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Professor Gossamer's Experiment

The Rudy Vallee Hour

Professor Gossamer's Experiment

Dec 08 1938


HOST, Rudy Vallee

CLARENCE GOSSAMER, college professor



HOST: When the givers of movie laurels make their annual awards for the best supporting performances of 1938, they must -- we warn them -- reserve extremely serious consideration for two marvelously capable players, Donald Meek and Elizabeth Patterson. You will remember the delightful little man who manufactured trick rabbits in "You Can't Take It with You." That was Donald Meek. To mention one other standout part among hundreds, he was also the terrified tailor in "The Informer" some years ago. And Miss Patterson-- If you saw Paramount's "Sing, You Sinners," you won't fail to recall the mother role, an acting gem if there ever was one. She is currently visible in "Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police." These two fine talents are linked tonight in a fantastic play by Milton Geiger called "Professor Gossamer's Experiment." I'm sure you've never heard about anything quite like what happened to Professor Gossamer's wife. Donald Meek and Elizabeth Patterson in "Professor Gossamer's Experiment."



HOST: Under a single light in his study, Professor Clarence Gossamer is patiently correcting a stack of examination papers -- Sophomore English and Comparative Literature, Three Eighteen. Professor Gossamer's hair is sparse and gray, brushed back from a high forehead. One thing distinguishes this rather ordinary underpaid small town college professor -- a curious elfin light glitters in his calm blue eyes, lending a decided zest to his expression. With a sigh, he finishes correcting the last paper. The study door opens--


HOST: His wife enters the circle of light cast by the one lamp.


SARAH: Clarence? I've been waiting for you for at least ten minutes. Are you coming?

CLARENCE: Hm? Coming? Why, where, Sarah?

SARAH: You know very well where. Why are you always so evasive?

CLARENCE: (LIGHTLY) You know, dear, I must have picked it up in that summer course in diplomatic relations. (CHUCKLES) Illuminating, but ruinous to one's moral fiber. (LAUGHS)

SARAH: (MIRTHLESS CHUCKLE, UNHAPPY) Well, now that you've enjoyed your little professorial joke, I'd like to go to the movies.

CLARENCE: (APOLOGETIC) Oh, ho, my dear Sarah--

SARAH: You've been promising to take me out for three months. 


SARAH: We've just time to make the last show.

CLARENCE: (WEARILY) If I could only be sure it's the last.

SARAH: You promised and we're going.

CLARENCE: Oh, please, Sarah. Another night, eh?

SARAH: Tonight.

CLARENCE: But I - I prefer other forms of escape, my dear. (WITH A YAWN) Besides, I'm very tired. I should like to go to bed.

SARAH: Sleep -- that's all you ever do. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Your students are calling you "Horizontal Gossamer, the Sleeping Beauty." ...

CLARENCE: (LAUGHS HEARTILY) That's - that's really very good, don't you think?

SARAH: (UNAMUSED) Perhaps, but beside the point. You forget, in your very scholarly abstraction, that I'm entitled to some diversion. You never take me to the faculty functions, luncheons, open house, nothing.

CLARENCE: Will you excuse me this evening, Sarah? Good night.

SARAH: One moment, Clarence.


SARAH: I think we ought to understand each other right now.

CLARENCE: (IMPISHLY) Aren't you being rather suddenly optimistic, Sarah, considering the melancholy fact that we've failed to understand each other in the fourteen years of trying?

SARAH: Why - why, I'm sure I've tried to be a good wife to you.

CLARENCE: Oh, I believe you have, Sarah -- according to your lights. But the light was bad.


CLARENCE: No, I don't blame you, really.

SARAH: Haven't you been happy?

CLARENCE: Yes. Yes, I have -- lately. 

SARAH: Only lately, huh?

CLARENCE: Yes. A rather wonderful thing has happened to me. Something unreal, unearthly. 

SARAH: Clarence Gossamer, whatever in the world are you talking about?

CLARENCE: (DREAMILY) About - about going to sleep on nights and - and dreaming.

SARAH: Dreaming?

CLARENCE: Yes, it's - it's a difficult thing to explain. You see, I'm not really very much. By all modern standards, I'm a failure. But I don't mind that, however.

SARAH: (DRY) Well, that's ever so clear, my dear professor.

CLARENCE: You see-- You see, I've been a little man -- laughed at, scorned, ridiculed, ordered about willy-nilly by his very superior superiors; badgered, bullied, and swindled by everyone. I've been patient. Perhaps too patient.

SARAH: And what has all this ancient history to do with your sleeping a-nights and dreaming?

CLARENCE: Everything, Sarah. Everything. When I go to sleep at night, a strange thing happens. I - I dream.

SARAH: (CONTEMPTUOUS, IRONIC) Hmph. That's revolutionary. ...

CLARENCE: My dreaming is out of the realm of human experience, I think. I hope.

SARAH: (DISMISSIVE) Ohhh. Clarence, I have ten minutes to listen to your nonsense. After that, I shall go to the movies alone.

CLARENCE: As you wish. But when I dream, Sarah, something - something delightful happens to me. Something incredible and priceless to me. I - I become a leader among men. A strong man. A conqueror. Admired and beloved by my people. I am honored, I am consulted, I am respected! In short, I'm everything that I'm not in reality.

SARAH: Fiddlesticks.

CLARENCE: Yes, I suppose so.

SARAH: You're - you're living in a paradise of illusion.

CLARENCE: Illusion? Did you say "illusion"?

SARAH: Certainly. You've allowed yourself to become the plumed knight of a nightmare. Forget it.

