Death Takes a Holiday
[RUPERT] HUGHES: (STARTS OVER MUSIC) It's a strange thing and a fortunate
thing that people love to be frightened almost as much as to frighten. We pay
high prices and give high praise to those who can scare us out of our wits.
And it's a lot of fun making people's flesh crawl. And we all love to have our
flesh crept. Especially if it is done artistically. That is why Boris Karloff
has won such fame and fortune. He is a blood curdler by profession, and it is
somehow startling to learn that he was born in England. You'd rather expect
that he just flew in like a bat out of -- the place is unmentionable on the
radio. It is startling to learn, too, that, outside of office hours, he is a
very charming gentleman, who wouldn't harm anybody. Real people are perfectly
safe with him. It is only imaginary people that he drives to desperation. As a
matter of fact, purveying horror has been only a part of his career. He has
shown his mastery in roles of every sort. We are about to reveal him to you in
a characterization that includes not only icy terror but tenderness, pathos,
yearning, love and a solemn exaltation that is almost more joyous than joy. He
finds this varied opportunity in a scene from that unforgettable drama, "Death
Takes a Holiday."
Death spends his holiday as the guest of Duke Lambert, who will be played for
us by that distinguished actor, Crawford Kent; the Princess Marie by the
charming Kay Hall. The role of the girl, Grazia, who wins the love of even
Death, will be taken by the best of the new school of radio artists - Mary
Jane Higby. Will Mr. Kent, Miss Hall and Miss Higby come forward.
HUGHES: If Mr. Karloff will come forth ---
And now to set the scene in the Caravan Theatre.
HUGHES: (OVER MUSIC) "Death Takes a Holiday" is a fantastic legend of Death
become mortal in search of love. Death appears, uninvited, at a house party in
the villa of Duke Lambert, near Lake Como in Italy. He makes himself known to
the Duke, arranges to masquerade in mortal guise as Prince Sirki. Death -- as
Sirki -- will look like any human being -- he is to be treated as an ordinary
guest -- no one but the Duke is to know his identity. Enter now, Death in
disguise -- His Royal Highness, Prince Sirki!
(SOUND: ROLL OF THUNDER)
SHADOW: And so I am at last to become a mortal! I shall feel blood in my veins
-- the warm blood of life! I shall feel my desire becoming flesh, and hunger
taking the fire of blood. I shall know what you mortals know, and feel what
you feel. When I take flowers in my hands, they will not wither -- and youth
will not run from me with terrified eyes. My hunger shall be appeased for an
hour -- my hunger that is as old as time. And those I love need not be afraid
-- not afraid -- not afraid!
(SOUND: THUNDER CRASH)
HUGHES: And now -- the climax of Death's strange adventure. In the course of
his three day holiday, Death, masquerading as the handsome Prince Sirki has
fallen in love with Grazia, the charming daughter of his host -- and she
returns his love. Duke Lambert, in terror lest he should lose his daughter to
his dreadful guest, has broken his word and informed the others of Sirki's
true identity. They all know, now, that Sirki is Death. As our scene opens,
there remains but ten minutes of Death's holiday. Grazia, the Duke's daughter,
has been missing from the castle for several hours, and the Duke and his wife,
fearing that Death has already taken her, are pleading with him for their
DUKE: Your Highness -- you love my daughter -- but I love her also. Her mother
-- her friends -- you must not take her with you. Speak to him Marie!
PRINCESS: Your Highness, I bore her. She is flesh of my flesh. I have tended
her life. I am asking her life.
SHADOW: (HIS TONE BECOMES GRAVE AND GENTLE) The life which I must sometime
take. Dear Lady, I have known strong men to die for one another, for love. And
I have known lovers who have come to me gratefully so that they might not
part. I tell you there is a love which casts out fear.
DUKE: (DESPAIRING) But she is so young.
SHADOW: But to go with me now, in love, would be triumph, not death, as it is
known to you.
PRINCESS: Oh, in Heaven's name -- Lambert?
DUKE: (GRAVE AND DESPERATE) Your Highness, when you came to this house, we
made a pact, you and I, that no harm should come to anyone in this house. I
ask you know to abide by that pact.
SHADOW: (AFTER A PAUSE) It is useless! There are worlds between us, and I
cannot reach your minds. (HE PAUSES AND SPEAKS WITH A TERRIBLE INTENSITY) You
ask me to make this sacrifice as a man, when my desire is greater than a man
could know. You ask me to give up love, when I long for love with a surpassing
hunger. You are in terror but I am in agony. Why do men fear my coming? I do
not see how they can bear their lives. Their courage is magnificent. I am
proud to have worn the mantle of this flesh.
DUKE: (DESPERATELY) But, Your Highness, Grazia doesn't know who you are.
Before you do this monstrous thing, won't you tell her and let her choose?
SHADOW: Ah! (HE COVERS HIS FACE IN HIS HAND, SUDDENLY) Even Grazia was born to
fear my face. She would die with me now, as Sirki. But to choose Death as a
lover. No -- no -- I will not!
DUKE: (IMPLORINGLY) But you gave me your word.
SHADOW: And you think me bound by that?
DUKE: I do -- as an honorable man would be bound.
SHADOW: (BITTERLY) Because I assumed your flesh, must I assume your weakness,
DUKE: (EARNESTLY) Then pity our weakness. You came in search of human
experience. Compassion, sir, is the highest emotion man can know, and I have
seen compassion struggling in you. We beg the life of Grazia.
