Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Miscellaneous Single Episodes
Show: The Royal Desserts Hour: "Danse Macabre"
Date: May 05 1938

CAST:

HOST, Rudy Vallee
CAMILLE SAINT-SÄENS
OLD JACQUES
THE FIDDLER
VOICES OF THE WHITE ONES

HOST:

... Boris Karloff in "Danse Macabre." Mr. Karloff's most recent appearance at our microphone was a memorable one. We recall his Armistice Day performance with a great deal of satisfaction. Tonight's play is of a different order, a frankly melodramatic thriller by Arch Oboler, whose remarkable imaginings on the "Lights Out" program -- which happens to be my favorite program -- have chilled millions of spines on Wednesday evenings at twelve-thirty during the past two years. The play was inspired by the Saint-Säens composition of the same name and the great French composer is one of two principal characters, played tonight by Harold Vermilyea. Boris Karloff in "Danse Macabre."

SFX:

APPLAUSE

MFX:

FOR AN INTRO, THEN IN BG

HOST:

Scene -- a country churchyard in provincial France. Standing beside a small white headstone -- inscribed, "To the memory of my son, Louis" -- stands Charles Camille Saint-Säens, already known as one of the world's great composers. It is night. Very late at night. As Saint-Säens weeps over the grave of his young son, a church bell tolls in the distance.

MFX:

FADES OUT, LEAVING ONLY THE DISTANT TOLLING CHURCH BELL ... BELL OUT AT [X]

SAINT-SäENS:

(SOBS)

JACQUES:

Is that you, Monsieur Saint-Säens?

SAINT-SäENS:

Who is it?

JACQUES:

It's I, Old Jacques.

SAINT-SäENS:

You're out late, my friend. [X]

JACQUES:

Yes. Sometimes I like to walk here among the tombstones. There are more of my old friends here than there are back in town. Ah, I know, Monsieur Saint-Säens, it is bitter to lose someone so young. 'Tis only when one is as old as I that Death becomes a friend.

SAINT-SäENS:

Friend? The monster that took from me the thing I loved most in all the world?

JACQUES:

To you, a monster. To me, a friend. It is a difference of thought that comes to me, perhaps, only because I have lived too long.

SFX:

OWL HOOTS

JACQUES:

Ah, the owl hoots. He tells old Jacques it's time to be home. Good night, Monsieur Saint-Säens.

SAINT-SäENS:

Good night, Jacques.

JACQUES:

Do not weep too long, monsieur. Your little one rests. And rest here in a quiet, bowered churchyard must be very sweet. (MOVING OFF) Yes, it's sweet.

SFX:

DISTANT CHURCH BELL RINGS BRIEFLY, IN BG

SAINT-SäENS:

Hmph! Rest. (SADLY) My little Louis. Why you? Why - why you? I loved you so, my little son. I was going to make beautiful songs for you to sing. And now-- Oh, my son--

MFX:

DISTANT FIDDLE PLAYS GENTLE "DANSE MACABRE" THEME BRIEFLY, THEN FADES OUT BY [X]

SAINT-SäENS:

Music. Here? That can't be. [X] And yet-- Yet I heard it. Oh, well. 'Twas in my weary head.

MFX:

DISTANT FIDDLE PLAYS GENTLE "DANSE MACABRE" THEME AGAIN ... THEN, IN BG

SAINT-SäENS:

Mm, there it is again. (CALLS) You out there! Fiddler?! Where are you?!

MFX:

FIDDLE ABRUPTLY OUT ... A PAUSE

FIDDLER:

(CLOSE, QUIET, CREEPY) Right at your side, Monsieur.

SAINT-SäENS:

(STARTLED GASP)

FIDDLER:

Oh, do not be startled. We have met before.

SAINT-SäENS:

I - know you?

FIDDLER:

Yes, monsieur. You know me.

SAINT-SäENS:

You'll pardon me. It's so dark--

FIDDLER:

The moon will be out in a moment. Then you will see.

SAINT-SäENS:

The moon? You're mistaken, monsieur. There is no moon.

FIDDLER:

I am never mistaken, Monsieur Saint-Säens. See? The clouds have broken. (PAUSE) Look at me, my friend.

SAINT-SäENS:

(RECOGNITION) You?!

FIDDLER:

You remember me.

SAINT-SäENS:

The dark stranger. The day my son--

FIDDLER:

The day your son had a most unfortunate accident.

SAINT-SäENS:

You - you were the one to pick him up. You - you held him in your arms.

FIDDLER:

Yes. I held him in my arms.

SAINT-SäENS:

(SLOWLY) When you handed him to me, where did you go?

FIDDLER:

Why, I'm a very busy man, monsieur. I go many places.

SAINT-SäENS:

I never had a chance to tell you how much I appreciated your help.

FIDDLER:

My help. (PAUSE) You loved that boy.

SAINT-SäENS:

He - he was my life.

FIDDLER:

And, without him, life is empty?

SAINT-SäENS:

It is.

FIDDLER:

So you come here every night and weep by his grave.

SAINT-SäENS:

How did you know?

