Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Charles Beaumont's Fate

Charles Beaumont wrote a number of memorable Twilight Zone episodes, among them "Long Live Walter Jameson" and "Queen of the Nile." The immortality theme is engaged in both. I've read elsewhere that Long Live... is the obvious antecedent to a Queen rehash, but I don't think it's uncommon for a writer to employ a recurring topic. I've pulled both episodes to compare in a subsequent post.

Long Live Walter Jameson
Episode 24, original air date: 3-18-1960 

Walter Jameson is a popular history professor with a seemingly first-hand knowledge of the Civil War. As the story opens, an elder professor is sitting in on his lecture. After class the professor asks to speak with Jameson and invites him to dinner that evening. It is unclear how well these two know each other beyond a brief reference to Susannah.

The professors live on campus across the street from each other. As Jameson leaves his home that evening an old woman watches him from behind a tree in the yard.

The door is answered by Susannah Kittredge, the professor's daughter and the soon-to-be Mrs. Jameson. After dinner, Professor Kittredge shoos her off to return to her doctoral studies. He and Jameson resume a chess game apparently begun on a previous evening.

Kittredge confronts Jameson about his age. They have worked together for the past 12 years. Kittredge has grown white-haired while Jameson remains ever youthful.

Further, at the lecture Jameson had read intimately from a Civil War officer's diary. Intrigued, Kittredge references a book of Mathew Brady Civil War photographs, not really expecting to find anything. But there was Jameson's likeness, with the same mole on his chin, and even pinky ring on his finger!

Jameson ultimately reveals himself to be old enough to know Plato. An alchemist imparted him with agelessness, but, not imperviousness to injury. Kittredge is amazed he survived all these years without a scratch. He begs him to share the secret of immortality but Jameson doesn't know how. Besides, would he want to be a 70-year-old man for an eternity? Jameson had tried to kill himself many times over the years but was too cowardly to do so.

"It's death that gives this world it's point," he reflects.

Kittredge realizes Jameson cannot marry his daughter. She will grow old and he will leave her. Susannah hears her father's shouts and rushes into the room. Jameson insists she marry him they marry that evening and to be ready in 15 minutes. He returns to his home and walks into his office, but does not turn on the light. The hallway light illuminates his desk, where he pulls a gun from the drawer. Once again he falters, pushing the gun aside.

From the darkness a woman calls his name. He shines a desk lamp in her face. It is the old woman who had watched him earlier from behind a tree. She is Laurette. He pretends he doesn't know her but she is one of his many wives abandoned over the centuries. She had seen his engagement announcement to Susannah in the newspaper. Laurette could not let another woman suffer her fate. There is a scuffle in the dark and the gun is fired.

Kittredge hears the shot and rushes across the street. He passes Laurette as she runs out the door. Jameson tells him not to enter room, but Kittredge turns on the light and walks toward him. He sees Jameson has been shot. Jameson sighs with relief, "It is happening."

Kittredge watches in horror as Jameson ages into decrepitude before his very eyes.The professor turns off the light as Susannah rushes into the room.

"Dad, what is that on floor?"

There lay only Jameson's suit clothes.

"I don't know dear. Dust, only dust."


No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment moderation sometimes enabled