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The Twilight Shore

The Rudy Vallee Hour

The Twilight Shore

Mar 17 1938


(Also aired Dec 14 1938 on The Texaco Star Theatre)








CAST:

HOST

ERDA

THE WOMAN

THE MAN

CRYING BABY

NURSE


NOTE: This script originally appeared in the August 1938 issue of Radio Mirror as "the complete text of a broadcast play that made history by the beautiful and delicate treatment of a heretofore forbidden subject" and was described as "The month's blue-ribbon drama, written expressly for radio by Milton Geiger -- the story of a woman's dream during childbirth" and:


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ONE OF THE MOST STRIKINGLY UNUSUAL ONE-ACT PLAYS EVER BROADCAST ON THE AIR, "TWILIGHT SHORE" WAS FIRST HEARD ON THE VALLEE HOUR ON NBC WITH JUDITH ANDERSON AS ERDA AND FAY BAINTER AS THE WOMAN. SYMBOLIC AND PROVOCATIVE, IT WAS UNFORGETTABLE. BELIEVING THAT IT RICHLY MERITS THE ATTENTION EVEN OF THOSE WHO HEARD THE BROADCAST, RADIO MIRROR IS PROUD TO PRESENT THIS UNIQUE SCRIPT IN PRINTED FORM.

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[HOST:] FOR several crucial minutes, a taxi has been threading its way through big city traffic; in the back seat, a tense, anxious-eyed young man comforts the woman beside him. The woman's face is drawn, but pale and lovely in the half-light. At last, broken tiers of light appear on a distant hill--the maternity hospital! The taxi's engine drones louder as the driver puts on greater speed . . . and curiously, the roar of the engine changes to the roar of an ocean surf; our scene changes. The woman of the taxi is standing on the dim shore of a great, pounding sea. Her dark hair is loose, falling to her waist. She wears a flowing white gown. Her face, beautiful and transfixed, is turned to the fog-shrouded sea. But for the dull glow of the setting sun, the sea and the sky are void and lonely; far, far out in the mist, a bell-buoy tolls in sad and muffled accents. Suddenly, the woman on the beach is not alone. Another woman, tall and indistinct in the gathering gloom, is beside her, speaking in warm, rich tones. . . .


ERDA: Welcome. I bid you welcome, Woman.


THE WOMAN: I . . . I am lost! I do not know this place, or you.


ERDA: Men . . . call me Erda, the Earth. Let it be so.


THE WOMAN: I am afraid! I do not know this misty sea. I hear the beating surf and a bell at sea, and it is strange, all strange!


ERDA: These sands are strange indeed to you. Yet countless other footprints have long ago washed out to sea, with millions yet to come. Yet every woman walks these lonely shores . . . alone.


THE WOMAN: But you . . .?


ERDA: I cannot help you. You are alone. Will you take my hand and come with me, Woman? 


THE WOMAN: (Dazed) I am alone and lost. I must come. . . .


ERDA: Then take my hand and come . . . come. . . .


(The roar of the sea grows louder, and the tolling of the bell; slowly the whistle of the wind grows into a shrill, high blast)


THE WOMAN: This wind! I . . . I cannot stand!


ERDA: I will support you. Look where I point.


THE WOMAN: I . . . I see a boy . . . a little boy, and a girl. . . . The boy is hurt! His knee is scraped and bleeding where he is hurt--but he does not cry. . . . The little girl bends over him. . . .


ERDA: Yes. Tears glisten in her eyes.


THE WOMAN: (Pleading) Let me go! I must go to him!


ERDA: Why?


THE WOMAN: (Perplexed) Why . . . because . . . because . . . I must!


ERDA: No. The little tragedies of childhood are soon over. Leave them to their precious anguish. Come!


THE WOMAN: And leave them?


ERDA: Come . . . come . . . come. . . .


(Her voice fades away; the wind rises to an even fiercer pitch; but then the Woman's voice rises above it.)


THE WOMAN: I can go no further! This is mad . . . mad! The wind and the sea and all this land . . . mad! Why am I here?


ERDA: (Gently) Rest, Woman. You will need strength, and courage and compassion. Look . . . look again where I point. . . .


THE WOMAN: I see a young man and a young woman . . . they are building. What are they building? 


ERDA: It only matters that they do build. Watch!


