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The Harp

The Royal Gelatin Hour

The Harp

Apr 08 1937



CAST:

HOST, Rudy Vallee

MORGAN BRUCE

PRIEST

RUTH ADAMS

JUDGE

LAWYER

WARDEN

and various CROWDS




HOST: ... If we were to follow the theater's early springtime custom and award a statue, plaque, or medal for the season's best job of acting on this hour, the prize might very possibly go to Henry Hull. And if we were to pass out, as well, an award for the best original radio play of the period it would almost certainly go to Arch Oboler. This evening, Mr. Hull, actor, and Mr. Oboler, playwright, get together in something called "The Harp," a frankly melodramatic opus with overtones of the supernatural, providing us with a change of pace from the diet of sweetness and light we've been serving up for the past few weeks. We give you fair warning -- this is a hair-raising thriller, played to the hilt, with intent to shiver the spine and curdle the blood. If you don't like good clean shivers, you won't like Henry Hull in "The Harp."


MUSIC: MELODRAMATIC INTRODUCTION


SOUND: APPLAUSE


HOST: Scene, the death house of a prison. The time, a few moments before an execution. The condemned man paces his cell -- talking - talking - talking. (FADES OUT ON ECHO)


MORGAN: (NARRATES) To die. To die. (CHUCKLES) I'm not afraid to die. There's peace and quiet waiting. The stillness of the grave.


PRIEST: (FADES IN BRIEFLY, OVERLAPPING WITH ABOVE AND BELOW) And we ask ye, heavenly Father, that in Thy eternal mercy Thou grant this person eternal life -- eternal life --


MORGAN: (NARRATES, A HINT OF MADNESS) Eternal life? The fool. It's death I want. Oblivion. And I'll get it. Another moment -- two, three, four -- and they'll come for me. The walk along that corridor. The door. The chair waiting. I'll sit within its arms of iron. The sudden burning quickly in my mind and - and peace. Ahhhh! Bliss and peace. No more of her -- hour after hour, day after day. Does she never get tired?! And he babbles to me of eternal life with that in my ears. (INHALES DEEPLY) I'll-- But I'll cheat you. I'll cheat you in death!


(NOSTALGIC) I remember - I remember when I first met you. I needed money so badly -- and you had so much. A million dollars left to you by your mother, they told me. I remember when I first saw you. Ha! That party. You were so beautiful, so frail. Yes, I - I remember. You were playing--


MUSIC: FADE IN GENTLE HARP ... THEN IN BG


MORGAN: (NARRATES) You were playing -- that harp! Oh, how well I remember that night.


MUSIC: HARP PICKS UP TEMPO ... FOR THE LIVELY FINISH OF A CLASSICAL PIECE ... THEN OUT


SOUND: PARTY GUESTS APPLAUD AND MURMUR APPRECIATIVELY ("Bravo! Bravo!") ... THEN GUESTS MURMUR IN BG


MORGAN: (WELL-FEIGNED ENTHUSIASM) It is a great honor, indeed, Miss Adams, to meet so fine an artist. While you were playing, I was-- I sat in front. I could scarcely breathe.


RUTH: You are very kind.


MORGAN: Then please be kind to me. Come. Come out on the terrace, away from all these people.


RUTH: But I--


MORGAN: (LOVINGLY) No, no, please - please don't refuse me. Music to me is life itself. And the music of your harp has given me new life tonight. There is so much of music I want to talk to you about, and there is so much noise here, but - but outside-- Outside there's a moon. 


SOUND: DURING ABOVE, MURMUR OF GUESTS FADES OUT


MORGAN: (ROMANTIC, INTIMATE) Come. Come with me.


RUTH: (ENTRANCED) Yes. I'll go - with you. (FADES OUT ON ECHO)


SOUND: TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


MORGAN: (NARRATES) Yes, she went with me -- and, in the days that followed, many times more. Oh, I worked fast and cleverly. I needed money so badly. Yes, she - she married me. Poor dear simple little fool. What chance did she have against me? So -- we were married, I and the little harpist with a million dollars. From then on my aim was clear, and I worked cautiously and cleverly. Huh, too cleverly. She grew ill. She sat long days in the sun, playing her harp. There was one thing she played that used to drive me insane.


