A World of Difference
Arthur Curtis/Gerry Reagan – Howard Duff
Nora Reagan – Ellen Ryan
Mr. Brinkley – David White
We open on a comfy looking office. Complete with pen stand, a picture of the wife and little girl, and an empty ashtray. The desk is completely clean. There’s also a lamp, another table and a statue of a horse? Odd office decoration.
You’re looking at a tableau of reality. Things of substance, a physical material. A desk, a window, a light. These things exist and have dimension. Now this is Arthur Curtis, age 36, who also is real. He has flesh and blood, muscle and mind. But in just a moment we will see how thin a line separates that which we assume to be real with that manufactured inside of a mind.
As Serling narrates we see Arthur strolling about his office and whistling. A very attractive secretary enters. Arthur and she chat a bit about Arthur’s wife and their daughter, Tina. Tina’s having a birthday party on Saturday and they haven’t gotten a thing for it yet. Well, shame on you, Arthur and Mrs. Arthur! They chat about business and contracts for a bit. Blah, blah, blah. He asks her to change some plane reservations to Saturday night. Sounds like he’s going out to bid on something or other and he and the wife are making a vacation out of it. He whistles around the office a bit more and tries to make a call. Excited yet? The phone doesn’t work though. Apparently telephone service is really bad in the Twilight Zone. He gets up all huffy and goes to see what’s up with the phones.
As Arthur walks toward the door we hear a man call, “Cut!” Arthur turns to see where it came from and when he turns there’s now a camera crew behind him. Arthur stares at them and they stare back at him for a while. Arthur looks confused as he takes it all in. A guy in a wool suit jacket and checked shirt (yikes) calls him Gerry. He wants to know what’s so hard about making a pretend phone call.
Arthur still looks super confused and the checked shirt guy (who also has one side of his head bleached and the other dark) still can’t understand why Arthur/Gerry is just staring at them. He says his name is Marty, the friendly movie director. Dun, dunn!
Arthur/Gerry runs to the secretary’s office. She’s got her feet kicked up, smoking and reading the paper. She calls him Mr. Reagan, too, though. A man comes up to Arthur/Gerry and tells him that Marty won’t take it anymore and to behave himself. Marty comes over to them and the agent tells Marty that it’s no big deal, just a gag. Marty asks if Arthur/Gerry wants to try the scene again and then reminds Arthur/Gerry what the scene is. Arthur/Gerry freaks out and wants to know what the hell is going on and that he doesn’t know any of them.
Arthur/Gerry runs for the phone and tries to dial out again. Marty tells a stage hand to call an ambulance but don’t tell Arthur/Gerry because there’s no telling what he’ll do. Marty tries to get Arthur/Gerry to go take it easy in his dressing room. Arthur/Gerry yells that his name is Arthur Curtis and tromps off. The director calls lunch and Arthur zooms off through the set and backstage.
Arthur/Gerry tries to make a call from the set but can’t seem to remember what his home number is so he calls information, asking for the number of Arthur Curtis. He gives Information his name and address but Information tells Arthur/Gerry that there is no phone there. Oh goody, it’s going to be one of these. Some dude trying to convince other people he exists/is who he says he is. Anywho, he tells them it’s his home and there is a phone there. From his end of the conversation it sounds like Information is asking what his number is. If he knew that he wouldn’t be calling you now, would he? Information isn’t being very Informative. To be fair to Arthur/Gerry it took me forever to remember what my home phone was. He gets angry at the hapless Operator and he asks to talk to their supervisor.
Marty wants to talk to Arthur/Gerry because he doesn’t think Arthur/Gerry is well. Arthur/Gerry says he’s getting the hell out of there and going home. This oughta be good. He takes off out of the door with Marty close behind. As Arthur/Gerry runs out of the door he’s almost run over by what looks like a Chevrolet convertible. Pretty sure it’s a Chevy, this is the closest logo I could find to match:
The Beautiful Blonde behind the wheel jumps out and asks if he’s crazy. Fair enough question at this point. She apparently knows Arthur/Gerry because she grabs him and threatens him with an, “If you’re drunk again so…” She doesn’t get to finish her sentence but I’ll bet it ended something like this “so help me I’ll -” fill in the blank.He tells her to get his hands off of him. She goes volcanic, telling him that she doesn’t care if he gets fired and never works again but he will pay her the money the judge said he should or she’ll throw his butt in jail. I’m sure the rest of his body will be attached. Hm. I don’t see a kid. Can guys go to jail for missing alimony payments?
Marty calls her Mrs. Reagan and she’s very specific that she’s the EX Nora Reagan. Marty says he needs to talk to her but she says forget it. Arthur/Gerry is coming with her but she’ll have him back after lunch. Marty says that’s not what he means. He tells Nora that he’s called an ambulance, he’s worried Arthur/Gerry is having a breakdown. Arthur/Gerry decides this is a good time to get a little Grand theft auto in his resume and hops in the driver’s seat. Ms. Nora laughs at the thought of an ambulance. Marty insists he’s serious but she hops in the passenger side with nary a peep about Arthur/Gerry stealing the wheel. Ok, I’m a bit of a control freak so if I’m in my own car you can bet your booty I’M the one driving. Not to mention, if I recall rightly, she just accused him of being drunk So, as far as she knows he might be drunk and having a nervous breakdown. But she feels hunky-dory about letting him drive? Uh-uh. Not me. Especially as he burns rubber leaving the lot.
After speedy racing through back lot alleys Nora does something then grabs the key, saying he;s going to end up killing them both. Now she decides she’s going to tell him no, rather than, oh say when they were parked. I will say he’s got some big brass ones because he tells her he doesn’t know who she is but he’s going to drive himself home and then she can have her car back. How generous of him.She thinks he’s angling out of paying her by acting crazy. He runs through his stats again: Name, wife, daughter and address. Then they take off again.
