Lights Out - The Lost Will Of Dr. Rant (Pt. 1/2) OTR (Old Time Radio)
From Radio To TV
Lights Out - On Television:
In 1946, NBC brought Lights Out to TV in a series of four specials, broadcast live and produced by Fred Coe, who also contributed three of the scripts. NBC asked Cooper to write the script for the premiere, "First Person Singular", which is told entirely from the point-of-view of an unseen murderer who kills his obnoxious wife and winds up being executed. Variety gave this first episode a rave review ("undoubtedly one of the best dramatic shows yet seen on a television screen"), but Lights Out did not become a regular NBC TV series until 1949.
Coe initially produced this second series but, for much of its run, the live 1949-1952 Lights Out TV series was sponsored by Admiral (makers of television sets and refrigerators), produced by Herbert Bayard Swope, Jr., directed by Laurence Schwab, Jr., and hosted by Frank Gallop. Critical response was mixed but the program was successful for several seasons (sometimes appearing in the weekly lists of the ten most watched network shows) until competition from the massively popular sitcom I Love Lucy helped to kill it off.
The 1949-1952 series featured 'Dead Man's Coat,' an episode starring Basil Rathbone, adapted from the radio script 'Wear the Dead Man's Coat' from the program 'Quiet, Please.' Arch Oboler's 'And Adam Begot' was also adapted from the radio script for the television series, with Kent Smith in the lead. Leslie Nielson starred in 'The Last Will of Dr. Rant' where he played a young librarian haunted by a repentant ghost. The latter and many others are available on DVD.
In 1972, NBC aired yet another TV incarnation of Lights Out, a TV movie pilot which was not well received. In fact, Oboler (who was then syndicating his The Devil and Mr. O radio show) made a point of announcing publicly that he had nothing to do with it.
In 1995, the network announced it was developing a TV movie and "potential miniseries" called "Lights Out" which, it was stressed, was "not being adapted from the radio series ..." Although Oboler managed to retain the rights to his radio scripts, NBC apparently still owns the rights to the series' title.
Despite its modest television success, radio historian John Dunning is probably right to suggest that the legend of Lights Out is firmly rooted in radio.
Tags: Lights Out The Lost Will Of Dr. Rant (Pt. 1/2) OTR (Old Time Radio)
Added: 2 years ago
THE LOST WILL OF DR RANT by Doris Halman
Based Upon THE TRACTATE MIDDOTH by M.R. James
Directed by Laurence Schwab Jr.
[scene opens inside a library, as John Eldred (an elderly man) walks up to Bill Garrett (a young male library assistant) at the front desk]
ELDRED: Is it too late to take a book from the library?
BILL: Why no, sir. We won't be closing for another half hour.
ELDRED: Hmm, so you won't. I thought it was later.
BILL: Well, it's these late fall afternoons, sir. Are you a member of the library?
ELDRED: Yes, for many years. My name's John Eldred.
BILL: Oh, I'll just have to check the register, if you don't mind.
ELDRED: Not at all ... You're new here, aren't you?
BILL: Why, no sir. I've been here five years.
ELDRED: I see. Well, I don't get up to Boston very often, but I think the other attendant would've remembered me.
BILL: Yes, I'm sure he would, sir ...
[he pulls a card out of the drawer]
BILL: Yes, it's alright, Mister Eldred. You can go upstairs and get your book.
ELDRED: I wonder if someone would be good enough to find it for me. I developed a heart condition since I was here last, and my doctor's forbidden stairs, and I have the name of the book all written out.
[he takes a piece of paper out of his pocket]
BILL: Oh, of course. I'll go myself, I'll just be a minute.
[he rings a bell on the desk]
BILL: I think I remember seeing you before, Mister Eldred, but not quite recently.
ELDRED: Uh, I live in Bretfield, in the Berkeshires. It's a year since I've visited Boston.
BILL: A year, now that's right. Let's see, it was just getting dark, I was going around turning all the lights on and we nearly collided. Do you remember?
ELDRED: Uh, I'm afraid not.
