another link at the NBC website. It took a while for the video to load for me. Hopefully you can view it here. Wait for it to load.

    dbg

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  3. Interesting! And oh, how true.

    Ruth

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  4. That is very interesting. I wasn't aware of this movie. You are right about this doll starting off white and being painted.

    I didn't actually watch the movie because I have never wanted to watch a movie where dolls come to life. I have too many dolls in my house and I don't want any visions of them turning against me. LOL.

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  5. Hi Vanessa,

    I promise the doll does not turn against anyone in this episode of Alfred Hitchcock.

    I wouldn't watch or recommend anyone watch anything that involves dolls attacking people.

    dbg

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  6. This is a good and memorable episode. Thank you for the still shots.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this link on your blog Debbie!As you know I watched this episode as a child and I was pleased to see it again on the Alfred Hitchcock Hour (on a retro TV station in Pittsburgh).
    As a child I always wanted that doll!! But you're right she is definitely painted Black.
    I wonder what happened to that doll?Maybe she's still in some Hollywood prop storage.
    Bonnie

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  8. You have some of the best post! I love the show but I wonder if it was common for little white girls to have black dolls in 1965. Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Sterling were ahead of their time with regards to race relations.

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  9. Thanks for the compliment, Jenna.

    No, I don't think it was common at all for white girls to have black dolls during the 1960s, but I know some did. The Internet has connected me with several white women who informed they owned a black doll or two as a child. Often, these were their favorite dolls.

    AH and RS were definitely ahead of their time, especially AH.

    dbg

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    Replies
    1. I was born in New York City in 1961. When I was three or four years old, someone gave me a black, rubber, baby doll. I loved that doll and she was my favorite. She smelled awful due to the rubber, but I carried her everywhere I went.

      I guess if I lived in the South, folks would have whispered. I carried her until her faced rubbed off and I believe that my mother thought she looked much too odd "faceless" and she was taken away from me. I remember crying about that baby.

      Also, I watched the "Where the Woodbind Twineth" and I thought the episode was spooky. Eileen Baral, the young actress was extraordinary. It appears that she dropped out of Hollywood, but I believe that she lives in Manhattan Beach, CA.

      Delete
  10. Jenna
    I don't know how common it was but I have a few antique/vintage photots of little White girls and their Black dolls. (I also collect antique/vintage photos of little Black girls with their dolls and if I come across a photo of a little White girl with her Black doll on eBay I try to get it!)
    Bonnie

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  11. This show is running now and I happened upon this site while looking to

    I didn't know if anyone mentioned that this show is based on a short story by a man named Manly Wade Wellman. He apparently writes lots of spooky stories the Woodbine and that's totally up my ally, but I can't seem to find his books for a reasonable price. I'd love to get my hands on it to see how close the screen adaptation was to the original.

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  12. Adia - Thank you for sharing the inspirational source for Hitchcock's "Where the Woodbine Twineth." I looked the author up on half.com where several of his titles appear available and some are reasonably priced.

    I hope this helps!

    dbg

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  13. I know I'm late in posting this comment since I just discovered your blog, but I am so glad you wrote about one of my favorite episodes (so far) of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour. What I found interesting about the doll's name is that Numa sounds like pneuma, a word that can mean the breath of life. The girl's imagination (or magic?) brings her to life.

    Thank you for providing a perspective on this other than the one I saw somewhere online in which the reviewer describes Numa as a voodoo doll, an assumption I found off-base and racist. I've been getting into mid-century tv shows lately, and am always fascinated to find the ones that defy the sterotypes of their day. A white girl with a black doll is definitely groundbreaking and thought-provoking.

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    Replies
    1. It's never too late to comment on any of my posts, Tiffany, and I am glad you discovered my blog and shared your thoughts.

      I had not made the Numa/pneuma connection. Thank you for sharing it. I wonder if that was Hitchcock's underlying theme -- that Eva's love for Numa was powerful enough to bring the doll to life while sacrificing her own.

      dbg

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  14. Thanks so much for posting! This was my 1st time seeing it,,,was very interesting.
    PCC

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    Replies
    1. You are welcome, PCC. I am glad you viewed it and found it interesting. Thank you for posting your comment.

      dbg

      Delete
  15. Nice blog. My favorite episode haven't seen it since I was nine.I have been waiting for this one and fell asleep before it came on. It came on at 1am and I woke up on the last 15 mins.Does anyone know what that wierd nursey rhyme Nuns and Eva were saying?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Rose Petals,

      Pardon my delayed reply regarding the nursery rhyme that Numa and Eva were saying. I had to re-view this Alfred Hitchcock episode before replying. If you are referring to the end when Numa has come to life and is playing with Eva the doll, the rhyme is something that was probably written specifically for this episode. It explains the contrast between reality and make believe -- where the woodbine twineth. I have copied and pasted the words below:

      "Life is hard but where the woodbine twineth it’s summertime all the time. There’s apples and peaches. You can play anything you want to play anytime you want to play it. The jacks are the stars and the ball is the sun and the moon. There’s candy canes and everybody has a doll."
      Numa

      (It sounds like a wonderful place to me.)

      dbg

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  16. Doesn't sound like a wonderful place to me.The nursey rhyme I'm talking about is not the one you quoted. Someone else remembers it as well. I remember a scene where a woman is troubled by a little girl who sings the grisly skipping rhyme:

    When she's dead, Boil her head, Turn it into gingerbread. This is from someone's website. The kingdom of GOD sounds like a wonderful place to me. As I was reading my scriptures and doing word studies I noticed, Pneuma is a noun meaning soul , spirit. GOD breathed into Adam the breath of life and man became a living Soul(Pneuma). So apparently Numa was a spirit.

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    Replies
    1. I read this morning, probably from the same website you are quoting, that this "boil her head" rhyme is not in the Alfred Hitchcock episode.

      What I read specifically states:
      She adds: 'I also found out that the little song about "stuff her head with gingerbread" is from a movie called Girly. I watched "Where the Woodbine Twineth" eight times and it is not in it anywhere.'
      (http://www.wildyorkshire.co.uk/naturediary/docs/2003/6/24b.html)

      If you saw/heard it in the episode, please tell me the time location where it occurs on the YouTube video?

      dbg

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    2. What youtube video? I saw it as a child. When it came on tv I woke up on the last 15 mins of it. The one you watched eight times was on youtube? I tried to watch it the volume/audio is bad. But I know what I heard maybe they edited out. Don't know. It might be on the Alfred Hickcock Hour DVD. No big deal.

      Delete
    3. The other rhyme goes like this "... Where you from? New Orleans. What's your trade? Lemonade..."
      Unfortunately, I don't remember all of it.

      Delete
  17. The link to the Youtube video was included in my. Blog post.

    dbg

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!