Wharton Queries: EW story on CBS Radio Mystery Theater

I’m hoping that you or someone in your organization would be able to help me identify a particular Edith Wharton story.I am writing a book about the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, a radio drama anthology that aired from 1974 through 1982. In 1979, the series broadcast an episode that they explicitly represent as being “adapted from a story by Edith Wharton.” Unfortunately, they do not specify which story.
The plot of the radio drama concerns a wealthy woman who recently married a selfish man. He has already lost much of her money and aims to lose more. She has fallen in love with his friend and attorney. The husband strikes and kills a man in a hit and run. The police investigate and suspect him. The victim’s son wants to find the killer. The husband becomes more selfish and intolerable. His wife and the attorney discuss killing him. He kills the attorney, Finally the son of the man killed in the hit and run murders the husband in revenge.
Do you have any thoughts about which, if any, Edith Wharton story this adaptation resembles, even if only vaguely? I’d be grateful for any help that you or members of you group might be able to provide. Please feel free to share my note with others who might have some ideas.
Thank you,
John Slavney
Update 2/2/19 from John Slavney


Thanks much for your help in solving this mystery. It’s my theory that Payton and Grams are mistaken and the only similarity is in the title. I am scouring Wharton’s short stories presently and think it’s just a matter of time before the experts or I come up with a better match!

The theory that it’s a loose adaptation based on generalized Nietzchean themes seems a bit too generous, IMHO.

I’ll post any findings or theories in the forum.

Thanks again for your interest and assistance! –John Slavney

5 thoughts on “Wharton Queries: EW story on CBS Radio Mystery Theater

  1. dhefko

    According to _The CBS Radio Mystery Theater: An Episode Guide and Handbook to Nine Years of Broadcasting, 1974 – 1982_, “The Beast” was “based on the 1910 short story ‘The Blonde Beast’ by Edith Wharton.” The correct spelling of Wharton’s title is “The Blond Beast,” which (as many scholars have pointed out), she borrowed from Nietzsche. Agate’s adaptation is a rather loose one and is based less on the plot of Wharton’s story than its thematic examination of morality.

    Payton, Gordon, and Martin Grams, Jr. “The Beast.” _The CBS Radio Mystery Theater: An Episode Guide and Handbook to Nine Years of Broadcasting, 1974 – 1982_. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2004. 324.

      1. dhefko

        My pleasure! Though it looks like the source I initially cited may, in fact, be erroneous—My follow-up response below will, I think, prove more useful.

  2. dhefko

    Mr. Slavney,

    After listening to “The Beast” in its entirety, your hunch that Payton and Grams are mistaken would seem to be by substantiated by the similarities between Agate’s adaptation and Wharton’s 1908 story “The Choice” (first published in _The Century Magazine_ here: http://www.unz.com/print/Century-1908nov-00032/) and republished in her 1916 collection _Xingu and Other Stories_ (available online here: https://bit.ly/2tfoyKv). While Act I of the adaptation (including the accident, the dead man in the road, the dead man’s son seeking revenge, and the police investigation) is almost entirely Agate’s invention, the first part of Act II and much of Act III closely follow the plot of Wharton’s “The Choice” and directly quote her dialogue on numerous occasions.

    There is a faint possibility—since the central character in “The Beast” claims, at one point, that he hit a dog (not a man) in the road and Wharton’s “The Blond Beast” includes an important episode involving an injured dog in the road—that Agee’s first act may have been partially inspired by Wharton’s other story. The similarities between the two titles could, however, be entirely coincidental, since it’s made clear in the course of “The Beast” that its title is (at least in part) an allusion to Hamlet’s soliloquy (quoted here from the 1604 Second Quarto, Folger Shelfmark: STC 22276) in which he exclaims, “What is a man / If his chiefe good and market of his time / Be but to sleepe and feede, a beast, no more:” (http://www.quartos.org/main.php).

    Best of luck with your book,
    Dan Hefko

  3. John

    Thanks Dan. This is a gratifying confirmation of my hunch. The whole hit-and-run plot is quite a distraction, but yes, the rest seems remarkably faithful to the story. Thanks for your scholarship!.


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