BILL: It was on the stairs, halfway to the top floor. I was going up, and you were coming down suddenly, running--
ELDRED: Uh, I was probably running to catch my train.
BILL: Oh, yes. And what book was that, Mr. Eldred?
ELDRED: [hands him the paper] The information's all there.
BILL: "Tractate Middoth, with the commentary of Nachmanidies. Amsterdam. 1717 11-3-34." Is that our catalog listing, sir, 11-3-34?
ELDRED: Yes, why?
BILL: Well, it's unfamiliar to me. No one's ever asked me for it in the five years I've been here.
ELDRED: Not everyone is a scholar of Hebrew, young man.
BILL: No sir, I imagine not. Well, I'll get it for you, sir ... Oh, uh, if this should be out, will you take another edition of the Talmud?
[another clerk walks up to the desk]
BILL: Yes sir. Take care of the desk, will you Peters?
PETERS: [sits down] Mister Garrett will be as fast as possible, but the Hebrew collection is in the stacks on the top floor ...
ELDRED: Mmm ...
[he nervously taps his cane on the ground, then cut to the top floor, where Bill nearly runs into another person while looking through the stacks]
GEORGE: Hi Bill.
BILL: Oh, hello George.
GEORGE: How are you?
BILL: Oh, a member downstairs wants The Tractate Middoth.
GEORGE: The what?
BILL: Yes, I don't know it either, but it's in our catalog so we've got it. The rare edition of the Talmud, donated to us in 1934 by Doctor John Rant ... whoever he is. What've you been doing up here?
GEORGE: Oh, checking the Greek collection for any volumes that need rebinding. Why?
BILL: Well, you've raised an awful lot of dust.
GEORGE: Well, I didn't do it ...
BILL: Who else is up here?
GEORGE: Nobody ...
[he checks his watch]
GEORGE: I'll see you later.
[as George leaves, Bill starts humming while looking for the book, then notices a man dressed in black with his back turned to him]
BILL: Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I never knew anyone was here.
[the man doesn't turn around]
BILL: Excuse me, sir?
[he still doesn't respond, so Bill continues looking for the book, when he notices that the particular volume is missing from the shelf, so he leaves]
[cut to Bill returning to the front desk]
BILL: I'm sorry to disappoint you, Mister Eldred, but one of our members got their ahead of you.
ELDRED: You mean the book's out?
BILL: Well, yes. Uh, well no, it's still there, but an old gentleman was reading it, so--
ELDRED: What old gentleman?
BILL: A shortish old man, the retired schoomaster type, you know.
ELDRED: Yes, I know ...
BILL: If you wait ten minutes until the library closes, I'll--
ELDRED: I can't wait.
BILL: Well, Mr. Eldred, he'll have to come down then, and if he hasn't got the book, I'll go up and--
ELDRED: No! I'm sorry, but my train. You have my address, please send me the book when it's free. Goodnight.
[the three men are gathered at the front desk]
BILL: Closing up, huh?
PETERS: Yep, past five.
BILL: Yeah, well, I can leave too. I'm through. Oh say, did uh, did an old gentleman take out the Tractate Middoth?
PETERS: No one came down.
BILL: I guess he's still up there, I better go up and put him out.
GEORGE: No, there's nobody up there, I just shut off the lights myself. Come on, let's go.
BILL: No no, I better check.
GEORGE: Alright, I'll wait for you then.
[cut to Bill upstairs]
BILL: Anybody here? Hello?
[he turns on the light and sees the same old man with his back turned]
BILL: Oh, excuse me, sir? Excuse me, sir.
[he has no reaction]
BILL: Sir, I'm very sorry, but really ...
[Bill puts his hand on his shoulder and turns him around, then screams and falls down when he sees his mangled face]
GEORGE: [from off camera] Bill? Where are you? Bill? Bill?
[he runs up and tries to revive Bill, who is pinned underneath a ladder that he knocked over while falling]
GEORGE: Bill, are you alright? Bill!