FIDDLER:

I, too, come here every night.

SAINT-SäENS:

I never saw you.

FIDDLER:

I did not wish to be seen.

SAINT-SäENS:

Ah. You, too, have a sorrow.

FIDDLER:

Sorrow brings men close together.

SAINT-SäENS:

Yes.

FIDDLER:

Your boy. Hm, he would have had great talent.

SAINT-SäENS:

A voice -- crystal clear.

FIDDLER:

And now -- now he is silent. Forever.

SAINT-SäENS:

Forever.

FIDDLER:

Why go on living, Saint-Säens?

SAINT-SäENS:

You - you said something, monsieur?

FIDDLER:

You and I are very much akin.

SAINT-SäENS:

I - I'm afraid I don't understand.

FIDDLER:

Did you not hear me play before?

SAINT-SäENS:

It - it was you?

FIDDLER:

Yes. And you are the very first to hear me play.

SAINT-SäENS:

The music -- so strange. I - I thought I'd heard it before in my own mind.

FIDDLER:

You had heard it. And that is why-- Listen to me, Saint-Säens. Join me. Tonight.

SAINT-SäENS:

In what, monsieur? You'll pardon me again. I don't understand.

FIDDLER:

You said your son was all your life. You meant that?

SAINT-SäENS:

All my life.

FIDDLER:

Then -- why go on living? Your son is at rest here. Why not join him in peace -- forever?

SAINT-SäENS:

What - what are you saying?

FIDDLER:

Life has been cruel to you. She has taken from you your son. Now he's at rest. And you can rest with him. No more sorrow, no more tears. It is yours for the asking.

SAINT-SäENS:

But I am strong. There are many years ahead of me.

FIDDLER:

Your son is waiting.

SAINT-SäENS:

But what can I do?

FIDDLER:

I offer you a way.

SAINT-SäENS:

You?

FIDDLER:

I've been watching you a long time, Saint-Säens, and I want you to join me. Tonight.

SAINT-SäENS:

Monsieur, you said that before. Please speak plainly.

FIDDLER:

You and I are weary of life. Let us take the other path.

SAINT-SäENS:

You - you mean--?

FIDDLER:

With these.

SAINT-SäENS:

(INHALES IN SURPRISE) Pistols!

FIDDLER:

Yes. With pistols. They offer us release, Saint-Säens. Release from the miseries of living. Rest for our weariness.

SAINT-SäENS:

The coward's way! No, no, no.

FIDDLER:

We are men of will, Saint-Säens.

SAINT-SäENS:

No! No!

FIDDLER:

Peace and rest.

SAINT-SäENS:

I can't, I tell you, I can't!

FIDDLER:

It would be so easy to do. Together. (FIRMLY) Take the pistol in your hands -- so.

SAINT-SäENS:

(SLIGHT PAUSE, QUIETLY) Pistol is cold.

FIDDLER:

Life is colder.

SAINT-SäENS:

And you, too, will do it?

FIDDLER:

Yes. You see? My hand, too, holds a pistol. I press it close -- close up against my heart.

SAINT-SäENS:

I - I never thought I would--

FIDDLER:

No, no, do not think. Do. Your little one is waiting. Your - your Louis.

SAINT-SäENS:

My Louis.

FIDDLER:

Your finger curves around the trigger. You press the pistol close against your heart.

SAINT-SäENS:

Yes.

FIDDLER:

Your finger tightens -- closer, closer against the trigger. Closer--

SFX:

SLIGHTLY OFF ... THREE HOLLOW TAPS ... OF BONE AGAINST WOOD

SAINT-SäENS:

What was that?

FIDDLER:

Nothing. Press the trigger, Saint-Säens.

SFX:

THREE MORE TAPS

SAINT-SäENS:

Huh?

FIDDLER:

The trigger, Saint-Säens. Rest. Peace.

SAINT-SäENS:

But - didn't you hear? A knocking. From the tomb!

FIDDLER:

Listen only to me.

SAINT-SäENS:

But I heard it!

FIDDLER:

Listen to me. You must press the trigger. You must!

SFX:

MORE AND MORE TAPS, IN BG

VOICE:

(EERIE, ECHO) Master! It is time!

SAINT-SäENS:

What voice was that?

SFX:

TAPS STOP

FIDDLER:

Press the trigger, Saint-Säens, quickly, quickly. You first, then I. You cannot fail me. You cannot.

2ND VOICE:

(EERIE, ECHO) Master! It is time! Time for the dance!

SAINT-SäENS:

What madness is this? These voices. They - they come from the grave!

FIDDLER:

You must do it! You must! Press the trigger. You must join me, you said you would! All my plans. I've waited so long for you. Do it. Fire, Saint-Säens. Fire.

1ST VOICE:

(EERIE, ECHO) Master, we wait.

SAINT-SäENS:

It is from beneath the ground!

FIDDLER:

I cannot fail. I cannot.

VOICES:

(ECHO) Hear us, Master! It is time! Play for us, Master! Play! Play!