CLARENCE: Forget it? Forget it? Noooo. No, I couldn't. No. (BEAT) There's more to it. It's not so much the dream, Sarah, as the manner of the dreaming. You see, I go to my room and lie on my bed and presently I'm asleep and then -- I open my eyes. I'm still in my own room. But I get up and walk out of the room and right into my dream. And the dream has continuity, Sarah -- like my daily life. Each night, I take up where I left off the night before.

SARAH: (SARCASTIC) And what were you working on last -- mutual trade agreements?

CLARENCE: (CHUCKLES, THEN SERIOUSLY) Please, Sarah, this is important -- to you, too.

SARAH: So I begin to suspect. Go on.

CLARENCE: Now here's the point. When my day's work -- in my dream country -- is done, I quite deliberately return to my bed and lie down, knowing that the dream is about over. I close my eyes. When I open them again, it's daylight -- and I get up and dress and have breakfast and go to the university.

SARAH: In the slang of your underclassmen, so what?

CLARENCE: This, Sarah. I shuttle back and forth between reality and illusion, but -- which is which? ...

SARAH: What's that?

CLARENCE: I told you the manner of my dreaming and waking. One is the same as the other. Then, tell me, which is reality and which is the dream? Am I dreaming now, and will tonight's adventure be reality? Or is this reality, and will I only dream tonight? One is as convincing as the other, Sarah.

SARAH: (GENUINELY CONCERNED) Clarence, are you feeling all right?

CLARENCE: (CHUCKLES) I never thought so clearly or coolly in my life. How do we know what is illusion and what is reality? Suppose - suppose you and the university and all its howling inmates are figments of a dream, and that tonight I lie down from that dream and return to the world of reality and my leadership in Utopia.

SARAH: Clarence, are you serious? Are you mad?

CLARENCE: What is madness, Sarah? My dream world is certainly a saner place than this world is today. In my world, we bomb no cities, murder no children, desecrate no temples.

SARAH: But this is utterly ridiculous.

CLARENCE: (SHARPLY) Sarah -- look into that mirror, the big one.


CLARENCE: No, don't look at me. Look into the mirror. Look closely. (BEAT) Well, what do you see?

SARAH: Oh, don't be silly. I see my reflection, of course.

CLARENCE: Ah, but do you? ... Or does your reflection see you? ...

SARAH: Wha--? wha--? What?!

CLARENCE: Just that. Which is you and which is the image?

SARAH: Why - why - why, I'm me, of course.

CLARENCE: But are you sure? Or are you the reflection of that person on the other side of the mirror? Maybe that thing you see in the mirror lives and breathes and thinks and goes to the mirror of its own free will. And you-- You must obey and go to the mirror because it does. Because you are the reflection.

SARAH: No, no, I'm not!

CLARENCE: But how can you be sure?

SARAH: (SCOFFS, EXASPERATED) Ohhhh. You must be crazy, Clarence. I won't listen to you another second. I - I don't know what you're talking about.

CLARENCE: Perhaps you do and you're afraid. Do you know what I'm going to do?

SARAH: No. No, I'm not-- I'm not interested.

CLARENCE: Ohhhhh, yes, you are. ... Because I'm going to perform a little experiment and it concerns you, Sarah.

SARAH: But--? Me? Why, how can it?

CLARENCE: Have you ever dreamed, Sarah, knowing all the time it was a dream?

SARAH: Yes. Yes, of course. Why?

CLARENCE: And haven't you told yourself, "This is a dream. I shall wake up now" -- haven't you?

SARAH: Why, yes.

CLARENCE: (OMINOUSLY) Well, I'm going to make an experiment. I'm going to find out. If this should be the illusion and that thing on the other side of sleep the reality, then I might dismiss everything about me with a wave of the hand. Even you, Sarah.

SARAH: Clarence-- Clarence, you - you must have a fever. Let me--

CLARENCE: No! (TO HIMSELF, INTENSE) This is a dream. I'm tired of the night's dreaming. It is time I got back to my empire. When I have the time, I shall return and look further into this dream about being a professor in a stodgy middle West town. (FADES TO A WHISPER) But not now, not now.

SARAH: Clarence-- (TO HERSELF) Oh, what am I going to do? (SHARPLY) Clarence!

CLARENCE: You, Sarah. Go away. You are part of the illusion. Part of the dream. You are first. So go away.

SARAH: Clarence Gossamer, stop this nonsense at once!

CLARENCE: Go away. Go away. 

SARAH: Stop it, I say!


SARAH: If this utterly insane conversation continues, I'll report your strange behavior to the university board! Clarence, do you hear me?! Clarence! (PLAINTIVE) Clarence?! (INCREASINGLY HYSTERICAL) I - I insist that you cease this child's play! Do you hear me?! Clarence? I won't tolerate this another instant. Do you hear me, Clarence? 


SARAH: (PANICS) Clarence! I can't see you! (STARTS TO FADE) Where are you?! Where are you?! Where are you?! (FADES OUT)

CLARENCE: (PAUSE, QUIETLY) Sarah? (NO ANSWER) Sarah? (NO ANSWER) Sarah? (BEAT, CHUCKLES, MERRILY) Contrariwise, my dear Sarah. Where are you? (LAUGHS HAPPILY) Gone! Gone! Just as I thought! Just as I thought! Gone! I was right! (LAUGHS, SUDDENLY STOPS LAUGHING, WORRIED) Or was I? ... (PAUSE, LIGHTLY) Ladies and gentlemen of the radio audience, what do you think?