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The City Manager

Theatre Five

The City Manager

Nov 16 1964 



CAST:

ANNOUNCER

DENISON, the city manager

JED ORMSBY, city council member

POLICE CHIEF

ROLFE

and various CROWDS




SOUND: ROAR! OF ENORMOUS CROWD


ORMSBY: Hello, citizens! A vote for me is a vote against pills and buttons and conveyor belt transportation!


DENISON: A vote for him is a vote against progress!


SOUND: ENORMOUS CROWD CHEERS ... THEN CONTINUES ROARING IN BG


ORMSBY: The crowd is cheering me.


DENISON: Oh, no. The crowd is cheering me. (CALLS) Hello, crowd!


ORMSBY: Hello, crowd! (POINTEDLY, TO DENISON) Me.


DENISON: Me.


SOUND: CROWD CUTS OUT ABRUPTLY


ANNOUNCER: Let's listen and see which one they're really cheering for -- as THEATRE FIVE brings us a story called "The City Manager."


MUSIC: THEME


[COMMERCIAL BREAK] 


MUSIC: FIRST ACT INTRODUCTION


DENISON: All right, Jed Ormsby -- look. I'm the city manager of the pride of the midwest, this City of Felicity, and I don't care how things seem at this moment, I'm the best city manager any city ever had!


ORMSBY: (WITH CONTEMPT) Hmph!


DENISON: The city council gave me a free hand and I've used it. If things seem to have turned out badly right this moment, I shouldn't be blamed. It's all your fault.


ORMSBY: (CHUCKLES SKEPTICALLY)


DENISON: You were the only member of the city council who was against me from the start.


ORMSBY: I didn't vote for the others, you know.


DENISON: I know. You're against me.


ORMSBY: Oh, if I understand your ideas correctly, I'm against your ideas; not you.


DENISON: It's the same thing.


ORMSBY: Uh huh. Uh huh. I think that's what I'm against. The notion that you and your ideas are all one and the same. The personal emotion you bring to city managing.


DENISON: You're one of these "knockers," aren't you?


ORMSBY: I don't think so.


DENISON: One of these "grouches."


ORMSBY: Maybe.


DENISON: One of these "demagogues"!


ORMSBY: Look, what I am is a member of the city council who is interested in how you propose to run the city.


DENISON: Efficiently.


ORMSBY: Humanly?


DENISON: I said, efficiently.


ORMSBY: You've taken some people off welfare.


DENISON: You'll see -- they'll all have jobs.


ORMSBY: It would have been nice if they had had the jobs before you cut off their checks.


DENISON: You're a demagogue!


ORMSBY: Hmph!


DENISON: If you'll examine my records, you'll find that very few city managers have had the modern up-to-the-minute technical training that I've had.


ORMSBY: I am interested in people.


DENISON: I am interested in efficiency. And that's good for people whether people know it or not.


ORMSBY: You've made all the elevators in the city automatic.


DENISON: Of course. It's more efficient.


ORMSBY: It has put some elevator operators out of work. And it's kept all timid people from going to see their friends in high buildings.


DENISON: There will be full employment, in time. Every man will have a job and he darn well better work at it, too. As for timid people, they better get over being timid.


ORMSBY: So -- that's your answer?


DENISON: Yes.


ORMSBY: All right. And what's going to be your next step?


DENISON: I'm going to tear down the homes that people in this city live in.


ORMSBY: I can't believe you. You mean the tenements?


DENISON: Tenements and middle-class homes alike.


ORMSBY: What?!


DENISON: I'm going to tear them down.


ORMSBY: And where are the people going to live?


DENISON: In new homes.


ORMSBY: But until the new homes are built?


DENISON: In tents.


ORMSBY: (GASPS) You must be kidding.


DENISON: Now, wait a minute. They'll be living in tents for only a couple of weeks.


ORMSBY: It's going to take only a couple of weeks to rebuild the city completely?


DENISON: Now, naturally, I'm going to do it by areas, one area at a time. On the new construction, I'll be using modern prefabricated units. I'll pay labor on an incentive plan.


ORMSBY: You mean a "speed-up"?


DENISON: That's the demagogue's word for it.


ORMSBY: (DISMISSIVE) Huh!


DENISON: I'll pay labor on an incentive plan and the people won't have to live in tents very long at all.


ORMSBY: What if it rains?


DENISON: We'll have floors in those tents.