SAINT-SäENS:

(OVERLAPS WITH ABOVE) To whom do they speak? They are the dead. And yet I hear them. Tell me, you fiddler! To whom do they speak?!

FIDDLER:

Press the trigger, mortal! Press!

SFX:

VOICES FALL SILENT AS DISTANT CHURCH BELL RINGS

FIDDLER:

Too late. I must play for the dance. So be it. (CALLS) Do you hear me, white ones?! So be it! Arise, arise! It's time for the dance!

MFX:

LIVELY "DANSE MACABRE" THEME BEGINS ... CONTINUES IN BG

SFX:

THE WHITE ONES EMERGE FROM THE EARTH, MURMURING ... RATTLE AND TAPPING OF DANCING OF SKELETON BONES, CONTINUES IN BG

VOICES:

(ECHO, MURMURING, CONTINUES IN BG)

SAINT-SäENS:

(SHOCKED) The graves! They open! The dead -- arise!

VOICES:

(ECHO) We are here, Master! Play! Play!

FIDDLER:

(CALLS) Dance, my white ones! Dance! (QUIETER) Come, Saint-Säens, dance. Dance!

SAINT-SäENS:

(TO HIMSELF) Terrible! He plays and they dance! Bones! Dead men -- dancing!

VOICES:

(ECHO, HIDEOUS LAUGHTER)

SAINT-SäENS:

What goes on?! You, Fiddler, you spoke to me of peace -- and now this! Oh, unhappy dancers!

FIDDLER:

(LAUGHS) Dance, my white ones! Dance to my tune! (LAUGHS)

VOICES:

(MORE HIDEOUS LAUGHTER)

SAINT-SäENS:

Fiddler, who are you?!

FIDDLER:

Does it matter who I am, Saint-Säens? Oh, listen to me. If you take your life, you will be as my dancers are! A happy rattle of bones! A grinning joy, dancing each night like those out there!

SAINT-SäENS:

You?! Death?!

FIDDLER:

(CHUCKLES) How quick you are, my friend!

SAINT-SäENS:

But - but death is rest.

FIDDLER:

Ah, but there are two kinds of death, Saint-Säens. One kind, gentle -- a death who gives the empty silence of rest to those who face life and fight it to the end. But then there is the other death. For those who listen to me. Happy dancers to my music forever! Come, Saint-Säens, the pistol! Draw in the dance!

SAINT-SäENS:

No, no, no! Oh, my head. Stop talking to me!

FIDDLER:

Watch, Saint-Säens, watch! My white ones dance so well for me. Listen to my music. You must -- you will -- join the dance! (CALLS) Dance, my white ones! Faster! Faster! FASTER! (LAUGHS)

SFX:

BONES TAP AND RATTLE FASTER AND FASTER AS MUSIC INCREASES IN TEMPO

MFX:

CLIMAX OF "DANSE MACABRE" ... IN BG

VOICES:

(ECHO, WOO-ING AND AHH-ING, IN BG, INCREASINGLY LOUDER)

FIDDLER:

Zig! Zig-a-zig-zig!
Ha haaaaaaaa!
Death knocks at the tomb with a rhythmic heel!
Death fiddles at dawning a horrible tune!
The wind of winter whistles, dark is the night!
Groans come from the linden trees!
White skeletons come out across the darkness!
They run, they leap -- each under his shroud!
Zig-a-zig, zig-a-zig!
Each miserable sinner!
Ah, come, Saint-Säens! Join the dance! (LAUGHS)

SFX:

LONG, LOUD COCK CROW ... TOPS EVERYTHING ... SUDDEN SILENCE

MFX:

ABRUPTLY OUT WITH ABOVE

FIDDLER:

(HUSHED) All-a-sudden, they leave their whirl.

SFX:

QUIET RATTLE OF BONES SLOWLY RETURNING TO GRAVES ... CONTINUES IN BG

FIDDLER:

They thrust each other back to their graves. They must! The cock has crowed.

MFX:

SAD AND GENTLE "DANSE MACABRE" THEME ON VIOLIN

FIDDLER:

Quick, Saint-Säens, quickly, join them. Use the pistol! Join them before it is too late! Dawn is coming! Join them, man!

SAINT-SäENS:

No. Never. Never! Look at them. Unhappy bones. No rest. No peace. I'll never join you, never! Better life with all its sorrow than that! I tell you, I'll live out my life to the end!

MFX:

OUT

SFX:

SILENCE

FIDDLER:

Ah, but I've not lost, Saint-Säens. With you, I will never lose. Though you deny me, you will never forget my music.

MFX:

CLIMAX OF "DANSE MACABRE" AGAIN ... BUILDS IN BG

FIDDLER:

It will sing! It will ring in your head -- hour after hour, day after day -- till you can bear it no longer! You will write it, note for note, measure for measure, and all the world will hear my voice! Farewell, Saint-Säens. You see, I am still victorious. (INCREASINGLY MANIACAL LAUGHTER)

MFX:

BUILDS TO A FEROCIOUS CLIMAX UNDER THE FIDDLER'S LAUGHTER, THEN OUT

SFX:

APPLAUSE ...