Escape Radio Show: The Diamond As Big As The Ritz (Transcription)
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Announcer: Escape tonight to a fabulous world where there is a diamond as big as the Ritz.


Announcer: The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations presents "Escape" -- a new series of programs of which this, the third, is "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Produced and directed by William N. Robson.


2nd Announcer: In a country as large as ours there are many odd and wonderful corners hidden away but none more fabulous and wonderful than the one conceived in the imagination of F. Scott Fitzgerald and located in the pages of his famous short story, "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz." It is described in the words of John Unger, twenty years old, impressionable, and quite willing to swear to the truth of this whole strange affair.


John (narrates): I'd been going to the St. Midas prep school for a couple of years and this was my second summer vacation. I'd met this fella, Percy Washington, during the winter and got to be pretty good friends with him. Only, I didn't know about his family or where he came from or anything like that. 'Course, I knew he must be rich 'cuz all the fellas at St. Midas come from wealthy families. So when he invited me to spend the summer at his home out west someplace, well, that was okay by me.


John (narrates): Well, we'd been on the train overnight when he first mentioned it. I don't even remember now what led up to it. We'd been talkin' about first one thing, then another.


John: Exactly where is your home, Percy? I mean, you bought the train tickets and all--

Percy: It's in Montana, sort of.

John: Montana? Oh, yeah. It's pretty wild country, isn't it?

Percy: Mmmm… some of it is.

John: Now, you take Hades, Missouri where I come from. It's been settled for a hundred and fifty years. One of the first towns on the Mississippi River.

Percy: Indeed?

John: Oh, sure.

Percy: That's very interesting.

John: Huh… I sure do appreciate your not makin' jokes about it. You know, the way some of the fellas do when I say, "I come from Hades…" Why, my father's plantation--

Percy (interrupts): John. Do you know my father is the richest man in the world?

John: Oh?

Percy: By far the richest.

John (doesn't quite know what to say): Oh, I read about a man that paid taxes on a five million dollar income.

Percy: Small-fry! If my father paid tax on his real income, he'd disrupt the whole economy of the United States.

John: No kidding? I like rich people. The richer a fella is, the better I like him.

Percy: My father could buy out all the millionaires in the country and not even know he'd done it.

John: Is that a fact? (tries to change the subject) I visited the Schnlitzer-Murphys once. They're plenty rich. Why, their daughter Vivian's got rubies as big as hen's eggs, and sapphires that glow like headlamps.

Percy: I like jewels. Always have. I used to collect them instead of stamps.

John: And diamonds! Why, the Schnlitzer-Murphys had diamonds as big as walnuts.

Percy: Oh, that's nothing.

John: Huh?

Percy: Nothing at all. (MUSIC IN) My father has a diamond as big as the Ritz.

John laughs.

Percy: Please… I'm not joking.

John: But… You mean as big as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel?

Percy: Exactly. My father has a diamond as big as the Ritz.


John (narrates): Well, from there on it was something like a dream. We got off the train about dusk at a little whistle-stop called Fish, Montana. (laughs) There wasn't anything there. Not even a station. Just a broken down old buggy and four or five sheep herders lounging beside the track and, I suppose, wondering who we were. Anyway, Percy and I climbed into the buggy and, without sayin' a word, the driver cracked his whip and off we went.


John (narrates): I don't know how far we traveled. We didn't seem to be followin' any road. After an hour or so, it got dark. But the driver kept right on, never sayin' a word.

Percy: I hope you'll pardon this inconvenience, John, but we have to take certain precautions, you know.

John: Oh. Well, that's all right.

Percy: Anyway, we're almost there.

John: Your home, you mean?

Percy: Oh, no. To the place where we consider it safe to transfer.

John: Transfer? What do you mean?

Percy: There's the signal now.

John: Headlights!

Percy: Pull up the horse, Absom. Here we are.


John: An automobile! But how--? There's no road.

Percy: Oh, this car's specially built. Doesn't need roads.


Gygsum: Welcome home, Master.

Percy: Good evening, Gygsum. (to John) Well, come on, John let's get in.


John: But that - that door opened by itself.

Percy: Sonically-controlled, you know.

John: Gosh. Hey, what's this car made out of? Silver?

