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When the Comet Strikes

Front Page Drama (a.k.a. The American Theatre of Radio)

When the Comet Strikes

Sep 07 1933



CAST:

ANNOUNCER

THORNLEIGH KILRAINE

FREDRIC, disagreeable

JOHN

MARGARET

HUSBAND

WIFE

POLICE CHIEF

1ST OFFICER

2ND OFFICER

3RD OFFICER




MUSIC: FANFARE ... FROM DUKAS' "SORCERER'S APPRENTICE"


ANNOUNCER: Presenting another in the series of dramatizations adapted from stories appearing in "The American Weekly," the magazine distributed with all Hearst Sunday newspapers from coast to coast. Today's radio adaptation, "When the Comet Strikes," was written and directed by Leonard E. L. Cox in collaboration with the editorial department of "The American Weekly" magazine. It was staged in the studios of the General Broadcasting Company at New York.


May we call your attention to a most startling announcement to be made at the conclusion of this program? One which will have a very definite effect upon many of you in this vast audience. Full details will be given immediately following the dramatic presentation.


From earliest times, mankind has held in awe and terror the appearance of a meteor or comet in the skies. But only recently has science found evidence that this fear was well-founded -- because now it is known that celestial visitors in bygone ages have struck the Earth, spreading waste and destruction. The American Theatre of Radio offers a kaleidoscopic panorama of scenes depicting a graphic illustration of just what might take place should this Earth of ours receive a visit from one of these gigantic masses of molten stone and mineral which rush through space faster than the speed of a high-powered projectile, with a roar which may be heard for hundreds of miles and a heat that would sear everything to a cinder within its pathway. 


(WITH GREAT URGENCY) Tearing through the skies on a mission of destruction comes an annihilating object -- a flaming, seething mass of fire! For days past, the scientific world has known of the approach of this gigantic comet, yet has refrained from telling of its approach in the hope that it may -- as many of its predecessors have done -- miss this Earth and go hurtling off into space! As a result of this great electromagnetic force, the radio, telephone, and telegraphic communications are paralyzed! The inhabitants of this planet are unaware of their impending fate!


SOUND: TICKING CLOCK ... THEN IN BG


MUSIC: UNEASY ... IN BG


THORNLEIGH: It's nothing short of colossal murder, Fredric.


FREDRIC: Oh, keep quiet, Thornleigh.


THORNLEIGH: In face of this, you ask me to be calm?


FREDRIC: Certainly.


THORNLEIGH: Twelve minutes between this life and eternity and--!


FREDRIC: Oh, for God's sake, will you stop sniveling? You've known it was coming for days and you've worked yourself into a state of panic ever since.


THORNLEIGH: But good lord, Fredric, have you no realization of what is about to happen?


FREDRIC: I should -- inasmuch as I was the first to predict the arrival of this comet.


THORNLEIGH: And yet you made no effort to let the people know of their impending fate? You stand complacently by and--


FREDRIC: Just what would you have me do?


THORNLEIGH: In the name of humanity, I beg you to turn on that infrared ray transmitter and tell the people what's coming.


FREDRIC: What is there to be gained by spreading a general alarm? Let them take it when it comes. The end will be so sudden that no one will be any the wiser. Drop the whole subject.


THORNLEIGH: I refuse to do that. Think, man, think! Only eleven minutes to go in this life!


FREDRIC: If you say that again, your own span will be even shorter than that.


THORNLEIGH: But, Fredric, there are people who would meet their end happily should they be given a few minutes warning in which to prepare themselves. After all, there is a certain spiritual side to this.


FREDRIC: It's no concern of mine. Take yourself away and prepare to meet your Maker as you see fit. But don't annoy me with it.


THORNLEIGH: Fredric, by all that's holy, isn't there a spark of human instinct in you? No germ of brotherly love for your own kind?


FREDRIC: No, no, no. Don't bother me.


THORNLEIGH: Fredric? Let me turn on the transmitter. We can revitalize the radio sets of the country and tell them what's coming. Grant this small privilege.


FREDRIC: (RELENTS) Well, go on. Get it over and done with, and leave me in peace for my last ten minutes.


THORNLEIGH: You see?! You're counting the minutes also! 


FREDRIC: (DISGUSTED) Oh, pah!