SHADOW: (IRONICAL AND BITTER) So -- again I am caught by my own folly. I gave
myself life, not knowing the power that is in life, nor the power that is
love. I gave myself life, and with it all the little rules by which it must be
lived. And now, I, Death, must bow to life. (HE LAUGHS WITH WILD BITTERNESS)
What a sublime joke! What a monstrous and bitter comedy! (HIS LAUGHTER
CEASES...HE SPEAKS IN A LIGHT IRONICAL TONE) My dear Duke, you have all risked
your lives for Grazia. I must not be outdone in courage.
PRINCESS: You will give her back?
SHADOW: No. It is for you to call her back.
PRINCESS: (WILDLY) Oh, what will he do? He won't take her away?
DUKE: Wait, Marie.
SHADOW: She is coming now. Save her, if you can.
GRAZIA: (AS THOUGH FROM A DISTANCE) Your Highness -- did you call?
PRINCESS: Grazia! Grazia! Oh, darling -- I've been so frightened! So
GRAZIA: But I was quite safe with Prince Sirki, Mother. I love to be with him.
I must stay with him, always.
PRINCESS: But you can't go with Prince Sirki. You can't.
GRAZIA: But I couldn't live here without him. Oh, I know he seems a little --
terrifying to you; but I'm happy with him, and safe, and contented. He's kind,
Mother, and more tender than anyone I've known; even more tender than you.
I've found the happiness I've looked for so long.
PRINCESS: (MOANING) Grazia! You don't know what you're saying.
GRAZIA: Why are you all so strange? And why is it so dark? Oh, I wish you
would be happy with me. I've found my love. There ought to be lights -- and
PRINCESS: (TO SHADOW) Oh -- Your Highness! Save her!
SHADOW: (IN RESIGNATION) Tell her what you will.
GRAZIA: But what is there to tell? Do you think there is anything I don't
understand? I love His Highness, and I must go with him.
DUKE: (DESPERATELY) Your Highness -- you must!
GRAZIA: Say what you like. It will make no difference.
DUKE: For God's sake. It's nearly midnight!
SHADOW: I know. (HE SPEAKS, AS THOUGH TO HIMSELF) So my mortal experience must
have the usual ending. I, too, must have my parting. (HE GOES TO HER...HIS
VOICE IS AUSTERE IN HIS RENUNCIATION...IT IS AGONY FOR HIM TO SPEAK) Grazia --
I came to this house as a jest -- and made love to you as a jest.
GRAZIA: (HER SMILE UNCHANGED) You are trying to destroy my love -- because
they wish it. It was not a jest.
SHADOW: (SHARPLY) Grazia -- don't smile so! It's true. (HE TURNS TO THE GROUP)
Someone call her, quickly -- while there's time. You, her mother -- call her
to you, or she's lost.
PRINCESS: Grazia, my darling -- come back to me! (IN HELPLESS TERROR)
GRAZIA: No, Mother. (THERE IS A SILENCE OF TENSE FEAR...AFTER A MOMENT THE
SHADOW GOES TO HER...HIS TONE IS FULL OF PAIN)
SHADOW: Listen, Grazia, while there is time. I mustn't take you with me. You
must stay here with those who love you. If you went with me you could never
come back to them again. I am going far away, to a land that would be all
strangeness and mystery to you. Grazia, do you hear?
GRAZIA: Yes, I hear.
SHADOW: Then -- why don't you draw away?
GRAZIA: Why must you say these things to me? They can make no difference.
SHADOW: (DESPERATELY) But you don't understand! My holiday is over. I am going
-- at once.
GRAZIA: I am ready.
SHADOW: No -- you can't go with me!
GRAZIA: Yes, I can. Shall we go now?
SHADOW: But you don't know who I am!
GRAZIA: You are my love.
(A SLIGHT PAUSE, THEN THE SHADOW TURNS TO THE DUKE)
SHADOW: You heard, Duke Lambert? Do you wish me to speak and destroy this --
DUKE: (UNSTEADILY) You must!
SHADOW: (WITH LONGING AND TENDERNESS) Grazia, my little love, it was not a
jest! In a moment my hour will come. On the first stroke of twelve my face
will change and you will see me as I am -- as Death. On the last stroke, I
shall disappear. [(TO THE OTHERS)] Goodbye, my friends. Remember that there is
only -- only a moment of shadow between your life and mine. And when I call,
come bravely through that shadow, and you will find me only your familiar
Goodbye, Grazia. Now you see me as I am.
GRAZIA: (HER SMILE UNCHANGED) But I have always seen you like that. You are
SHADOW: (IN ASTONISHMENT) You have seen me like this!
GRAZIA: Yes. You seem beautiful to me.
(MUSIC BEGINS TO SWELL)
SHADOW: (TRIUMPHANTLY) Then there is a love which casts out fear, and I
have found it. And love is greater than illusion, and as strong as death!
(THE MUSIC SWELLS UP TO A FURIOUS CLIMAX)
SHADOW: (QUIETLY) Come, Grazia.
(THE CLOCK STRIKES FOR THE TWELFTH TIME AND THERE IS A TERRIFIC CLAP OF
(ORCHESTRA: UP AND TO FINISH)
Originally broadcast: 8 December 1936
Script excerpt from "Camel Caravan Program No. 24"