Percy: No. Platinum. And those are emeralds in the hubcaps.

John: And the upholstery. It's fur.

Percy: Mink.

Gygsum: You ready, Master?

Percy: Any time, Gygsum.


Percy: You've probably noticed the exceptional brightness of the headlights. The lenses are cut from diamonds.

John: Boy! What a car!

Percy: This old junk heap? We use it for a station wagon.


John: What are we stoppin' for? This is just a deserted canyon.

Percy: Oh, we're not there yet, John. It's a little further. Wait. You'll see.

Gygsum (calls out): Hello, up there! Lower away!


John: Percy! What's that? That noise?

Percy: They're sending the hooks down.

John: Hooks?

Percy: Yes. To attach to the wheels. You know, that's what Gygsum is doing now.


John: But--

Percy: Oh, yes, I forgot to mention. Gygsum will look after you during the visit.

John: Look after me?

Percy: Your personal valet. Of course, there'll be other slaves available too whenever you need them.

John: You have a… lot of slaves?

Percy: Oh, three or four hundred, I suppose. (to Gygsum) Oh, all ready, Gygsum?

Gygsum: Yes, master. (calling) Hello! Hoist away!



John: But-- but, look! We're leavin' the ground!

Percy: Yes. There's a hoist up there on top of the cliff. Has cables about a quarter of a mile long.

John: But what for?

Percy: Oh, it's the only way in.

John: Huh! Imagine! Hoisting an automobile a quarter of a mile up the side of a cliff.

Percy: It's nothing really. As you may have guessed, John, this is not going to be like anything you ever saw before in your life.


Percy: Well, John. There it is.

John: That's your home? Aw, it's magnificent. Palatial.

Percy: It's not a bad little place.

John: How big is it?

Percy: I suppose you mean the number of rooms. I think it's around a hundred and forty. But Father may remember exactly. Then, of course, there are other buildings. Slaves' quarters and things.

John: Why hasn't anybody found out about it? This place, I mean.

Percy: Well, for one thing, it's the only five square miles in the United States that has never been surveyed.

John: Huh? Why not?

Percy: Oh, things were arranged.

John: I-I don't see how that's possible.

Percy: Believe me, it hasn't been easy. I understand Grandfather had to bribe three government bureaus, a Vice President, and half of Congress once to keep this place off the maps.

John: Oh, but surely somebody's stumbled onto it. Prospectors, people like that.

Percy: Oh, yes. That happens occasionally. Then, of course, we have to arrange things.

John: You mean--?

Percy: Not always. Usually we just take them prisoner and keep them. Same as the aviators.

John: Oh, planes come here?

Percy: Well, once in a while they fly over. Of course, they never get away. We have nine anti-aircraft batteries around the hill here.

John: You… you shoot them down?

Percy: Oh, yes! Great sport! It does upset Mother a bit though. And there's always the chance that one might get away. That's Father's greatest worry.

John: Well, this place… this whole thing, it's… fantastic.

Percy: Oh, come now, John. I picked you for a fellow with his feet on the ground. And you haven't seen anything yet, you know. This is only the beginning.


John (narrates): And it was only the beginning. We crossed the acres of lawn and entered the great chateau. And from that moment on, vision upon vision tumbled together in a gigantic kaleidoscope of color, symmetry, and exquisite harmony. There were corridors lined with gleaming crystals, lit by lamps cut from emeralds. And there were great halls carpeted with chinchilla fur and ermine. And some with floors of clear transparency, flaming in the shifting glow of a myriad-colored fire beneath them. And there was a white-haired man, pink-faced and pleasant who was Percy's father. And a lovely lady with dark hair piled high on her head, like a fragile queen, who was Percy's mother. Soft music came from hidden places. Perfumes filled the air. Exotic foods and wines, more rare than pearls. And finally, sitting in my chair in the great banquet hall, I quietly fell asleep.


John (narrates): I thought there could be no more nor greater wonders. I was wrong. There were many more, and greater ones. And one of them I discovered the next morning in the garden.


Kismine: Hello, there.

John: Oh. Oh, you're lovely.

Kismine: My name is Kismine. You're John Unger and you're a friend of my brother. Are you from the East?

John: Er, no. At least, not exactly. I'm from Hades.