ORMSBY: What kind of houses will these prefabricated things be? I'm interested in what kind of housing people get.


DENISON: (CHUCKLES) We don't call them "houses" any more.


ORMSBY: You--? What do you call them?


DENISON: (GRANDLY) Living areas!


ORMSBY: All of them alike, I suppose.


DENISON: Of course. Why should one person have a more efficient living unit than another? Don't you believe in democracy?


ORMSBY: I always thought so.


DENISON: I wish you'd keep an open mind. Think of how wonderful it's going to be. Every living unit in every living area will be completely automated.


ORMSBY: (HEAVY IRONY) Ohhhh, should I turn handsprings now?


DENISON: My housewives' training course is going to produce the most efficient machine-tending housewives any city in the world has ever had.


ORMSBY: That sounds mighty sexy.


DENISON: They'll be able to clean the house by setting a dial and pushing a button. They'll be able to cook a dinner, sew on zippers, or darn socks in the same way.


ORMSBY: Have you ever heard of individuality?


DENISON: Ha ha! There I have you. Every demagogue prates about how people like me eliminate individuality. Well, let me tell you, the housewife in our living units will be able to change the pictures and drapes -- at will! -- according to thirty-six different numbered color scheme preferences processed to the dial in a home-decoration-and-ornamentation machine.


ORMSBY: Whew!


DENISON: (CHUCKLES) You're impressed, aren't you?


ORMSBY: Well, in a certain kind of way, I am impressed, yes. Actually, these women won't have too many hours of drudgery, will they?


DENISON: Well, not with everything automated.


ORMSBY: Do I dare hope that you have not taken care of what they will do with their spare time?


DENISON: (MOCK OFFENDED) Do you think that I would leave them stranded like that? (GRANDLY) They will spend long hours every day in the recreation area.


ORMSBY: (DREADS THE ANSWER) What is in the recreation area?


DENISON: (QUIETLY TRIUMPHANT) Television.


ORMSBY: (BEAT) You'd like my vote, wouldn't you?


DENISON: Naturally.


ORMSBY: You haven't got it!


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND DENISON--


DENISON: (NARRATES) Well, that's the kind of obstructionism I was up against. But I had been given fair warning, so I called in the Chief of Police.


CHIEF: You wanted me, Mr. Denison?


DENISON: Yes, Chief. You know we've got one "grouch" on the city council, don't you?


CHIEF: Heh! Jed Ormsby!


DENISON: That's right. Now, I think he's going to stir up trouble and so I order you to augment the police force. Draft the biggest and healthiest young men we have in the city.


CHIEF: Fine. Can I teach them, uh-- (CLEARS THROAT, SLY) --"special tactics"?


DENISON: You know better than to ask me a question like that.


CHIEF: (APOLOGETIC) Oh, I'm sorry, sir.


DENISON: (LOW) The answer is yes, and you never asked me.


CHIEF: (PLEASED) Well, fine!


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND DENISON--


DENISON: (NARRATES) It was a wise move, augmenting the police force. I never was able to prove that Jed Ormsby was the agitator behind the "Meat and Potatoes" Putsch, but when the putsch occurred, I was glad we had so many cops.


SOUND: NEAR-RIOTING CROWD HOLLERS UNHAPPILY ... THEN IN BG


DENISON: (TO ORMSBY) The city council has upheld my order that all citizens shall dine on the "All the Vitamins You Need" pills. Now, sir, I give you one chance. Step to the window and speak to those people. Tell them to stop howling and get back to their places of work.


ORMSBY: No, sir!


DENISON: (CALLS) Chief?!


SOUND: DOOR OPENS ... CHIEF'S STEPS IN


CHIEF: Yes?


DENISON: Immobilize this man.


CHIEF: Yes, sir!


SOUND: BUZZ! OF IMMOBILIZATION RAY


DENISON: (BEAT) He's not dead?


CHIEF: Paralyzed.


DENISON: Now, about that crowd out there--


CHIEF: My men have infiltrated the crowd, sir.


SOUND: WINDOW SLIDES OPEN


CHIEF: (CALLS) All right, men!


SOUND: BUZZ BUZZ! OF IMMOBILIZATION RAYS ... CROWD INSTANTLY FALLS SILENT


DENISON: (BEAT, QUIETLY PLEASED) Very satisfactory, Chief.