Back at the studio a guy (maybe the agent?) is talking to some Head Honcho named Mr. Brinkley on the phone. the Agent is reassuring (sort of) Mr. Brinkley that Arthur/Gerry isn’t drunk, he just might be going crazy. No biggie. He thinks that Gerry Reagan thinks he’s actually the character from the movie – Arthur Curtis.
Arthur/Gerry and the ex-Missus are cruising around a nice suburb. He doesn’t understand. He knows the address but nothing looks familiar. Nora snarkily asks if he wants an award or something for the act. He starts to say his name is Arthur but she tells him to cut it out, she’s not interested. She tells him to go ahead and play it out, she could care less. As he’s walking up to a house to ask where Ventner Road is he spies a little girl and calls her Tina. Uh-oh. This isn’t going to end well for Arthur/Gerry. He runs over to her and grabs her by the shoulders, calling her Tina. The little girl screams and runs away from the creepy guy.
Nora pulls up in the car and yells at Arthur/Gerry to get in. Probably before the people call the cops on the creepy guy. As they drive by the kid is pointing out the scary man.
They take off and pull into a driveway. Brinkley must be there because Nora wonders what he wants. Arthur/Gerry says (again) that he wants to go home. She tells him that is home so quit whining. I may have added the quit whining. Mr Brinkley is in the house ready and waiting for Arthur/Gerry Isn’t that breaking and entering? Mr. Brinkley is also Mr. Drysdale from The Beverly Hillbilles. Nora starts to drag Arthur/Gerry off, presumably to get his checkbook and/or cash. She wants her money before Arthur/Gerry spends it on a binge Arthur tries to explain, yet again, that he’s not who they think he is. Nora wants to know where he keeps his checkbook and threatens to tear the house apart looking for it. Brinkley says they can’t cover for him anymore and that if he loses this job, he’s done. Arthur/Gerry tries to interrupt. Mr. Brinkley tells Arthur/Gerry to take it easy today, he’ll tell them Arthur/Gerry is sick.
Nora grabs him to sign a check and helpfully spells out his name for him. Rinse and repeat on the whole “I’m not Gerry” thing. In fact, so far that’s almost the only thing he’s said so far. He tries to call his workplace only for the operator to tell him the place does not exist. He starts freaking out. Nora and Mr. Brinkley are looking at him like he’s a very sad little man. Arthur/Gerry puts his head down.
Mr. Brinkley is perched on the arm of a chair, watching Arthur/Gerry thoughtfully. He looks uncomfortable as hell. Just sit in the damn chair, dude. Arthur/Gerry asks Mr. Brinkley if he believes him. Brinkley dances around the question by saying he thinks Arthur/Gerry is overworked and needs help. He picks up a shooting script and shows Arthur/Gerry the cast of characters listing an Arthur Curtis, aged 36 as one of the characters. Mr. Brinkley thinks that Gerry is crazy, basically. That he wanted to slip out of the life of the drunken, unhappily married Gerry and into the perfect life of Arthur Curtis. Arthur starts to say that Mr Brinkley thinks that all this is a delusion, that he’s really Gerald Reagan, a drunken, – but Mr. Brinkley cuts him off by saying a sweet, unhappy man, saddled with the vulture downstairs.
Um, if Gerry married her willingly then how did he become ‘burdened’ with her? Unless she was nice before they got married. But if he really is Gerry Reagan and drinks a lot then maybe there’s a reason she’s so bitchy to him.
Mr. Brinkley tells him to forget the movie, they’ve cancelled production on it. Because the main star flipped out? That’s a little weird. It seems like it would be cheaper to replace him than scrap the picture altogether. Mr. Brinkley says that Arthur Curtis is dead and drops the script in the trash. Arthur/Gerry isn’t listening and just says that he’s got to get back to his office. Mr. Brinkley says they’re probably tearing down the set right now.
Arthur freaks out and takes off in Mr. Brinkley’s car. Get your own damn car Gerry! A high speed drive ensues as Arthur tries to get back before it’s gone. He makes it back and sits in his office chair and quietly sobs, asking not to be left there. The lights come back up and he’s in his Arthur world with his wife, Marion. She wants to know where he’s been. He just wants to gtfo of the office before he’s sucked back to the other world. sally gives him the plane tickets they talked about earlier. Very faintly Arthur can hear the crew talking about tearing down the set. He rushes his wife out of there. He doesn’t want to wait for their vacation and wants to leave right now for it. Are you forgetting your daughter’s birthday? Either they did or the scriptwriters did.
The camera gets a bit fuzzy and fades through the office door. On the other side are the film crew, busily tearing down the set. Mr. Brinkley shows up, looking for Gerry. The crew guy says he saw Gerry but didn’t see him leave. In fact, nobody saw him leave. They check the dressing room but he’s not there. Mr. Brinkley wonders where Gerry is. The camera pans back to show us the movie title: The Private World of Arthur Curtis.
The modus operandi for the departure from life is usually a pine box of such and such dimensions. And this is the ultimate reality. But there are other ways for a man to exit from life. Take the case of Arthur Curtis, age 36. His departure was along a highway, with an exit sign that reads “This way to escape”. Arthur Curtis, en route to the Twilight Zone.
There’s really not much to say about this one. Escaping from a busy, harsh or unpleasant life into an alternate world or the past is a common theme in the Twilight Zone. And, frankly, they are some of the more boring episodes. Except for “Of Late I think of Cliffordville” but that’s mostly because Julie Newmar plays an awesome (and extremely sexy) Devil.
Join me again next Tuesday for: Long Live Walter Jameson (which is a really good episode).