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Portrait of the Past


An unusual coat of arms on an heirloom piece leads a curious jeweler into discovering his uncle's involvement with an 18-year old girl and the mystery surrounding her unexplained death.



Air Dates

  • First Run - November 9, 1982
  • (No Repeat) - January 1, 1970





44     12

4 Responses to Episode 1391

This was one of the better "torn between two lovers" themed episodes of Mystery Theater. Wow, did the lovely school teacher Sarah do a number on these two men. "Portrait of the Past" flowed fantastically never really solving the crime of the story. Rather, it solved the question of whom Sarah really loved. It was a fantastic listen which gets 5 stars.

Davy Joe

First, I'd like to applaud Tammy Grimes for nailing her terrific position as Host for this CBSRMT episode. The best way I can describe it in one word: ZESTFUL. In her PROLOGUE, she gets the audience's attention on how people are unable to understand certain events and they accuse fate, luck, and/or coincidence, which leads to the episode's topic. In ACT-1 she establishes the main parts of the story: a painting, a brooch, a girl, and the memories of Love. In ACT-2, she quotes Rosalind's words from William Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT, which works well in the plot. In ACT-3, she explains the unaccountable & the unpredictable for the characters and our lives. In her EPILOGUE, she mentions a bible verse about devine love-1 Corinthians 13:11-13; not bad. The sound effects of the birds at the graveyard and at the garden, the seagulls along with the buoy and the mysterious footsteps at the docks worked perfectly. One minute the story becomes pleasant, the next minute it becomes mystifying. As for the music, it worked perfectly also. The nostalgic tunes at the11-minute 38-second mark in ACT-1, the tragedy building up at the 22-minute 55-second mark in ACT-2, and the romantic melody at the 38-minute 40-second mark in ACT-3 were dynamic! Not only do I applaud for the cast, I'd also give them a standing ovation for their acting credibility. There's William Griffis (for playing Uncle Silus Harley), Robert Kaliban (for playing both Jason Harley and Inspector Tom Webster), Carol Teitel (for playing both Maria Baker and Sarah Shelley), and Brenard Grant (for playing Magnus Whitmore). Now, here's why I rate this 4 out of 5 stars. G. Frederick Lewis wrote an interesting mystery and it was going so well until the final act. Here you a have a story about Jason Harley, a jeweler, that's curious about his uncle Silus's past about a girl he once loved. The portrait of the girl was Sarah Shelly (1912-1930): an 18-year old dainty orphan who wore a red dress standing in a corner of the garden with her long red hair, one hand beckoning, a sad smile, and stubborn mouth, and the tiny coat of arms A.K.A. the brooch. Good details he wrote. Later, it turns out at the Silus Harley and Magnus Whitmore both loved her. Silus saw Sarah for the last time in the garden and Magnus saw her for the last time at the docks. The Inspector informs them about her death from drowning and that's when the mystery went to a whole other direction where it just got confusing. No one knows if Sarah was murdered or died accidentally. Not only that, the mystery of Magnus's location at the 37-minute mark was very puzzling to me. But in the end, things worked out fine for Silus and his wraithlike sweetheart. I do recommend this episode because it's both a drama-mystery & a fantasy-mystery with a portion of romance.


As russell as already pointed out the mystery left unsolved was confusing. I did not want it to be left that way!


This episode is about exciting to listen to as watching paint dry. For three nights in a row I tried listening to it and for 3 nights I fell asleep after hearing that there was a broach that needed repair because 3 shells on a black shield where damaged. Then the act switched to the man remembering seeing some painting 50 years ago that had the broach in it. This was so monotonous that I got to thinking that have I actually seen a woman wearing a broach in real life in the past 40 years? Can't remember. Next thing I remember is waking up to silence hours later. I give up. There are some episodes not worth the trouble.


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