THORNLEIGH: Do you want to make this announcement?


FREDRIC: It's your affair, not mine. The entire thing is utter folly.


THORNLEIGH: The deathly tick of that clock, the seconds flying by -- then the end.


FREDRIC: Oh, stop that.


THORNLEIGH: I am about to send the message.


FREDRIC: Send and be d----


THORNLEIGH: Please! Don't say anything while I'm talking. 


MUSIC: OUT


THORNLEIGH: (INTO MIKE) This is Professor Kilraine speaking. We are utilizing our infrared ray transmitter in the hope that this message may reach you. Please take as calmly as possible what I am about to tell you. It has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that you are directly in the path of an approaching comet of gigantic size. Not alone will the destruction caused by the impact of this body with our Earth be devastating, but everything will be laid waste by the terrific heat thrown off by this flying mass of molten rock and mineral. May this all-too-brief forewarning be of some comfort to those who so desire it. We in the zone of impact have eight minutes in which to make peace with our Maker. 


MUSIC: UNEASY ... IN BG


THORNLEIGH: Thank you, Fredric.


FREDRIC: I suppose you feel better for having done that.


THORNLEIGH: I feel as though I've done my duty by my fellow creatures.


FREDRIC: To say nothing of the chaos and hysteria you've caused.


THORNLEIGH: It would be interesting just to see what is taking place out there. Seven minutes to go.


FREDRIC: Stop it! Stop it!


THORNLEIGH: Stop what, Fredric?


FREDRIC: That damn metronomic ticking off of the seconds.


THORNLEIGH: What else is there to do?


FREDRIC: Of course. I suppose we have no records to leave behind.


THORNLEIGH: It may be thousands-- Aye, tens of thousands of years before a new civilization is established after this catastrophe. What possible good could our feeble recordings amount to?


FREDRIC: We found evidence left behind by our predecessors in previous visitations of this nature.


THORNLEIGH: Quite so. But how can anything survive this intense heat and destruction which is now rushing towards us?


FREDRIC: This safe of ours will withstand anything. Nevertheless, I am determined to leave a record.


THORNLEIGH: Six minutes to go, Fredric. Think of those waiting for the end.


FREDRIC: Stop that! Stop it, you whining--!


THORNLEIGH: But, Fredric, why try to avoid it? We know it's coming, so--


FREDRIC: Of course we know it. At least, I do. But why make matters worse by moaning about it?


THORNLEIGH: I'm not moaning, Fredric -- just thinking of how many things might be done and no time to do them.


SOUND: TICKING CLOCK OUT FOR--


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN ROMANTIC, IN BG


JOHN: Margaret?


MARGARET: Yes, John?


JOHN: Funny, isn't it?


MARGARET: What is?


JOHN: Here we spend our lives worrying about a moment like this, wondering what we'll do when it happens, and when it comes, we don't know what to do with it.


MARGARET: Well, there's nothing to do but wait, John.


JOHN: Ah, you're right. And yet somehow I feel that we ought to do something.


MARGARET: I know how you feel.


JOHN: There's one thing I wish I could do, Margaret, before it's all over.


MARGARET: Yes, John? What is it?


JOHN: Well, er, make up in a small measure for all the suffering I've caused you.


MARGARET: Why, you haven't caused me any. We've had a happy life together, and I have no regrets.


JOHN: Ah, you've been a wonderful wife to me, Margaret. No man ever had a finer mate.


MARGARET: I've loved you, John, that's all.


MUSIC: FADES GENTLY OUT BEHIND--


JOHN: And I've loved you, Margaret. You've been so wonderful, so kind to me through all these years that I'd feel like a dog if I didn't tell you -- that ten years ago I met a woman and--


MARGARET: Why, darling, you don't have to tell me. I knew it all the time.


SOUND: FADE IN TICKING CLOCK


MUSIC: UNEASY ... IN BG


THORNLEIGH: (ALMOST TEARFUL) Do you feel frightened, Fredric?


FREDRIC: (ANNOYED) No, no.


THORNLEIGH: Don't scold me, Fredric. You're so much stronger than I am. Please be a little charitable in our last few moments together. We've always been good friends.


FREDRIC: Oh, don't get maudlin, Kilraine.


