Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Fleischmann's Yeast Hour
Show: Death Takes a Holiday
Date: Jul 06 1933

CAST:
HOST, Rudy Vallee
NARRATOR
DUKE
SHADOW

HOST:

... The brief dramatic sketch that we've chosen for tonight is a most unusual scene from a decidedly unusual play. By conventional standards, it is not what is called "good radio material" at all. However, in planning this program, we try occasionally to include things you are not likely to hear anywhere else. And so, by arrangement with Lee Shubert, we present Bert Lytell with Reginald Carrington in a scene from "Death Takes a Holiday."

MUSIC:

FOR AN INTRODUCTION ... THEN INCREASINGLY EERIE BEHIND NARRATOR--

NARRATOR:

Time -- the present. Scene -- the great hall of the castle of Duke Lambert de Catolica near the lake of Como in Italy. Strange things have been happening this day about the castle. An automobile carrying guests of the Duke has escaped a fatal accident -- miraculously. A servant, lying at death's door with a fever, has recovered -- miraculously. One of the guests -- a lovely girl -- has been frightened by a strange, causeless shadow in the garden. Others have seen this queer shadow, have felt its cold presence in the house. At nightfall, a terrific storm engulfs the castle. Duke Lambert sits alone in the great hall, waiting -- a revolver on the table before him. While he watches, a window opening on the garden moves. At the window appears a face, deadly pale, cowled in black. And then--

SOUND:

OMINOUS ROLL OF THUNDER ... THUNDER CONTINUES INTERMITTENTLY IN BG

DUKE:

Who's there? (NO ANSWER) Who's there?! Speak up, or I'll shoot! (SURPRISED, TO HIMSELF) Oh, I-- I cannot-- I cannot pull the trigger.

SHADOW:

I beg you, do not be afraid.

DUKE:

Who--? Who are you?

SHADOW:

(AMUSED) I don't wonder you ask. As a caller, I suppose I am unusual, even unique.

DUKE:

You stand back -- or I'll fire!

SHADOW:

It's quite useless against me. Break your gun.

SOUND:

DUKE BREAKS THE GUN

SHADOW:

Now pull the trigger.

SOUND:

DUKE PULLS TRIGGER A FEW TIMES ... GUN CLICKS AUDIBLY

SHADOW:

You see, it works now.

DUKE:

Who--? Who are you?

SHADOW:

I beg your pardon. I've been so interested in my reception I've forgotten to explain. I'm afraid it may be difficult. I think perhaps you'd better sit. (BEAT) No, I think over here. Your back may need support.

DUKE:

Is this some horrible masquerade? If it is, I--

SHADOW:

No, strange though it may seem, this is my natural appearance. That is, to you. In justice to myself I may say that my true appearance is much more attractive than this. Unfortunately I can only appear to man as man imagines me to be. Do I make myself clear? (NO ANSWER) Evidently not. I told you it would be difficult. I am -- how may I describe it? -- sort of a vagabond of space. For instance, at one moment I'm casting my shadow on the evening star and plucking some mortal on the earth by the sleeve. Do I make myself clear?

DUKE:

Who are you? Tell me!

SHADOW:

I told you it would be difficult. I am -- or was, until I crossed your threshold -- Death.

SOUND:

A PARTICULARLY OMINOUS ROLL OF THUNDER

DUKE:

Death?!

SHADOW:

Oh, rest assured. I'm not here on my usual errand. Quite the contrary. If I were, would I be chatting with you like this? No. I would have lain beside you for an instant on your bed, or breathed on your hair as I passed by.

DUKE:

Then that explains--?

SHADOW:

Yes. Several things. I thought your son was quite desperate tonight. If I'd been playing my proper role, I would have taken him and those charming young people in the car. Oh, regretfully, I assure you. I actually had a hold of his wheels on the edge of the precipice.

DUKE:

You held--? You saved--?

SHADOW:

Amusing, isn't it? Death in the role of a guardian angel. But I did. Now, doesn't that convince you that I have no lethal intentions?

DUKE:

Yes, it - it does, rather.

SHADOW:

Good! Now, in a few moments I think we shall be quite good friends. But I think perhaps that you'd better sit again. There are a few more unusual details. I am about to take a holiday. Again, that sounds incredible, doesn't it? Even to me. Just think, for the first time in history there will be no murders, no fatal accidents. No man will even die in his bed. Not a leaf will fall, nor a star from heaven. Nothing will crumble or decay. There will be only life, and growth -- sort of a cosmic springtime. Of course, that couldn't last indefinitely or there'd be a serious overcrowding. (DIGRESSES) That could be remedied with another world war, but-- Ohhhh, no. That gives me too much work. (RESUMES) I shall take just three days, and try to crowd into them as much as possible. After that, I must go back.

DUKE:

But - but why are you doing this?

SHADOW:

Oh, for several reasons. For one thing, I want to find out why men fear me as they do.

DUKE:

Don't you know?