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND DENISON--


DENISON: (NARRATES) The police department's prompt and efficient handling of the "Meat and Potatoes" Putsch caused a most idyllic tranquility to descend upon the city. Suddenly, the people knew that they were the happiest people in the world. I do not say this idly: I took a scientific poll of their attitudes -- using policemen as pollsters. The people all said that they loved our various programs. Of course, Jed Ormsby still complained.


ORMSBY: Now, what's this that you're doing to the roads?


DENISON: Automating them.


ORMSBY: I don't remember that we had any vote on this at any meeting of the city council!


DENISON: Oh, yes, we did. Three months ago the council voted to authorize the city manager to improve the roads in and out of town.


ORMSBY: I see. And you've interpreted this to mean that you dig up all the roads and put huge conveyor belts in their places?


DENISON: Exactly.


ORMSBY: Now, look, I want to be fair--


DENISON: (IRONIC) Oh, I'm certain you do.


ORMSBY: I would just like to have you explain the advantage of these conveyor belts.


DENISON: I'm happy to. You may have noticed that, on these belts, every thirty feet there is a fairly high hard-rubber bunker?


ORMSBY: Yes, I noticed that.


DENISON: If a person wants to drive out of town, he steers his car to a position between two of these bunkers, turns off the engine, and sits there while the conveyor belt carries him and his car to the turnpike.


ORMSBY: (EXASPERATED) Why can't he just drive to the turnpike, just as he always did?


DENISON: This way, it's more efficient. Firstly, everyone moves at the same democratic speed.


ORMSBY: (SIGHS) Do you realize that you have blighted the - the spiritual life of this community?


DENISON: I deny that. You know very well that right in the middle of the city I've built an imposing abstract expressionist Church of Your Choice.


ORMSBY: That's not what I mean! The people in this city are bored!


DENISON: Impossible! The television sets play in the recreation area twenty-four hours a day!


SOUND: LENGTHY DISTANT EXPLOSIONS, THEN IN BG


ORMSBY: (STARTLED EXCLAMATION) What's that sound?


DENISON: (MATTER OF FACT) Explosions.


ORMSBY: Wha--? You don't seem perturbed. Are these explosions ordered by you?


DENISON: Yes.


ORMSBY: (BEAT) Could you let a mere member of the city council in on what they mean?


DENISON: They're the beginnings of the excavations.


ORMSBY: What excavations?!


DENISON: Well, surely you're aware that last month I had the efficiency of this city assessed by Efficiency Engineering, Incorporated.


ORMSBY: Oh, yes, I was aware of those snoops running in and out of people's homes and places of business, and making notations in notebooks. But what has all that got to do with these explosions?


DENISON: Efficiency Engineering, Incorporated recommended it: that we have sixty-five percent of the populace living and working - underground.


ORMSBY: Underground?!


DENISON: Exactly. There are fewer distractions - underground.


MUSIC: FIRST ACT CURTAIN


[COMMERCIAL OMITTED]


MUSIC: SECOND ACT INTRODUCTION ... THEN BEHIND DENISON--


DENISON: (NARRATES) Of course Jed Ormsby rushed out and warned the people. There are always those who are willing to listen to demagogues.


SOUND: NEAR-RIOTING CROWD HOLLERS UNHAPPILY ... THEN IN BG


DENISON: (NARRATES) I sat in my office with the window open, listening to Jed's harangue.


ORMSBY: (ON LOUDSPEAKER) Fellow citizens! I don't know which of you have been chosen, but none of you wants to live underground, do you?! (BEAT) All right! We'll fight this thing! We have got to recognize that the power of our opponents is disgrace! It may be that we'll lose the struggle, and that sixty-five percent of you wonderful people will be forced into the bowels of the Earth like moles! They'll tell you that it will be fine and airy down there -- and maybe it will be -- but please be prepared! If we lose this fight and you are forced underground, take gas masks with you, so that in case of disaster, you'll be able to breathe while you're finding your way above ground!


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND DENISON--


DENISON: (NARRATES) Such was the absurdity of Jed Ormsby's plea to the mob. The police force was, of course, prepared to deal with any disorders, but as we went ahead with our excavations, the populace did not riot. Uh, but the riot did come, of course, on the day when sixty-five percent of the populace had to take up residence in those tunnels.


SOUND: NEAR-RIOTING CROWD HOLLERS UNHAPPILY ... THEN IN BG


DENISON: They'll have to be immobilized, Chief. Give the signal.


CHIEF: Yes, sir. (CALLS) All right, men!


