Ray Bradbury Theater – The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone (S3E7)

Yet another first-time director.  Are they picking these guys up in front of Home Depot?

Like so many RBT episodes, there is an interesting idea here, but it isn’t well executed, or maybe it just works better on the printed page.

Dudley Stone (John Saxon) is having a book-signing for his latest masterpiece.  He recognizes one of the people in line as a struggling writer John Oatis Kendall.  Stone asks how he would like the book inscribed and his handed a note that says “I have come here to kill you.”

But Kendall is paying full price for the book, so Stone says, “Easily done” and begins writing inside the cover.  Psyche!  He writes, “Come see me tomorrow and kill me then!! — D.S.”  effectively shutting him down and screwing him out of an autograph.

The next scene takes place 20 years later where Kendall, having not aged a day, is present at an annual gathering to memorialize Dudley Stone who disappeared after their first encounter.  No one seems to know if Stone is dead or alive.  Kendall, now a successful writer, speaks up to say that he murdered Stone out of jealousy for his talent.

rbtdudley05In a flashback to the day after their meeting at the book-signing, we see that Kendall somehow intuited that Stone’s “Kill me then” comment was an invitation to come out to the house, meet the wife and kids.  Kendall travels out to the seaside home and is warmly greeted by Stone.  Even better, it is Stone’s 40th birthday (even though John  Saxon was 53 at the time).

Saxon is strangely encouraging of Kendall’s plan.  Kendall explains his jealousy of     Stone’s talent and volume of output, “all of it excellent! “.  Novels, poetry, essays, stageplays, screenplays, lectures on city planning, architecture, etc.  Kendall says this flood of masterful output has “reduced everyone else to pygmies.”

“Agreed, agreed,” Stone offers magnanimously.  He seems nonplussed by the entire rant and responds, “I’ve heard your reasons for wanting to kill me, let me give my reasons for letting you do bloody murder.”  He motions at all the books he’s never read, symphonies yet to be heard, films yet to be seen, sculptures waiting to be shaped, paintings waiting to be painted — is there anything this guy can’t do?   I’m starting to hate him myself.  He goes on like this at length — those are the reasons to “die.'”

Faking his death will remove him from Kendall’s competitive world and allow him time to enjoy these pursuits, just like Elvis Presley, Andy Kaufman and Eddie (of Cruisers fame).

rbtdudley12

I’m no tree-hugger, but this is just wrong!

Stone pulls all of his unfinished works out of various boxes, desks and drawers.  Together, they go to a cliff and — in a shocking display of littering — heave reams of paper into the sea.

Back in the future, Kendall calls Stone to give him permission to begin “living” again, but Stone is perfectly happy being “dead.”  He realized 20 years ago that his well had run dry, his latest mediocre works would have have tarnished his legacy.  He was happy to have a chance to go out on a Costanzian high-note.

In a nice twist, he asks the now-successful Kendall if there is anyone out there now that might similarly see him as a threat.  He sees hungry eyes looking at him, and realizes that he now has the same burden that Jack Klugman brought on himself in TZ’s A Game of Pool.

The episode reasonably combines a couple of characters from the print version.  In the story, a man named Douglas (Bradbury’s middle name) tracks Stone down.  Stone then just tells him the story of his encounter with Kendall, who had been a friend since childhood.

Post-Post:

  • LOTR Connection:  None.
  • His fan club, which seems to be made up of writerly types, are no brainiacs.  They were unable to determine whether Stone was alive despite him still living in the same house 20 years later.  C’mon, Richard Bachman was harder to find.  At least Eddie grew a beard (not sure of the facial hair status of the Cruisers).

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