A Piano in the House - Recap

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Theater critic Fitzgerald Fortune enters an antique store and finally finds the owner. He is less than impressed with Fortune, but the critic wants to get a piano player for his much younger wife. The owner, Throckmorton, has one and turns it on for Fortune. Throckmorton mellows as the music plays, but as soon as it stops he snaps at Fortune again. Fortune is puzzled but quickly leaves for his wife's party after paying and arranging for delivery.

Fortune returns home later and tells his dour butler Marvin to cheer up. After the butler leaves, Fortune tells his wife Esther to let Marvin go because he's so depressing. Esther is concerned for Marvin's feelings but Fortune could care less. She's been waiting for Fortune to come home to try the piano, and is less than thrilled when he informs her he bought a piano player so she wouldn't have to discover how poor a piano player she would be. Fortune puts a roll on the player piano and a song rolls out, while Marvin serves drinks. Fortune turns... and notices Marvin smiling broadly. The butler declares that nothing can get him down, even Fortune's rude behavior. Then the song stops and Marvin comes abruptly back to himself. Fortune dismisses him and begins to realize what's going on. He puts on another song and Esther bursts into a rage, telling her husband that she was a child when she married him but has long realized that he's a sadistic brute. She can't stand it any more and declares she hates him. Fortune shuts off the song and congratulates her on her performance. He decides to play the piano at the party that night and is looking forward to seeing what is revealed.

That night, Fortune's friend Greg arrives and is surprised that the critic is so cheerful. Bachelor Greg denies any interest in parties and get-togethers but Fortune is skeptical, noting the word is that Greg is a ladies man. Fortune puts a romantic song on the piano and Greg starts describing Esther in glowing terms. He mentions meeting her in Mexico City when she was supposedly on a trip by herself. Esther comes in and finds Greg speaking of her and shuts off the piano. Fortune reveals he's known about her affairs for years and just used the piano to find out the details.

The next guest, an obese woman named Marge Moore, comes in and admits she can't stay on her diets. Marge cheerfully flirts with Greg and makes jokes about her weight, then starts eating as the other guests arrive. Fortune calls the party to order and puts a new roll on the piano. He invites Marge to play his new "game" and turns on the music. Marge starts to dance and then says that she's a snowflake that melts with the love of a man. The party goers laugh except for Greg and Esther, and Fortune shuts off the music.

Marge is humiliated and Fortune tells Esther to put on a roll. She substitutes one of her own and when the music plays, Fortune confesses he's a poor frightened child. Greg and Marge prod him into admitting that he's frightened of all of them and he's nothing but a little boy that likes to hurt people. He admits he envies Marge and tried to hurt them all for how they were superior to him. Marge and the others go while Fortune admits he was frightened by her love and drove her off. Greg asks her to come with him and she leaves. Fortune is left by himself and he throws a temper tantrum, smashing the glasses and furniture. He rips the roll of music off the piano as Marvin comes in and notes that he's no longer funny.