Kismine: Oh.

John: Missouri.

Kismine: Would you like to sit down here on the grass?

John: Well, yeah, sure I would.

Kismine: I'm going East to school this fall. D'you suppose I'll like it?

John: I think so. 'Course, it'll be different from all this.

Kismine: Well, that's what Jasmine says. And she's in the East now. I've never been… outside.

John: Who's Jasmine?

Kismine: My sister. She's older than I am.

John: I… I hope you won't be offended but… why, you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen.

Kismine: Yes, I know.

John: What?

Kismine (laughs) I surprised you, didn't I? A year ago, I would have said "Thank you." But Father says it's very necessary to learn to take things for granted. So now I just take it for granted that I'm beautiful, you see?

John: You're pretty sophisticated, aren't you?

Kismine: Oh, I'm not at all! I think sophisticated young people are terribly common. I'm not a bit like that.

John: I didn't really mean it; I only said it to tease you.

Kismine: Well, I'm glad. I wouldn't want you to think anything like that. Why, I don't smoke or drink even. And I never read a thing except poetry.

John: I was only kidding.

Kismine: I believe girls should enjoy their youths in a wholesome sort of way.

John: Oh, so do I.

Kismine: I like you, John. I wish you'd spend some of your time with me this summer. Not all with Percy.

John: Oh, I will, Kismine. I will.

Kismine: You may be in love with me if you'd like to. I'm absolutely fresh ground, you know.

John: I am in love with you.

Kismine: But, of course, we'll have to meet secretly. My parents wouldn't permit it if they knew.

John: Well, then, that's what we'll do.

Kismine: Well, I have to go now. I'm supposed to be with mother at eleven. (MUSIC QUIETLY IN) Um… Aren't you going to ask me for a kiss? Jasmine says boys always do nowadays.

John: Well, some of them do… but not me. We don't expect nice girls to do that sort of thing -- in Hades.


John (narrates): It was a funny thing. Percy's family were polite, friendly, always smiling, and yet all the time I had a feeling that some terrible and golden mystery lay hidden just around the corner. (MUSIC OUT) A few days after I'd met Kismine, Percy remarked casually that an unusual event had occurred. A man had escaped from the Cage. I didn't know what he meant then. But the next morning, I was walking with Percy's father on the grounds of the estate…

Mr. Washington: The slaves' quarters are there, Mr. Unger.

John: Oh. Yes. They're very nice.

Mr. Washington: They're adequate. During one period of my youth I became absurdly idealistic, allowed them to live in luxury. I even equipped their rooms with tiled baths.

John: Hmm. I suppose they used the bathtubs to keep coal in. Mr. Schnlitzer-Murphy told me once--

Mr. Washington: I should imagine the opinions of Mr. Schnlitzer-Murphy are of little importance. They did not use the tubs for coal. They bathed in them. Unfortunately, several caught cold and died. So, of course, I had the baths removed. Shall we move on?


John: Mr. Washington, Percy said something about a man escaping from the Cage. I didn't quite get it.

Mr. Washington: The Cage, eh? Well, perhaps you'd like to see it. Might prove interesting, just as a novelty. It's over here.

John: These trees! They're sixty feet tall. And they have roses blooming all over them.

Mr. Washington: Rather interesting development by a Swiss botanist. They're the only ones in the world.

John: I'll be darned. Though I suppose you'll see them all over the country in a few years, huh?

Mr. Washington: No. No, these are the only ones. That was arranged. Ah, here we are, the Cage.


John: But-- It's a pit. Dug in the ground. With a grating on top.

Mr. Washington: Oh, yes. It's not really a cage… except in a… a certain sense. (calls down) Well, boys! How are you getting along?


Male #1: Come on down here!

John (to Mr. Washington): Uh… how many men are down there?

Mr. Washington (to John): Oh, about fifty as I recall.

John: Who are they?

Mr. Washington: Oh, aviators we've shot down, wandering prospectors, men of that sort.

John: Yes, but why are they kept there?

Mr. Washington: They've all had the common misfortune of having discovered… El Dorado. (calls down to the men) Gentlemen!

Male: Hey, what you want?

Mr. Washington (to the men): I'm sure you'd like to know that your companion who departed without my permission has been taken care of.


