Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Hitchhiker Radio Play by Lucille Fletcher Review

"The Hitchhiker" is a radio play written by a popular American screenwriter and novelist Lucille Fletcher. The play was extremely popular in the USA at the time when television wasn't commonly watched, up to 1950. That time families gathered together in the evenings in front of the radio as later it was for TV. They listened to radio programs and the play "Hitchhiker" became a hit for a long time.

In the beginning, the play was introduced by a warning that "I go on record at the outset of this evening's entertainment with the sober assurance that although blood may be curdled on this program none will be spilt. There's no shooting, knifing, throttling, axing or poisoning here. No clanking chains, no cobwebs, no bony and/or hairy hands appearing from secret panels or, better yet, bedroom curtains. ... I promise you we haven't got it. What we do have is a thriller."

The story started with a panic speech of the man (Ronald Adams) who said (almost cried) that "At any moment the link with life may break. This may be the last thing I ever tell on earth . . . the last night I ever see the stars. . . ."

Next part of the play was about what happened before. Ronald Adams told us about the beginning of his journey. He had to drive from New York to California to deliver the car he was driving. He started telling his story in a cheerful voice which contrasted with an introduction when his voice displayed quite uncertain, thrilled intonation. The scene of the last meeting of Ronald with his mother was played as a dialog of a very brave and energetic son with a hesitating mother who predicted the danger of this journey in general and risk of encountering a stranger on the road.

Later Ronald saw a hitchhiker the first time crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. An hour later he met him again, after that again. It happened many times, repeatedly and becoming more and more frightening. The suspense was growing. Ronald asked people on the gas station, in the restaurant on the road about hitchhikers but nobody heard of or saw them.

When the desperate driver tried to ask at night the owner of a small restaurant by the road to open the door and to give him a coffee, he got "no-answer" and suspense became almost unbearable. The audience could understand the feelings of the main character: "I got into the car again and drove on slowly. I was beginning to hate the car. If I could have found a place to stop . . . to rest a little."

Ronald was happy to meet the girl on the road. She didn't hitchhike, Ronald asked her if she wanted a ride. They had a simple conversation before Ronald saw the hitchhiker again. He saw, but the girl didn’t. She was frightened by his murmuring: "Watch for him the next time, then. Keep watching. Keep your eyes peeled on the road. He'll turn up again—maybe any minute now.". The girl decided to get out of the car, Ronald tried to stop her: "No. You can't go.", the girl screamed "Leave your hands offa me, do you hear! Leave your—"

Ronald wanted to speak to somebody who could understand him and he stopped to make a telephone call to his mother. As it was a long-distance call, the operator asked to deposit money for it, it seemed that the call would be canceled while the operators were connecting lines. The play-writer used it as another method to keep the listeners in suspense.

When the connection was made an unknown woman answered instead of Ronald's mother. She said that his mother had been in hospital after a nervous breakdown since the death of her eldest son, Ronald. "He was killed just six days ago in an automobile accident on the Brooklyn Bridge."

The sequence of events was built by the author so that the strain could be gradually increasing. There was no need in special effects like unexpected, frightening voices and sound effects, the team of that radio-show achieved their aim - they created a captivating play in suspense genre.

This is a link to the original text of the radio play:
We can find the audio on Youtube.

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