[the camera pans up to reveal that the man is no longer there]
[Bill is under doctor's orders to spend time in New Hampshire in order to recover from his "hallucinations", but - after another encounter with the little old man at the train station - has instead found himself in a boarding house in Vermont run by Mary Simpson and her mother]
MRS. SIMPSON: Now Mary, stop teasing Bill, or he'll be sorry that he ever met us on the train!
BILL: I'll never be sorry for that, Mrs. Simpson! You've been so kind since--
MRS. SIMPSON: Nonsense!
BILL: Well, you took me into your house.
MARY: Oh, that was a terrible sacrifice for us, Mister Garrett! What with the boarding house going begging for out-of-season boarders, we'd have taken in anybody at all! Wouldn't we, Mother?
MRS. SIMPSON: Oh Mary! Now, don't pay any attention to her, you know how girls are!
BILL: Well, I'm beginning to learn now, Misses Simpson. All my life I've been sort of quiet, and women have always known that the minute they laid eyes on me.
MARY: No interest in you, huh? Well, of course, if they'd met you the way I did first, dashing into a train all white and shaking as if the police were after you, and then collapsing against a seat. And this, mind you, at the last minte as the train was pulling out. They would've thought you were an escaped convict too.
MRS. SIMPSON: Mary ...
MARY: And of course, that would interest anyone in a romantic kind of way. And then you turn out to be a poor nervous individual who's just getting over a frightful illness. And that would interest anyone in a, well, in a maternal kind of way.
MRS. SIMPSON: Mary, stop that this minute!
MARY: Aw Mother, he likes it! Besides, it does him good to be teased ... Well, just look at him, Mother!
MARY: He's not the same man who came here a week ago!
MRS. SIMPSON: That's my cooking, not your teasing!
MARY: Oh, it's both, isn't it Bill?
BILL: Yes, it's both.
MARY: There, you see Mother?
BILL: And it'll be all over in a week, I'll have to go back to Boston ... and that library.
MARY: Library? Oh, you mean you work in a public library?
BILL: Well, no. It's a bookman's library.
BILL: Very academic, stuffy ... I never told you before because I thought you'd think I was stuffy!
MARY: [laughing] Aw, poor old Bill. Do you hate it?
BILL: No, as a matter of fact, I'm proud of it. To work in a bookman's, you have to be something of a scholar, you see. And all my life I've loved books, so--
MRS. SIMPSON: Well, I haven't! A book cheated me out of my inheritance twenty years ago ...
MARY: Tell him about it, Mother.
MRS. SIMPSON: Oh, no dear. It's too long a story.
MARY: Yes, but Bill might be able to help us. Bill, how could something be written in English, but my mother if she saw it wouldn't know it was in English?
BILL: You mean if they were deliberately trying to disguise the fact?
BILL: Well, you could, um ... you could write English words in another alphabet. Hebrew, Arabic. As long as a fellow was a scholar, and--
MARY: Well, he was a scholar.
MRS. SIMPSON: Mm hmm.
MARY: He used to have his own school for boys up at Bretfield, Mass.
MARY: Well, this uncle of Mother's, a Doctor John Rant. He was a horrible nasty--
BILL: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Mary. John Rant ... I know that name. It means something. Let's see, it's connected with a book. Uh, schoomaster. Oh, if only I could remember it!
MRS. SIMPSON: Now look what you've done, Bill's all upset!
BILL: Really, I must remember it, I've got to remember it! I feel that I've met your uncle quite recently.
MARY: [laughs] Well, that you couldn't have done, Bill. He's awfully dead!
MARY: Uh huh.
MRS. SIMPSON: Twenty years ago, in October 1931.
BILL: 1931! 1931, that's it! Uh, the Tractate Middoth was donated to the bookman's library in 1931 by Doctor John Rant!
MARY: The what was donated, Bill?
BILL: The Tractate Middoth, it's a very rare edition of the Talmud.
MARY: Well, that's Hebrew! The Talmud's in Hebrew, isn't it?
MARY: Well Bill, for heaven's sake, was anything written in that book?
BILL: Well, I don't know, I never got my hands on it ... Schoolmaster?
[he puts his hand to his head]
BILL: No, no that's crazy.
BILL: But if it wasn't ... if it was true! What was written in that book, Mary?