THE WOMAN: See how they struggle against the roaring gale!


ERDA: The wind is great, but they are greater.


THE WOMAN: No! The framework bends . . . it yields . . . it cracks. . . .


(Above the howling of the storm we hear the sound of timbers crunching and splintering.)


THE WOMAN: . . it breaks!


ERDA: (Sadly) Always it breaks. It will fall.


THE WOMAN: Why are things here so cruel . . . so heartless?


(And now there is a terrific grinding and crashing; a final loud crash, and then a few feeble crepitations as the ruins settle.)


THE WOMAN: Gone! All their labor spent for dust and ruin!


ERDA: It is ever so, and yet they struggle toward divinity. They are greater than the wind!


THE WOMAN: See how the girl tries to comfort him, tears in her gentle eyes. (Suddenly) Why . . . it's the same little girl, grown older. . . .


ERDA: The same little boy, grown up. . . .


THE WOMAN: It is cruel . . . cruel. . . .!


ERDA: It is life. Look . . . see how he grasps his hammer again and squares his shoulders. Come . . . let us leave them to their building and their splendor. . . .


THE WOMAN: Yes! Enough of bitterness and futility. Enough!


ERDA: Come, Woman. Come . . . come. . . .


(Now comes the sound of loud, boisterous, rough laughter--brutal and a bit imbecilic.)


THE WOMAN: (In distaste) Who is this rough and bearded creature?


(This amuses the man, and he laughs all the louder.)


ERDA: Courage, Woman! . . Silence! Stay your laughter! What amuses you now, that the black rocks split with thy laughter?


THE MAN: Ah, you must see, and the Woman, too. Look . . . I turn this little valve on this priceless metal cylinder, and behold. . . .!


(There is a hissing sound from the cylinder.)


THE MAN: (In idiot triumph) See! Lovely purple gas . . . purple gas to strip the purple robes from kingly shoulders! (He chuckles in high satisfaction.)


THE WOMAN: It . . . it chokes me! Let us go from here! I . . . I fear . . . this . . . creature. . . .! 


(The hissing stops suddenly)


THE MAN: Wait. There is more. Look! Airplanes! ZUM! ZUM! ZUM! ZUM! ZUM! ZUM! ZUM (As he imitates, vocally, like a child, the drone of a heavy bombing plane, his voice is gradually seconded by the deep, booming drone of an actual bomber.)


THE WOMAN: Stop . . . stop . . . stop!


THE MAN! See! The bomber has a great cathedral under his sights, and presto! (He whistles long and piercingly to imitate the hoarse whistle of a descending bomb; at the same time, his whistle is seconded, again, by the tapering whistle of a bomb's descent. As he exclaims "Boom!" there is a second, more resonant, "Boom!")


THE WOMAN: Take me away. . . .! I hate him! I hate him!


THE MAN: (Suddenly; sharply) No! Stay, Woman! Stand before my desk! Woman, you will have a child. I must have his name for my records.


THE WOMAN: (Fiercely) I will not say!


THE MAN: No insolence, Woman! His name!


THE WOMAN: There . . . will . . . be . . . no . . . son!


THE MAN: What! Well, no matter. Your daughter will have sons, then. Give me her name!


THE WOMAN: (Firmly) There will be no daughter. 


THE MAN: What! Erda . . . must we tolerate such insolence from this . . . this . . . mortal? No!


ERDA: If she wills it, we must. Come, Woman. We will go. . . . 


THE MAN: (Shouting after them in fury) Wait! Come back! Stop, I say! Do you know who I am? I am powerful! I will crush you! I am WAR!


(As his frenzied voice fades away, the Woman sobs brokenly.)


THE WOMAN: It was terrible . . . terrible.


ERDA: (Sadly) Forgive him. He is an idiot.


(Gradually the woman's sobs cease; then, once more, the surf pounds endlessly on the shore, the bell-buoy tolls, far out.)


THE WOMAN: This is the sea again! It is here we started.


ERDA: Aye, Woman. The sea.


THE WOMAN: It is dark, and yet I see countless sails upon the water . . . Why are they so still and silent? The wind is fresh, and blows upon us from the sea. Why are they still?


ERDA: Forever silent and becalmed upon a windy sea, those ships. The wind is fresh indeed, and yet those sails are limp and lifeless in the gale. So are they now . . . so shall they be while time exists.