SHADOW:

How could I know, who have never experienced mortal sensation? What could I know of terror, who have nothing to fear? Or of pity, when I must not pity? Or of kindness, or aspiration, or love? These are merely words whose meaning I am curious to discover. In particular I want to learn something about love. That seems to be a most potent force which makes men do quite mad things. It is the name most often on the lips of man when he comes to me, unless he's old and worn and spent with life. Then there are other reasons. Can you conceive how weary I am of always being misunderstood? I see things that are young, and gracious, and fragrant; and I desire them. But if I come near -- if they feel the shadow of my presence -- horror steals upon their minds. Can you conceive how utterly lonely I am, when there is nothing that doesn't fear me, that doesn't shrink as I draw near?

DUKE:

(SLOWLY) Yes. Yes, of course, I-- I--

SHADOW:

There is something here, to be known and felt -- something desirable that makes men cling to life and fear me. And I must know what it is. In short, my dear sir, I wish to lead a complete life in the course of three days -- as your guest.

DUKE: (NERVOUSLY) As - as a guest?

SHADOW:

Oh, as a mortal. I assure you I shall be quite a man of the world.

DUKE:

(WITH AN EFFORT) Why, uh, in that case, I-- I should be, uh, most happy.

SHADOW:

Well, that's extremely kind of you. I realize that I'm asking a great deal. Now, will it be too much to put me up for those days? (SLIGHTLY THREATENING) Will it?

DUKE:

(QUICKLY) No, no, no. No, not in the least. I have a suite of rooms prepared for an old friend who was expected, Prince Sirki, of Vitalba Alexandri.

SHADOW:

(SURPRISED) Prince Sirki? (SADLY) Oh, no. No, no.

DUKE:

(DISMAYED) Ohhhhh, then--? Then you--?

SHADOW:

Yes -- just this afternoon. Of course, I didn't know he was a friend of yours.

DUKE:

Then-- Then I'm not to expect--?

SHADOW:

No, I'm sorry.

DUKE:

Ahhhh, poor Sirki.

SHADOW:

Well, a suggestion comes from that. Was the Prince known to your household or to your guests?

DUKE:

No. No, none of them knew him.

SHADOW:

Well, since I've been obliged to deprive you of a guest, it is only just that I should supply one in his place. Therefore, I will be Prince Sirki of Vitalba Alexandri. (STERNLY) On one condition -- I insist that no one under this roof, or no one who visits you, will show repulsion or fear, under pain of my instant displeasure.

SOUND:

ANOTHER POINTEDLY OMINOUS ROLL OF THUNDER

DUKE:

I - I understand, Your Highness.

SHADOW:

I will have nothing distasteful on my holiday. And if my command is violated, I shall leave here as a mortal -- and return as Death!

DUKE:

I understand, Your Highness.

SHADOW:

(IN A CHANGED TONE) Forgive me if I seem severe, but I'm a little bit sensitive on that point. (CORDIALLY) So, it's a bargain?

DUKE:

Yes. It is.

SHADOW:

At last, I am to become mortal. I'm to feel blood in my veins -- the warm blood of life. My desire shall become flesh and my hunger will feel the fire of blood. When I hold flowers in my hands, they will not wither. And those that I love need not be afraid. Not afraid! Oh, I am beside myself! (CHUCKLES) My holiday is a joke -- a mad caprice that I play with life. What a sublime, what a monstrous joke. I, Death, do hereby take on the world, the flesh and the Devil! (TO DUKE) Well, my friend, will we begin our interesting experiment?

DUKE:

(HESITANTLY) Yes. Yes, but--

SHADOW:

There seems to be some doubt in your mind. What is it?

DUKE:

Forgive me, but-- But your face-- All men are born with a fear of that face.

SHADOW:

I forgot for a moment. There is one of the stupid things that is nurtured in little children, and which only the most mature minds manage to shake off. It isn't very intelligent of you, you know, to make me merely a symbol of decay. I am also life and sleep -- and the fulfillment of dreams. And I am the gateway to life that leads beyond life.

DUKE:

But - but - but couldn't you--?

SHADOW:

Oh, yes. I shall borrow the Lamp of Illusion.

DUKE:

Of what?

SHADOW:

Of Illusion. Surely you know.

DUKE:

I - I don't quite follow.

SHADOW:

Well, I've observed that very few mortals care to face life as it really is. They find it too stark and forbidding, like the outline of my face, until Illusion colors it with her rosy lamp.

DUKE:

Oh, yes. Yes, I see.

SHADOW:

It's rather a pity, because the truth, you know, is much more beautiful than illusion. However, time is young and we mustn't expect too much. So I shall borrow the lamp for my holiday.

DUKE:

Then - then this will change--?

SHADOW:

(REASSURING) Oh, my entire appearance. I am just beginning to see the possibility of this. I think your friends will find me not unattractive, thanks to my lamp. And you will find me not a poor masquerader, so expect me soon. (AMUSED) You are to be distinguished among hosts. You are the first man who has ever entertained Death -- and lived!

SOUND:

APPLAUSE ...