Mr. Washington (to the men): He was shot by some of my agents in fourteen different places.


Mr. Washington (to John): Golf, Mr. Unger?


John: They found him then? The man who got away?

Mr. Washington: Those places were towns. My agents were overeager. None of them could offer a positive identification. I'm afraid the man may still be at large. So, you see, it's not all Utopia here. We do have our difficulties.

John: Isn't it a little unnecessary holding them like that?

Mr. Washington: Well, not at all. It's the only way to keep this place hidden.

John (darkly): Yes. I guess that must be important. (changes the subject) Uh, Percy was telling me something on the train. I thought he was just kidding. But he said you had a diamond as big as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Mr. Washington: Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. As a matter of fact, it's much bigger than the Ritz. Much bigger.


John (narrates): Well, summer went on. And I was more and more in love with Kismine. Oh, she was priceless. Exquisite. Like no other girl in the world. After a couple of weeks, I kissed her, of course. And I was really in love for the first time. I should have known. I should have put two and two together when Percy's father showed me the Cage. But I didn't -- until one morning, late in the summer, I'd slipped off with Kismine to the rose garden…

John: Kismine. I think we ought to elope.


Kismine: Oh, I don't know. It would be much nicer to be married here. But then it would be more romantic to elope.

John: Yeah. All the Sunday supplements would write stories about "Fabulous heiress elopes with --" You are fabulous, you know.

Kismine: I knew an heiress from Omaha once. I don't think you'd like her. She visited my sister here.

John: Oh, you've had other guests then, huh?

Kismine: Um, well, yes… we've had a few.

John: Well, isn't your father ever afraid they might talk outside?

Kismine: Oh, to some extent. Oh, let's talk about something pleasanter.

John (after a pause): What's so unpleasant about it?

Kismine: Well, I grew quite fond of some of them.

John: You mean… they told, and your father…?

Kismine: Oh, they didn't get a chance to. Father had to be sure.

John: Oh, but… well, that's murder.

Kismine: What else could we do? In the cage… well, they'd have been a constant reproach to us. And Father does it so nicely. They're always drugged in their sleep -- and then we tell their families they died of scarlet fever in Butte. I'm not sure how that affects the statistics there.

John: Of all the horrible--!

Kismine: Oh, it is not! After all, it'd be terribly boring here without ever having anybody. Why, Father and Mother have sacrificed some of their best friends.

John: Well, you're no better than the ret--! (suddenly realizes) That's what they plan to do with me…

Kismine: Oh, couldn't you forget it? And be nice to me until you're… put away? It's only for two or three weeks.

John: You -- you'd go on this way? Kissing, talking about love, when you know I'm not much better than a corpse?

Kismine: You're not a corpse! You're not! I won't have you saying I kissed a corpse!

John: Oh, that wasn't what I said.

Kismine: You did too!

John: I did not!

Kismine: You said that--!

Mr. Washington: Just a moment.


Kismine: Father!

Mr. Washington: Who kissed a corpse?

Kismine: Well, nobody. We were -- we were… joking.

Mr. Washington: You two haven't any business here anyway. Kismine, uh, go read, go play golf. Don't let me find you here when I come back.

Kismine: Yes, Father.

Mr. Washington: Good day, children.


Kismine (to John): You see? Now he knows. You've spoiled everything. You don't really love me.

John: Kismine, you-- (sighs) Look, tell me, what's the reason for all this secrecy? What if you are rich and have this place? Why would it be so terrible if anybody found out about it?

Kismine: Why, it's on account of the diamond, of course.

John: Diamond? What is this diamond all of you talk about?

Kismine: Well, it's the-- Ohhh, you'd better ask Percy. I'm always getting things mixed up.

John: Well, I will ask him. And another thing. I'm getting out of here tonight if I have to… dig through the mountain. I'm going back East.

Kismine: Take me with you.

John: No.

Kismine: Why not?

John: Kismine, dear, your father wouldn't permit it.

Kismine: If you won't take me, I'll go tell him I want to marry you.

John: No! You can't do that. He'd bump me off this afternoon.


Kismine: Oh, please take me, darling. We'll be terribly poor and very happy. And I'll cook things for you. Oh, herbs and berries and things. Won't that be fun? You will, won't you, John?