MARY: A will.
BILL: In favor of your mother?
BILL: A lot of money?
MARY: Why, a fortune!
BILL: Twenty years ago, but your mother didn't inherit it. Who did?
MARY: Well, a cousin of hers, an heir by a previous will.
BILL: What was his name, Mary? Was it John Eldred?
MRS. SIMPSON: Oh!
MARY: [stunned] Yes.
BILL: I see! So John Eldred has been spending a fortune these last twenty years that rightfully belongs to your mother!
BILL: And he knows that, doesn't he?
BILL: And he also knows about a will in a book ... Who told him, you Misses Simpson?
MRS. SIMPSON: I had to. When my uncle died, my cousin came at once to claim the house at Bretfield, so I had to ask him to let me search through the books.
MARY: Instead of which, he locked up all the books and ordered Mother out the house!
MRS. SIMPSON: And that was the end of that, because he must have discovered the book with the will and destroyed it!
BILL: No ...
MARY: Oh, but he must have ...
BILL: Then why is he trying so hard to find a book in a Boston library?
MARY: What, you mean that Hebrew one? That "Tractate Something?"
BILL: Yes Mary, the one that was donated to us twenty years ago ... Only I don't know why it took Eldred so long to locate it.
MARY: I do! He didn't know any more than Mother which book the will was written in, so he had to search every book at Bretfield page by page, and Mother said there were thousands of them.
MRS. SIMPSON: I never saw so many in all my life! Why, the catalog was as thick as--
BILL: The catalog! The catalog, that's it! He found out what books were missing after his search failed, through the catalog. Then he went to all the dealers, the libraries, until at last a year ago he finally found out what book it was and where it was!
MARY: And he came for it a year ago?
BILL: Yes, that's why I saw him running down the stairs ...
MARY: Well, then he did find the will, he did destroy it ...
BILL: No, Mary. Not then and not two weeks ago either, when he tried again. Both times he was driven away by a little old man ... oh, looked like a schoolmaster.
MRS. SIMPSON: [gasps]
MARY: Oh no, Bill.
BILL: Yes Mary! And it's the same man that stopped me from getting on the New Hampshire train, so that I could come here to you to hear this story! Mrs. Simpson, I think your uncle John Rant does want you to have that fortune, and I think he wants me to help you to get it.
[cut to Bill as he walks into the library wearing a trenchcoat]
GEORGE: Can I help you?
[he suddenly recognizes his co-worker]
GEORGE: Bill! We weren't expecting you back for another week!
BILL: Yes, well I'm not really back, I'm here on an errand. I wanna borrow a book.
GEORGE: New Hampshire that dull?
BILL: Well, matter of fact, I never got to New Hampshire. But that's a long story, I'll tell you, I'll tell you later! I'll go upstairs now and get the book.
GEORGE: Hey, wait a minute! You're still an invalid now, let me get the book. Tell me the name of it and I'll get it for you.
BILL: Well ...
GEORGE: Oh, come on, tell me!
BILL: Well, I suppose there'll be no trouble. It's the Tractate Middoth. It's for Misses--
PETERS: [from the front desk] It's out.
BILL: Out? Well, it can't be!
GEORGE: Oh yeah, we sent it out by parcel post.
GEORGE: Yesterday. A member wrote in and asked for it, so we--
GEORGE: Who was it, Peters?
PETERS: Uh, John Eldred, lives in Bretfield.
GEORGE: That's it.
BILL: You mean you went upstairs and go the Tractate Middoth for Eldred, and no one stopped you?
GEORGE: Well, who'd stop me?
BILL: Well, I ... I don't know. I, I guess I'm wrong. Guess I'll have to go to Bretfield.
[Bill finds Mister Eldred unconscious at the Bretfield post office - having encountered the ghost of Doctor Rant - so he takes the package from him and brings the book back to Mary]
BILL: [holding the book] You see, here it is. In the flyleaf of the book. Writing. Hebrew words, but they aren't really Hebrew words, they're English words. When I got back to Boston last night, I took it to an expert in the language and he read it to me last night in the presence of a lawyer, and it's a perfectly valid will leaving everything to your mother!