MUSIC: FADE IN HARP ... WEIRD, UNEARTHLY ... THEN IN BG


MORGAN: (NARRATES) How I hated that music! How I hated it! (FADES OUT ON ECHO)


MUSIC: HARP FILLS A PAUSE


MORGAN: Oh, stop it! Stop it!


MUSIC: RUTH STOPS PLAYING HARP


RUTH: But, Morgan--


MORGAN: Don't argue with me! Don't play it again; I forbid you! It's such weird unearthly music. Where did you get it?


RUTH: I made it up myself, Morgan.


MORGAN: Then - then never play it again, do you hear me? Never!


RUTH: (BEAT, SAD) Why are you so - cruel to me?


MORGAN: (CRISP) I don't like sick people.


RUTH: But I've never been ill - before in my life.


MORGAN: I know, I know, I know. Now - now, go up to your room and lie down. When you are down here you play that infernal music.


RUTH: (WEEPS ... THEN IN BG)


MORGAN: Stop that! Stop that mewing like a cat! You're sick, and you make me sick. Go upstairs, I say. Go upstairs!


RUTH: (WEEPS ... FADES OUT ON ECHO)


SOUND: TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


MORGAN: (NARRATES) And with every passing day, she grew more and more ill, little Ruth. Her heart, the doctors said. A strong heart growing weak. Most mysterious to them. And one day I came home and opened the door to find--


MUSIC: FADE IN HARP ... WEIRD, UNEARTHLY ... THEN IN BG


MORGAN: Huh? That music again! That blasted music! Ruth? Ruth, stop it! Stop it, I tell you!


MUSIC: RUTH STOPS PLAYING HARP


MORGAN: (THREATENING) So you - you thought I didn't mean what I said, did you?


RUTH: But, Morgan, I like to--


MORGAN: Who cares what you like? I'll fix it so you'll never play that infernal music again! I'll fix it--!


SOUND: MORGAN SMASHES THE HARP


RUTH: No, Morgan! My harp! (SUDDENLY WEAK) My harp-- Don't, Morgan.


MORGAN: Bah!


RUTH: (BIG DEATH SWOON)


MORGAN: What? Ruth! (NO RESPONSE, WHISPERS) Ruth? (NO ANSWER, WHISPERS) Dead! At last! (WITH DEEP SATISFACTION) At last.


SOUND: TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


MORGAN: (NARRATES) Yes, she was dead. Heart failure, her death certificate read. (CHUCKLES) It should have read, "Heart failure induced by Morgan Bruce." You see, her death, natural as it seemed, was my doing. A deadly gas we used during the war. In very small quantities, released in the air, it causes gradual weakening of the heart, until one day, too much excitement and-- (SNAPS FINGERS) -- the heart - stops - forever. So it was with my little wife. Yes! What the newspapers call a perfect crime. Her executors-- (CHUCKLES) Oh, they were very suspicious. But what could they prove? Gas doesn't wait around for snooping investigators. (CHUCKLES) The day before I got the million dollars, I went driving. The thought of the money intoxicated me. I was driving fast.


SOUND: AUTO ENGINE ... THEN IN BG


MORGAN: (NARRATES) I came to a traffic signal.


SOUND: POLICE OFFICER BLOWS URGENT TRAFFIC WHISTLE, THEN IN BG ... MURMUR OF CROWD ON CITY STREET


MORGAN: (NARRATES, INCREASINGLY FAST) The lights were against me! People crossing the street! I was going too fast! I put on the brakes, but I - I couldn't stop! I couldn't stop


SOUND: SCREECH OF BRAKES ... AUTO CRASHES ... STREET CROWD REACTS IN HORROR (GASPS, SCREAMS, ET CETERA) ... SCENE QUICKLY FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


MORGAN: (NARRATES, QUIETLY) Two were badly hurt. The police arrested me, but I wasn't worried. For a million dollars, a man doesn't have to worry about-- (CHUCKLES) --about juries of twelve poor men. They put me on trial. My lawyer was very clever. He told me everything was fixed. Two men in the jury. (AMUSED) Hmm, they were my friends. Everything was fixed!


SOUND: COURTROOM CROWD MURMURS ... GAVEL BANGS


JUDGE: Order in the courtroom! Order in the courtroom!


LAWYER: (LOW) The two in the first row, Mr. Bruce. They're our men.


