The Hitch-Hiker (radio play)
|Written by||Lucille Fletcher|
|Date premiered||November 17, 1941|
|Place premiered||CBS Radio|
|Series||Orson Welles Show|
The Hitch-Hiker is a radio play written by Lucille Fletcher. It was first presented on the November 17, 1941, broadcast of the Orson Welles Show on CBS Radio, featuring a score written and conducted by Bernard Herrmann, Fletcher's first husband. Welles performed The Hitch-Hiker four times on radio, and the play was adapted for a notable 1960 episode of the television series The Twilight Zone.
The story concerns Ronald Adams, a man driving cross-country from Brooklyn to California. On the morning he leaves New York, in the rain, Adams sees a man on the Brooklyn Bridge. He seems to be waiting for a lift. Adams sees the man again an hour later, hitch-hiking at the Pulaski Skyway. At several points along his journey, Adams repeatedly sees the same hitch-hiker, despite the fact that, logically, there is no possible way the mysterious man could always somehow get ahead of him.
Adams is increasingly terrified by the unexplained appearances of the hitch-hiker. His narration conveys his determination to intentionally run the mysterious man down the next time he sees him. This ruins Adams's chance for companionship with another hitch-hiker, a girl who needs a lift to Amarillo. She lightly flirts with him but is soon spooked by his obsession with the mysterious man he sees at the side of the road. After Adams sees the hitch-hiker yet again, he almost crashes into a barbed-wire fence. The girl extricates herself from his car and flees, insisting that she was unable to see the man Adams fears. She is picked up by a passing truck, and Adams is alone on the Texas prairie. He wants desperately to sleep but then he hears the "hall-ooo" of the hitch-hiker and sees him approach. Adams drives on toward New Mexico.
Finally, Adams feels he is going mad and reaches out for help. He finds a payphone at a gas station in the middle of the New Mexico desert. He calls his mother in Brooklyn, feeling that he can pull himself together if he can hear a familiar voice. The long-distance operator puts his call through, but Adams is confused when a woman he doesn't know answers the telephone. She states that Mrs. Adams is in the hospital due to a nervous breakdown, brought on by the death of her oldest son, Ronald, six days before. Adams learns that he has died in a car accident on the Brooklyn Bridge, where he first spotted the hitch-hiker. Adams realizes he was not a malevolent figure, but rather a friendly angel of death sent to guide Adams to the other side.
As the radio play ends, Adams expresses both his determination to find the hitch-hiker again, and his concern that he has been unable to do so, ever since his call home.
Immediately after their marriage in October 1939, Lucille Fletcher and Bernard Herrmann left New York for Hollywood, where Herrmann was to begin work on the score of Orson Welles's first feature film, Citizen Kane. They travelled cross-country several times by air and by train; but their most memorable trip was made in 1940, with Herrmann driving their Packard convertible. Fletcher saw "an odd-looking man, first on the Brooklyn Bridge and then on the Pulaski Skyway. We never saw him again. However, I didn't quite know what to do with the idea until a year later, when … I conceived the idea of doing it as a ghost story."
"The Hitch-Hiker was written for Orson Welles in the days when he was one of the master producers and actors in radio," Fletcher wrote in her preface to the published version of the radio play, which adapts it for the stage. "It was designed to provide a vehicle not only for his famous voice, but for the original techniques of sound which became associated with his radio presentations. … Orson Welles and his group of Mercury Players made of this script a haunting study of the supernatural, which can still raise hackles along my own spine."
The music for The Hitch-Hiker — called "one of Herrmann's most chilling scores" by biographer Steven C. Smith — was used in all four radio presentations. It was also re-recorded as stock music that can be heard (usually uncredited) on the soundtracks of several CBS television series, including the 1960 Twilight Zone adaptation of The Hitch-Hiker. Herrmann's score (CBS Music Library VIII 56-D-1) is in the UCLA Music Library Special Collections.
"We really shared that story together," Fletcher said in a 1988 interview about Bernard Herrmann. "He was very interested in that story so he had to write the music for it."
The Hitch-Hiker was first performed by Orson Welles on the November 17, 1941, broadcast of the Orson Welles Show on CBS Radio. Welles also performed the radio play on The Philip Morris Playhouse (October 16, 1942), Suspense (September 2, 1942), and The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air (June 21, 1946).
Welles has expressed an opinion that Fletcher's The Hitch-Hiker and Sorry, Wrong Number were the two best suspense plays ever written for the medium of radio.
Rod Serling adapted The Hitch-Hiker for the first season of his television anthology series The Twilight Zone. Broadcast January 22, 1960, Serling's version makes notable changes to the story. It provides a more positive ending, and changes the gender of the driver to a female named Nan Adams (named for one of Serling's daughters), portrayed by Inger Stevens.
In 2004, Mind City Productions adapted the Mercury Theater version of the radio play into an animated short film, adding animation directed by Michael Anthony Jackson to the original recording of the Mercury radio production. This was intended to be the first in a series of animated adaptations of Mercury radio productions, although to date, this remains the only entry in the series.
In 2011, a short film adaptation of "Hitchhiker" was produced and directed by Lawrence Anthony.
- Smith, Steven C., A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1991, hardcover; 2002, paperback ISBN 978-0-520-22939-6 page 72
- Fletcher, Lucille, Sorry, Wrong Number and The Hitch-Hiker. New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1952 (revised), 1980 (renewed), ISBN 978-0-8222-1059-7 pp. 23 and 25
- Smith, Steven C., A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 2002, paperback ISBN 978-0-520-22939-6 page 72
- Film Score Rundowns, "The Hitch-Hiker (Bernard Herrmann)"; retrieved July 1, 2012
- Wrobel, Bill, Film Score Rundowns, "CBS Collection 072 UCLA," Blog 42, June 25, 2010. Herrmann's score for The Hitch-Hiker is in Box 11 (page 23).
- Interview, Lucille Fletcher on The Hitch-Hiker. Bernard Herrmann: A Celebration of his Life and Music (1988), a radio documentary by Bruce Crawford and Bob Coate, KIOS-FM, part one; retrieved July 1, 2012
- Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers 1992 ISBN 0-06-016616-9 Chronology of Welles's career by editor Jonathan Rosenbaum, page 367
- The Definitive Philip Morris Playhouse Radio Log, retrieved January 21, 2012
- Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, This is Orson Welles, chronology of Welles's career by Jonathan Rosenbaum, pp. 372, 373
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
- Jackson, Michael Anthony. (2004). The Hitchiker. Mind City Productions.
- "Twilight Zone: Hitchhiker". "iMaiden Channel".
- The Hitch-Hiker — Suspense at the Internet Archive (September 2, 1942)
- The Hitch-Hiker — The Mercury Theatre on the Air at the Internet Archive (June 21, 1946)
- Herrmann Photo Tour including a photo of the title page of the score for The Hitch-Hiker (CBS Collection, UCLA). The Bernard Herrmann Papers, The Bernard Herrmann Society; retrieved June 24, 2012
- "The Hitch-Hiker" at the Internet Movie Database (The Twilight Zone, January 22, 1960)
- The Hitch-Hiker at the Internet Movie Database (2004)