MARY: Oh, wait'll Mother hears this, she's rich!
Leslie Nielsen as Bill
Russell Collins as John Eldred
Pat Englund as Mary
Eva Condon as Mrs. Simpson
John Gerstad as George Earle
Marvin Paige as Peters
"Lights Out" (Season 3, Episode 37) - Original Air Date 7 May 1951
SUMMARY: The impatient and anxious Mr. John Eldred (Russell Collins) visits a Boston Library asking to borrow an obscure copy of the Talmud titled 'THE TRACTATE MIDDOTH'. The young library assistant Bill Garrett (Leslie Nielsen) is given the task of retrieving the book but when he looks for it, it is missing. Has the mysterious gentleman that was reading in the library got it? But nobody can say where he came from or where he has disappeared to and has this same strange spectre also started to 'haunt' Bill Garrett, and what does all this have to do with the lost will of Dr. Rant?
A curt old man, John Eldred, approaches Bill, a clerk at a Boston libary. Eldred says he's visited the library a year earlier and has come back for a book. He asks Bill to get a book for him and hands him a note with its title: "Talmud: Tractate MIddoth with the comentary of Machmanidies, Amsterdam, 1717 11/3/34". Bill goes upstairs to get the book, donated in 1931 by someone named Dr. John Rant. Searching the stacks, he sees it's being read by a mysterious man dressed in black with his back turned. The old man doesn't responds to Bill's greetings.
Bill goes down and tells Eldred that a man who looks like an old school teacher is currently reading the book. Eldred is horrified, and asks that the book be sent to him when it's available.
Bill goes back upstairs to check and finds the old man still there reading and unresponsive. Bill approaches the figure, takes one look at his face and screams and faints. Fellow clerk George runs upstairs, finds Bill on the floor, but no one else there.
At the train station, Mary and her mother, Mrs. Simpson, are lamenting their fruitless trip to Boston. Mother philosophically says that if she was meant to have Uncle John Rant's fortune, she would have found his will. Mom tells how on his death bed, Rant told here that he wanted her to have his fortune. However, she'd have to find his will and and probably wouldn't recognize it when she did. The two run to catch their train. Bill walks up with George, who's come to see him off. Bill is going to the New Hampsire mountains for two weeks of rest per his doctor's orders. Bill ties to convince his friend George that he really did see a horrible old man who had no eyeballs, just sockets filled with cobwebs. As Bill goes to get on his train, he encounters the frightening old man again. Horrified, he run the other way and onto another train.
At the Simpsons' home, Bill thanks Mary and her mother for allowing him to stay with them for past week. Bill and Mary also do some flirting. He tells the pair that he works at an academic libary which causes Mrs. Simpson to say how she was cheated out of a fortune by a book. The ladies ask him how a book written in English could be hidden and unrecognizable, promting Bill to suggest it could be written in Hebrew. Uncle John Rant was a school master, so perhaps that's what he did with his will. Recognizing the name John Rant, Bill suddenly becomes frightened. Asking questions, he learns that the inheritance ended up going to a cousin, who Bill correctly guesses to be John Eldred. The group figures out that Eldred has been searching though Dr. Rant's thousands of books for all these years, looking for the will to destroy it. Not finding it in Dr. Rant's library, Eldred had tracked it down to the Boston library. On both occasions that he's tried to retrieve it, the ghost of Rant has scared him off. Bill realizes that none of these strange events is coincidental and that the late doctor wants him to help Mrs. Simpson get her rightful money. Racing back to Boston, Bill finds that the book has been mailed to Eldred.
At the local post office in the Berkshires, old man Eldred picks up his package from the clerk. As he walks away from the counter, he encounters the ghost of Dr. Rant and falls dead to the floor. Bill is just walking in and instructs the clerk to quickly get a doctor. While she does, Bill takes the package containing the book and leaves.
Back at the Simpsons' home, Bill explains to the ladies how the book contains a completely legal will and that both will soon be wealthy. After a little more flirting, Bill asks Mary to marry him. She happily says yes.