THORNLEIGH: Can't you - can't you just call me Thornleigh, as you used to?


FREDRIC: (EXASPERATED) Oh, for--! Will you dry up?!


THORNLEIGH: I feel kind of lonesome, Fredric. So few minutes left.


SOUND: TICKING CLOCK OUT FOR--


MUSIC: CHURCH BELLS ... FOR A TRANSITION ... THEN FADE IN A CHOIR SINGING PART OF "NEARER, MY GOD, THEE" ... FADES OUT


SOUND: TICKING CLOCK


THORNLEIGH: Four minutes to go, Fredric.


FREDRIC: If you say that once again, I'll not be responsible for my actions!


THORNLEIGH: Is there no heart in you at all, Fredric? Does nothing affect you?


FREDRIC: (SARCASTIC) Yes! You!


THORNLEIGH: Very well. I'm sorry. What do you suppose the various people are doing with their last--?


FREDRIC: (SHARPLY) I don't know. Nor do I care!


THORNLEIGH: I've always been a little curious to know just how different people would prepare to face their Maker.


SOUND: TICKING CLOCK OUT


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN ROMANTIC, IN BG


HUSBAND: (DISTRAUGHT) Oh, no. No! It can't be true! It just can't be true!


WIFE: (SERENE) I'm afraid it is, darling.


HUSBAND: Why, we've been only married a few hours. It isn't fair!


WIFE: Don't take it that way.


HUSBAND: Well, how should I take it? Here we've waited five years for the break so we could get married, and just when we do--


WIFE: It had to come sometime, dear.


HUSBAND: Well, how can you be so calm about it? Don't you love me?


WIFE: Love you? Oh, Ed. Don't you know now?


HUSBAND: Oh, darling. Forgive me. Of course you do. Only, you see-- It's that everything's going to be over -- just when it's begun.


WIFE: Everything over? Oh, I don't think so.


HUSBAND: But you heard the radio message.


WIFE: I don't believe it. This great adventure we're about to face is - is just stepping across the threshold into a new world. Don't you see that, Ed?


HUSBAND: Well, yes, I - I guess so.


WIFE: It's all been so beautiful -- our romance -- hasn't it?


HUSBAND: Oh, yes, my darling. Oh, but why? Why must it end so soon?


WIFE: It isn't going to end, dear. We're going on together. But even if it did end, we have no regrets. We've lived.


HUSBAND: Oh, my sweetheart. I love you so.


WIFE: And I love you. More than life itself. Why, if I didn't know we're both going on, I'd--


HUSBAND: I know. I know, dear. I should have seen it that way, too. Come here. Sit down. Right here. Pressing close together. Looking into each other's eyes. And waiting--


WIFE: Waiting for--


HUSBAND: The beginning of our new life -- together.


MUSIC: OUT ABRUPTLY ... THEN AGITATED BEHIND--


SOUND: TICKING CLOCK


THORNLEIGH: A few moments to go, Fredric. Would you care to spend the last moment in prayer?


FREDRIC: (SOURLY) No.


THORNLEIGH: Would you like to talk to me?


FREDRIC: (SHARPLY) No!


THORNLEIGH: I wonder what my brother Edward is doing.


FREDRIC: (DRY) He's in Australia.


THORNLEIGH: That's right. So he is.


SOUND: TICKING CLOCK OUT ... THEN POLICE SIRENS, BELLS, ROARING MOTORS ... THEN IN BG


1ST OFFICER: (DISTRESSED) Just in from the airport, Chief. People are going mad. Thousands--!


POLICE CHIEF: Steady now, steady. Don't lose your head. What was it?


1ST OFFICER: (CALMER) Just come from the airport. Thousands of people milling around, trying to get away in planes.


2ND OFFICER: The railroad stations are jammed. People crushing each other like flies, trying to get on what few trains there are. God, Chief, it - it's terrible!


POLICE CHIEF: Steady, men. Remember -- you're members of the police force. Conduct yourselves as such.


2ND OFFICER: (AN OUTBURST) How can you sit there and face it so calmly, Chief -- knowing that it's but a matter of minutes before the end?! The end of everything!


POLICE CHIEF: End or not, one more outburst from you like that and--!


2ND OFFICER: I'm sorry, Chief. Sorry. I - I did kind of forget myself.