MORGAN: (LOW, ADMIRING) You are very clever.


LAWYER: Yeah. And very expensive.


MORGAN: Well, you'll be paid, you'll be paid -- when I walk out of this courtroom a free man.


LAWYER: You'll be doing just that in a few hours. They'll never convict you. Heh! Not that jury.


MORGAN: We're very clever men, together--


MUSIC: FADE IN HARP ... WEIRD, UNEARTHLY ... THEN IN BG


MORGAN: (GASPS)


LAWYER: Mr. Bruce? What is it?


MORGAN: (EXHALES IN HORROR) The music!


LAWYER: Music? What music?


MORGAN: (TERRIFIED) Ruth! 


LAWYER: Sssh! 


MORGAN: Ruth! Ruth!


LAWYER: Keep your voice down. What is it? What are you talking about?


MORGAN: Her music! Listen. Don't you hear it? Her music! Hers, I tell you! No! No, no, no, she's dead!


LAWYER: Mr. Bruce!


MORGAN: She's dead, I tell you! She can't play!


SOUND: COURTROOM CROWD MURMURS ... THEN IN BG


MORGAN: (RAVING MAD) Louder; it gets louder. Stop it! Stop it, I tell you! You're dead! You're dead! You can't play that music! You're dead! Go back! Go back to your grave! You're dead! Stop that music! Stop this!


MUSIC: HARP, WHICH HAS BUILT TO A CLIMAX DURING ABOVE, FADES OUT WITH--


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


MUSIC: FADE IN GENTLE HARP BEHIND--


MORGAN: (NARRATES) And so it began. That music, playing over and over, never stopping, over and over, hour after hour, over and over, never stopping, singing, ringing. I tried to stop it. I sighed, I yelled, but it kept on. Ringing over and over, it filled my brain: "Morgan, confess and I'll stop." (SLOWER, MORE INSISTENT) "Morgan, confess and I'll stop." I put my hands over my ears, but it kept on clinging, singing, ringing. (A LOUD SHOUT) Stop!


MUSIC: HARP OUT ABRUPTLY


MORGAN: (HYSTERICAL) I did it! I confess! I killed her! I killed her! (LENGTHY HORRIFIED INHALATION)


SOUND: TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


MORGAN: (NARRATES, SOBERLY) So it was. I confessed. There, in the courtroom. All of them heard me. From the grave she made me confess. It turned out that she was cleverer than I.


SOUND: CELL DOOR OPENS


WARDEN: Time to go, Morgan.


MORGAN: Yes. Yes, warden, time to go. You hear that, Ruth -- wherever you are? Time to go.


PRIEST: (RECITES) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures-- (CONTINUES INDECIPHERABLY, IN BG)


WARDEN: Take his arms, men.


MUSIC: GENTLE HARP ... THEN IN BG


MORGAN: (GASPS) The music! It starts over again. Do you hear it, warden? Do you hear it?!


WARDEN: This way, Morgan.


PRIEST: (STILL MURMURING THE PSALM, FADES OUT BEHIND--)


MORGAN: Over and over. Even on my way to my death, she follows me! Quickly, warden, quickly! Get it over with! It's the only way I can have peace. The only way! Now, quickly, quickly! Pull the switch! That will stop her! That will stop--


SOUND: BUZZ! OF ELECTRIC CHAIR


MORGAN: (BIG DEATH GASP!)


SOUND: ELECTRIC CHAIR CONTINUES TO HUM FOR A MOMENT ... THEN THE HUM SLOWS TO A STOP


WARDEN: (BEAT, SLOWLY) This man is dead.


MORGAN: No! No, no, no, I'm not. I'm not dead. I can't see. I don't know-- I - I don't know what's happened or where, but I - but I'm not - I'm not dead.


MUSIC: FADE IN GENTLE HARP ... THEN IN BG


MORGAN: (STARTLED EXCLAMATION) Ah! The music! I still hear it! You failed me, you back there on earth! You didn't kill me. Her music! I still hear it! I'm not dead, I tell you! I'm not - dead!


RUTH: (QUIETLY TRIUMPHANT) Yes, you are dead, Morgan. Come with me. I will play that music for you -- through all eternity!


MUSIC: HARP ... UP FOR A CURTAIN


SOUND: APPLAUSE


MUSIC: NBC CHIMES ...


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