John (narrates): Well, my head was really in a whirl. This whole thing was fantastic. And so was the family, even Kismine. (MUSIC OUT) I couldn't think of anything to do but… well, I rushed to see Percy.

Percy: But, John, why didn't you ask me before?

John: Because I thought you were kidding all the time.

Percy: I know. You wouldn't've believed me if I'd told you.

John: Yeah, well, I'm ready to believe anything now.

Percy: Well, it was Grandfather who started the whole thing. Purely by accident. He came out here from Virginia after the War Between the States and stumbled on to it.

John: On to what?

Percy: The diamond. That's what made this all possible, of course. Grandfather spent two years going around to different cities of the world selling bits of it. Then, he started building this place. He put his money in jewels. But Father found that radium took much less space.

John: But why the secrecy?

Percy: Oh, it just wouldn't do if anyone found out. Ruin the economy of the world. The thing's too big.

John: This has been going on for three generations, then? The Cage and… and this thing of inviting friends…?

Percy: Oh, yes. You see, there wasn't really any danger before airplanes. They're what worry us.

John (darkly): You knew when you invited me here what would happen.

Percy: Please, John. I thought you'd be more sensible about it. After all, you can see my position.

John (ironic): Oh, yeah… Well, where is it? Where do you keep this diamond that's caused so cock-eyed much trouble?

Percy: Oh, I thought you'd guessed. You've noticed the hill the chateau stands on?

John: Yes.

Percy: It contains a cubic mile. And except for a thin covering of dirt, it's one… big… solid… diamond.


John (narrates): It was nearly midnight. I don't know what woke me but all of a sudden I was staring across the patches of moonlight spotting the ermine carpet of my bedroom, staring at three slaves I'd never seen before. They just slipped inside the door and stood there, each with a vicious length of shiny copper wire -- the official executioners. I lay there on the bed, watching them, counting heart beats -- not daring to move, not daring not to move. They didn't know I'd wakened. And they began edging across the room.


Mr. Washington: Come on! All three of you! There's no time now for this! All hell's broken loose! Hurry!


John (narrates): I took one long deep breath. The first one in several moments. And then I was out of the bed in an instant, throwing on my clothes and dashing through the long crystal corridor to Kismine's room.



John: Kismine! Are you awake?


Kismine: John! Over here, by the window! So they woke you up, too.

John: If you mean three of your father's slaves--

Kismine: Oh, no. Airplanes!

John: Airplanes? So that's what it is!

Kismine: At least a dozen. I saw them crossing against the moon. Oh, look, they're circling way over there.

John: You think they're here on purpose?

Kismine: Oh, yes. They dropped warnings to Father. It's that man who got away from the Cage, you know.

John: Oh, good for him!

Kismine: Yes, wasn't he clever? Well, I think we'll open up on them any second now.

John: Open up?

Kismine: Yes. Our anti-aircraft. Oh, this is going to be thrilling.

John: Thrilling?

Kismine: Oh, look, they're in range now.


Kismine: Bravo! Bravo!

John: Kismine! Get away from that window!


Kismine: Oh, good heavens! Did you see that?

John: Yes and we've got to get out of here. Can't you understand? They'll bomb the chateau next!

Kismine (gets an idea): I know! There's a little grove across from the side of the mountain. We always keep one of the cars there. And we'll have a nice view of everything.

John: A nice view! Kismine, you don't seem to understand! They mean business. They're out to finish off you and your whole family.

Kismine: Oh, but it all seems so silly. Well, when you come right down to it, they've never even met us.


Kismine: What time is it, John? Is it morning yet?

John: I don't know. I've lost my watch. Seems to be getting lighter, all right.

Kismine: It's quieter, too.

John: Mmm… They've knocked out your father's guns. Every last one of them. Won't be long now.

Kismine: Oh, it seems such a shame. The family put so much work on the place. Everything's always been so pleasant.

John: Yeah… Well, you'd better get some sleep, Kismine. I'm gonna walk down the path a little ways.

Kismine: Oh, you'll come back?

John: Yes, Kismine. I'll come back.