THE WOMAN: I'm afraid again! I don't understand! I fear that bell and all those silent ships! This place is cruel, and strange. Where is my home . . . ?


ERDA: Soon you will go back . . . though some do not.


THE WOMAN: Some . . . do . . . not?


ERDA: What would you? They are brave; they dip into the dark and surging tides of death to bring forth life. But those who lose their footing on the glazed, wet rocks . . . they do not return. The Little Ones go back . . . alone.


THE WOMAN: The . . . Little Ones? (Suddenly) Wait! I remember . . . in another place than this . . . a taxi . . . racing dimly through the streets. A taxi . . . anguish . . . my husband . . . a taxi, racing . . . racing . . . Where?


ERDA: To meet a ship, Woman. Look . . . look out to sea where rides that dead flotilla. Look!


THE WOMAN: Why . . . I see one ship that moves. I see a vessel with all sail spread; the water boils and hisses at her prow. What ship is that?


ERDA: The ship you came to meet. See . . . a shrouded figure poises in the bow.


THE WOMAN: She holds something in her arms, as if for me to take!


ERDA: Yes. She holds a little child, yet unborn. Your child.


THE WOMAN: Mine? Mine? . . .


ERDA: Yours, Woman.


THE WOMAN: (In sudden determination) I . . . I will not have him!


ERDA: It is for you to choose, Woman.


THE WOMAN: Then I have chosen. I . . . will . . . not . . . have . . . him!


ERDA: (Gently) A helpless little child; a son, blue-eyed and yellow-haired; caressing, to be caressed. . . .


THE WOMAN: No!


ERDA: Life would be sweet to him as to all things that live.


THE WOMAN: No. It is bitter and tragic! It is cruel, pitiless. You have shown me!


ERDA: It was my duty. Life is divine . . . a gift. . . .


THE WOMAN: It is meaningless! A grim and savage trick! I'll have no part of it! 


ERDA: Woman . . . you see those vessels, motionless upon the wind-swept sea. Their cargo . . . the souls of the Unwanted! Little children, unwanted and unclaimed, adrift upon the bosom of eternity, knowing no life, no death. Adrift . . . forever! (Sternly) Woman, will you take your child?


THE WOMAN: (Struggling with herself, but firm) No!


ERDA: Though he cries for life and being? You will not?


THE WOMAN: I understand everything now. I saw torment and pain for him; I saw disaster and futility; I saw the Idiot crying for my son . . . and I will not have him!


ERDA: It is a pity. Others have had greater courage. The countless others

whose footprints long ago went out to sea. Think of the empty years! Think of the lonely years, when childless twilight comes for you! Think of that lonely time, with none to light the darkening years . . . none to mourn your passing or to rejoice your having been!


THE WOMAN: No . . . no . . . no!


ERDA: The ship draws near. Soon you may hold your child in your arms; and soon he may smile and laugh and curl his finger round your own.


THE WOMAN: (Whispering.) No . . . no. . . .


ERDA: The ship is beached. (There is a pause.) Woman, your little son. Choose . . . or the boat returns to join that sorry fleet upon the murky waters. See! The sea begins to moan; the sea is rising and the wind grows bleak and rough; the sun is gone and the scudding clouds close in like Final Judgment . . . Choose, Woman, ere the restless ocean and the night take back your child. For the last time, Woman, before the Ship returns . . . Will you take your son?


(Her voice is deep with finality. The baby begins to cry in muffled, choked tones, gaspingly. The wind rises mournfully. The tolling of the distant bell grows louder and louder. Then it fades, leaving only the gasping, crowing crying of the infant, alone in the silence. A door opens and closes--and a nurse speaks, genially.)


NURSE: Hello? Awake?


THE WOMAN: Yes . . . I . . . I'm awake.


NURSE: Well, then! It's a boy! We've just finger and footprinted him. A blue-eyed, bouncing boy! But then, they all bounce. And he looks exactly like you.


THE WOMAN: A little . . . boy . . . ?


NURSE: Yes--with extra capacity lungs. Just listen to him yell . . . Do you feel strong enough now? I mean . . . will you take your son, now?


THE WOMAN: (There is a kind of triumph and exaltation in her voice as she holds her arms out toward the nurse) Yes . . . yes . . . yes! Give me my son!

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