SOUND: BUZZ BUZZ! OF IMMOBILIZATION RAYS ... CROWD INSTANTLY FALLS SILENT


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND DENISON--


DENISON: (NARRATES) The police carried the immobilized people into the tunnels. (WITH CONTEMPT) All of them had gas masks. (CONDESCENDINGLY INDULGENT) And I decided that if they felt better with the gas masks, I'd let them keep them. (CHUCKLES) Citizens are children. And in unimportant matters, it's just as well to be permissive. (WITH SATISFACTION) When the effect of paralysis had worn off, the "underground cadre" produced most efficiently. At this point, I felt that Jed Ormsby should be dealt with.


CHIEF: You sent for me, sir?


DENISON: Yes, Chief. It seems to me that you should arrest Jed Ormsby.


CHIEF: (RELUCTANT) I'll do it if you order me to, but-- I'd advise against it.


DENISON: And just why?


CHIEF: Oh, we can handle the people. I think we've proved that.


DENISON: That's correct.


CHIEF: Well, Ormsby is the only leader they have. And to tell you the truth, he's a force for moderation.


DENISON: Moderation? Ormsby?


CHIEF: Yes. He's always talking to them about sticking to the letter of the law. Now, there are some who don't want to do that. Those saboteurs we had to cope with, for example. The people listened to Ormsby, not to them. But if we arrested him--


DENISON: I see what you mean. But Ormsby has to be dealt with somehow.


CHIEF: Oh, of course he does. (BEAT, WISELY) Ormsby should have an "accident." And there shouldn't be a policeman within a mile of him.


DENISON: (BEAT, ADMIRINGLY) That's very sound thinking, Chief. Thank you.


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND DENISON--


DENISON: (NARRATES, WITH RELISH) An accident! An accident to Ormsby. I liked it! And I decided to take the first opportunity to put him in a position to have an accident. But no opportunity presented itself for about six months. And then--!


ORMSBY: All right, and what is this newest harebrained scheme of yours?


DENISON: You'll have to be more specific, Ormsby.


ORMSBY: Something about "control." I can't be more specific than that because you're not any more specific in your report to the city council.


DENISON: Apparently, you mean "Master Control."


ORMSBY: All right then, "Master Control." Now, what is it?


DENISON: What does it sound like? It's a control panel which enables one man to run the whole city.


ORMSBY: Mm hm. You've kind of automated the automation, is that it?


DENISON: That might be a way of putting it.


ORMSBY: Well, I'm still a member of the city council and I want to see this thing. Now, where is it?


DENISON: It's two hundred feet below the city.


ORMSBY: Is there a man there now?


DENISON: Yes.


ORMSBY: He's running the city?!


DENISON: Exactly.


ORMSBY: I want to see it!


DENISON: You're entitled to. Come on.


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND DENISON--


DENISON: (NARRATES) I took him to the special self-service elevator which sped down the shaft toward Master Control. On the way down we talked.


SOUND: DESCENDING ELEVATOR BACKGROUND


ORMSBY: I think I'm going to launch one last big campaign against you, Denison.


DENISON: Is that so?


ORMSBY: Maybe. It's either that or else, in some way, sacrifice myself to the liberation of the people.


DENISON: This is the empty bombast of a demagogue.


ORMSBY: Possibly. I'm not always sure myself of the purity of my own motives.


DENISON: It's refreshing to hear you admit it.


ORMSBY: Yes, isn't it? What I dislike so about you is that you're never uncertain of your self.


DENISON: I haven't been wrong yet. Production is up twenty-eight and three-tenths percent.


ORMSBY: You've been wrong every step of the way. I don't know anything about this Master Control thing, but I'll bet it's wrong, too.


DENISON: Well, we'll see. Here we are.


SOUND: ELEVATOR SLOWS TO A STOP ... DOOR SLIDES OPEN


DENISON: Right this way.


SOUND: THEIR FOOTSTEPS TO ROLFE


DENISON: Hello, there, Rolfe.


ROLFE: Hello, Mr. Denison.


DENISON: This is Mr. Jed Ormsby, member of the city council. I'm going to show him the Master Control panel.


ROLFE: Very well, sir.


DENISON: You, Rolfe, you can take the handcar and go over to the underground recreation area.


ROLFE: (GRATEFUL) Oh, thank you, sir.


ORMSBY: (PUZZLED, TO DENISON) Uh, why can't he stay here?