POLICE CHIEF: Very well, Edwards.


3RD OFFICER: Chief? Chief, will ya--?


POLICE CHIEF: Well, what is it, my son?


3RD OFFICER: Will ya leave me go home to the wife and kids? Just for the last few minutes?


POLICE CHIEF: No! Get back on your post -- where you belong.


3RD OFFICER: (CHASTENED) Okay, Chief.


POLICE CHIEF: Get out of here, all of ya!


OFFICERS: (MOVING OFF) Okay, Chief. Okay.


1ST OFFICER: So long, Chief!


SOUND: DURING ABOVE, OFFICERS EXIT ... OFFICE DOOR CLOSES, SHUTTING OUT SIRENS, ET CETERA ... SILENCE ... RECEIVER UP


POLICE CHIEF: (INTO PHONE) Hello, Monahan? Call my home, will you? (PAUSE) What's that? No lines through the city? (BEAT) Okay, Monahan.


SOUND: RECEIVER DOWN


POLICE CHIEF: (BEAT, A FERVENT PRAYER) Oh, please, God, be kind to them.


SOUND: SILENCE ... THEN TICKING CLOCK 


MUSIC: UNEASY, BUILDS TO INTENSE CLIMAX DURING FOLLOWING--


THORNLEIGH: (CALM, AT PEACE) One minute to go, Fredric.


FREDRIC: (ON EDGE, INCREASINGLY HYSTERICAL) For God's sakes, stop that!


THORNLEIGH: What, Fredric?


FREDRIC: That! Four minutes, three minutes, two minutes, one minute to go!


THORNLEIGH: But, my dear friend, there is only forty-five seconds left. Look at the clock.


FREDRIC: (STUNNED) Forty-five seconds. Forty-five seconds!


THORNLEIGH: Your prediction is coming true, Fredric. The comet approaches. And the heat -- feel it!


FREDRIC: (HYSTERICAL) Feel it! Hear it! We can see it! Look! Look!


THORNLEIGH: Two seconds to go.


FREDRIC: Seconds-- Seconds-- Tolling off life-- (EXPLODES) That clock! That damned clock!


SOUND: TICKING CLOCK OUT


THORNLEIGH: Goodbye, old man. May we meet again - later on - God willing.


MUSIC: CLIMAXES WITH--


SOUND: WHOOSH! CRASH! CRASH! CRASH! OF COMET STRIKING THE EARTH


MUSIC: FILLS A PAUSE TO LET THE IMAGE OF THE END OF THE WORLD SINK IN ... THEN CONTINUES IN BG


ANNOUNCER: The dramatic presentation which you just heard is based on the story "When the Great Comet Struck the Earth" which appears in the next week's issue of "The American Weekly," the magazine distributed with all Hearst Sunday newspapers from coast to coast.


MUSIC: FADES OUT BEHIND--


ANNOUNCER: And now for a great big surprise! An extraordinary announcement! "The American Weekly" is going to give you a chance to make yourself independent for life -- to win a life income in a very simple competition. The first prize will be one thousand dollars a year, every year, as long as you live! The second prize will be five hundred dollars a year, every year for the rest of your life! Other prizes will range from five hundred dollars a year for five years to two hundred and fifty dollars a year for five years. There will be a full-page announcement of this great competition in next Sunday's "American Weekly," distributed with your Hearst Sunday newspaper. Be sure to read it. All you have to do is to think of a descriptive subtitle for "The American Weekly" magazine, such as "The World's Best Magazine" or "The Magazine of True-Life Stories." Write down whatever you think describes this great magazine. The magazine wants a slogan. If your contribution is selected as the best, your reward will be one thousand dollars a year, every year for the rest of your life. Don't fail to get next Sunday's "American Weekly" magazine with your Hearst Sunday newspaper. Full details of this remarkable offer will be published in that issue, Sunday, September tenth. There's no work to do. There's no guessing to do. You only have to suggest a slogan that aptly describes this great magazine. Don't neglect this great opportunity. Get the Sunday Hearst newspaper with which "The American Weekly" is distributed, read the page announcement carefully, and then let your own intelligence win you a life income.


MUSIC: JAUNTY POP TUNE FOR A CLOSING THEME


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