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"A Piano in the House" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.

Episode Details

Opening Narration

"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."

Episode Summary

Drama critic Fitzgerald Fortune goes to Throckmorton's curio shop to buy his young wife Esther a player piano as a birthday present. At the shop, as the hard-bitten and hard-shelled owner plays the piano, he reveals his soft, sentimental side to Fortune. Fortune notices that the piano's music somehow reveals people's true feelings and purchases it. Later at home, the solemn, elderly butler, Marvin, bursts out laughing under the influence of the piano and reveals that he actually enjoys working for Fortune. When Fortune puts on a roll for his wife, she confesses that she detests him for his cruelty to her and the people around him. He then tries it out on one of his wife's party guests, jaded playwright Gregory Walker, who admits to being in love with Fitzgerald's wife Esther and that they had a tryst while she was on vacation away from Fitzgerald. At the party, Fitzgerald chooses a guest—a heavy-set woman named Marge Moore—to demonstrate the piano's effects. Marge admits to really wanting to be a ballet dancer, light, graceful and ethereal as a snowflake. The others laugh at her, and when the music stops, she is embarrassed. Fitzgerald then announces he is going to reveal the devil himself and inserts a new roll into the piano, but Esther swaps it for a different one. When the music (a lullaby) plays, everyone looks to see who will be affected. Fitzgerald reveals himself to be nothing more than a frightened and sadistic child who is jealous of others around him. He admits to writing bad reviews for Greg's play because he is jealous of his talent. He also admits to Esther that the reason he treats her so terribly is because he cannot understand and accept love. Disturbed, the guests suddenly depart; Gregory and Esther leave together. A rejected Fitzgerald throws a tantrum and ruins the piano roll by pulling it out and ripping it up. Finally, Marvin walks in and finds Fitzgerald in the middle of his tirade. Fitzgerald asks Marvin not to laugh at him, to which he replies; 'I'm not laughing. You're not funny anymore'.

Closing Narration

"Mr. Fitzgerald Fortune, a man who went searching for concealed persons and found himself - in the Twilight Zone."

Preview for Next Week's Story

A symbol of a sad but rather commonplace event. An impressive funeral, the deceased laid out in a most acceptable manner...but in this case, at the last moment deciding that in matters concerning the trip to the great beyond, perhaps this trip wasn't necessary. You'll see it next week on The Twilight Zone when we present Montgomery Pittman's "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank".


The episode has become well known for the performance of Barry Morse as its protagonist, but is often thought of as one of the worst episodes in the series. 

Technical Information


Production Companies


  • Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1959) (USA) (TV) (original airing)

Home media release

This episode is included on the Image Entertainment Vol. 26 DVD along with "The Big Tall Wish", "Showdown with Rance McGrew" and "Night Call".

Memorable Quotes

Main article: List of memorable quotes from the first series