John (narrates): At the edge of the wood, I stopped and looked out across the valley toward the wrecked chateau standing on its diamond hill in the center. The bombing had stopped. The planes droned over the far rim of the plateau, seeking some sort of formation. Then, on a little knoll just below me, three men appeared suddenly from the underbrush. The first one strode imperiously ahead. The other two bore a heavy burden between them. It was Mr. Washington and two of the slaves. I stepped behind a rock and stood motionless, watching them.

Mr. Washington (to the slaves): All right. This is far enough. We'll stop here. Now, hoist it up. Hold it there. Both together. Easy now. There.

John (narrates): The burden they held up to the heavens was an immense diamond, cut and polished, catching the first faint rays of the dawn -- and gleaming like a fragment of the morning star.

Mr. Washington: Now! You out there--! You-- there--!

John (narrates): I could see no one else anywhere in view.

Mr. Washington: You, above there! I want you to understand! This is only a sample! I'll give you a thousand, cut as fine, set in pedestals of platinum! And I'll build you a temple -- a thousand feet high -- cast of solid gold! And on the top of it, I'll put one diamond a hundred feet across! Set there forever to catch the rays of Your sun!

John (narrates): A thought began to dawn on me. I couldn't believe it.

Mr. Washington: I'll letter your name on the temple in emeralds! And I'll see that the whole world worships at its base! All you have to do is make everything the way it was before!

John (narrates): Mr. Washington was offering a bribe to God…


John (narrates): He stopped talking and the three of them stood there, looking up at the heavens, waiting for an answer. (MUSIC IN) And then at the far end of the valley, out of those same silent heavens blossomed the white puffs of parachutes. The man who tried to bribe God looked up and saw them, became old in an instant, and turning, with lowered head, walked down the path toward the chateau. With a sudden premonition, I whirled and headed for the spot where I'd left Kismine. Kismine and the car that needed no roads!



Kismine: Haven't we gone far enough, John?

John: I suppose. We're ten miles from the chateau.

Kismine: It's all so hectic, this rushing about and losing sleep and everything.


John: Hand me those field glasses.

Kismine: Here they are. (pause) Well, can you see anything?

John: No. Wait! Hmm…

Kismine: What is it?

John: It's your father and mother. And Percy. Yes, and the two slaves, still carrying that big diamond. Wait. They're going in a tunnel down below the chateau. So that's it! They've got an underground escape.

Kismine: No. I remember now. The mountain's wired. Some kind of atom bomb.

John: Atom--? Atomic bomb!?

Kismine: Oh, that's it. Father's had it for years. He always said it would disintegrate the whole works, diamond and all. 'Course, he only regarded it as a last resort.

John: So he'd rather have it like that. (beat) Well, they're all inside the tunnel now. The troopers are moving in.

Kismine: I don't suppose there's really anything to be done about it now.

John (narrates): And there wasn't.



Kismine: I keep thinking about things the way they were. It was all so pleasant. I don't suppose it'll be ever exactly like that again.

John: Not ever, Kismine. And maybe it never was. Youth's a time for dreaming. And dreams die too.

Kismine: I'll probably have to take in washing. Oh, but of course, we'll be very happy. What will we do, John?

John: Do? Oh, we can love awhile underneath the stars. That's a form of divine drunkenness we can all try. And then, there may be other diamonds in the world, who knows? And even though it's a shabby gift, there's always disillusion. Turn up your collar, Kismine, before you catch pneumonia. Let's go to sleep.


Announcer: "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" by F. Scott Fitzgerald was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield and produced and directed by William N. Robson with Jack Edwards, Jr. as John, Danny Merrill as Percy, and Linda Mason as Kismine. The special musical score was conceived and conducted by Cy Feur.


Announcer: "Escape" is presented by the Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations each week at this time. Next week we invite you to escape to the China Seas with Joseph Conrad and his gripping story of a "Typhoon." And so good night until next week at this same time when it will again be time to… escape! This is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.

"The Diamond As Big As The Ritz"

The fascinating story about the home life of the richest family in the world.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (author),

William N. Robson (producer, director),

Les Crutchfield (adaptor),

Jack Edwards Jr.

Danny Merrill,

Linda Mason,

Cy Feuer (composer, conductor).

Broadcasted on CBS: Escape radioshow (July 21, 1947).