DENISON: Do as I say, Rolfe.


ROLFE: (MOVING OFF) Ah, thank you very much, sir.


SOUND: ROLFE MOUNTS HANDCAR AND IT ROLLS AWAY DOWN A TRACK


DENISON: I, uh-- I didn't want him here. You and I may be having arguments.


ORMSBY: Huh! I see your point. (BEAT) Uh, is this the Master Control panel?


DENISON: Yes. You see that button?


ORMSBY: Yes.


DENISON: That's for the conveyor belt highways. And this one is for all the elevators in the city.


ORMSBY: You mean it supplies power to them?


DENISON: That's right. Here's one for the tracks in the tunnels. This is for all the refrigeration in the city.


ORMSBY: Mm hm.


DENISON: Here's one for the air conditioning in the underground domicile units.


ORMSBY: (AN IMPRESSED SIGH) Hmmm. Well, all this is very big. All the elevators, all the air conditioners, all the tracks, all the roads. These are very big concepts indeed. You're very good at big things. You're no good at little things.


DENISON: What do you mean?


ORMSBY: Well, look there -- at that cable. On the end of it are two prongs that go into that plug, right?


DENISON: Right.


ORMSBY: And that plug is screwed into that electric socket, right?


DENISON: Right.


ORMSBY: And from that socket comes all the power to run everything in the city, right?


DENISON: Right.


ORMSBY: Well! (WITH EFFORT) Suppose we remove the prongs from the plug!


SOUND: ORMSBY UNPLUGS PRONG 


DENISON: No! No! Now, put that back! (DISMAYED) Oh! Everything's gone dark!


ORMSBY: Well, don't worry. I've got a flashlight. See?


DENISON: (DEEPLY ANNOYED) But nothing in the city is running now.


ORMSBY: I know. That's just my point. Now, suppose instead of putting the prongs back in the plug, we unscrew the plug.


DENISON: No! No! Now, don't do that!


ORMSBY: Now, don't worry, don't worry! I've got the plug in my hand. I've got a good grip on it. I haven't lost it. We can get everything running again in a minute. Now--


DENISON: (SAVAGE) You insane fool! I was going to wait to kill you! (WITH EFFORT) But you--!


SOUND: DENISON STRIKES ORMSBY .. LEAD PIPE TO THE HEAD


ORMSBY: (GASPS IN PAIN)


DENISON: (WITH EFFORT) I've had enough from you!


SOUND: AGAIN DENISON STRIKES ORMSBY WHO COLLAPSES, DROPPING THE FLASHLIGHT AND PRONGS


MUSIC: BIG ACCENT ... THEN BEHIND DENISON--


DENISON: (NARRATES) He fell into the cab of the elevator as I took the lead pipe from my pocket and hit him with it. And as he fell, the plug dropped from his hand; it rolled. 


By the light of his flashlight, I saw it roll to a crack between the shaft and the floor of the elevator. 


(DISMAYED GROAN) The plug dropped down into the shaft. 


And here I am. The elevator won't run until I put the plug in the socket, but I can't get the plug till I get the elevator up a little in the shaft. But I can't get the elevator up in the shaft until I get the plug!


(INCREASINGLY DESPERATE) And the air's been cut off. It's all right for those fools with their gas masks, but - but here I am -- and - and the air is going. 


The roads have stopped moving towards us or away from us. Nobody'll come to help. 


I - I can't breathe. 


Flashlight's gone out. 


It's dark! Cold! Airless! I'm choking!


(CALLS) Help! Help! Heeeeellllllllp!


MUSIC: CURTAIN 


[COMMERCIAL OMITTED]


MUSIC: TRANSITION TO THEME ... THEN THEME IN BG


ANNOUNCER: THEATRE FIVE has presented "The City Manager," written by Robert Cenedella and directed by Ted Bell. In the cast: Leon Janney, Owen Jordan, Charles Randall, and Jack Hurdle. Audio engineer: Marty Folia. Sound technician: Ed Blainey. Script editor: Jack C. Wilson. Original music by Alexander Vlas-Daczenco. Orchestra under the direction of Glenn Osser. 


Executive producer for THEATRE FIVE: Edward A. Byron. We invite your comments. Write to THEATRE FIVE, New York, Twenty-Three, New York. 


This is Fred Foy speaking.


MUSIC: THEME ... UP AND OUT 


ANNOUNCER: This has been an ABC Radio Network production.


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