Favorite Story: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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KFI Los Angeles, 17 September 1949
Another gem from the long-running radio series that ran from 1946 to 1949 with Ronald Colman as the regular host.  This story was chosen by ventriloquist and comedian Edgar Bergen.
Described by presenter Colman as a frightening tale of evil "from a different and gracious era," this production made intelligent use of musical interludes to suggest changes of mood.  As the Governess (Edna Best) came to Bly House for the first time, violin music created an edenic world that almost seemed too perfect for words. This mood was sustained by flutes as she encountered Flora for the first time.  Peter Quint's threatening introduction into the story, as he appeared on the ramparts of the house, was signalled by kettledrums; while the Governess' rapid change of mood, as she became more and more unable to cope with what was happening around her, was emphasized by screeching violins.  In old-time radio adaptations such as this, music was often used to emphasize scenic or temporal changes; in this production it helped to emphasize the fact that The Turn of the Screw is a psychological drama focusing on the governess' attempts to cope (or not to cope, perhaps) with the unearthly events taking place around her.
As well as taking the narrator's role, Colman also played Douglas the story-teller who begins and ends the novella.  With his honeydrench voice, he conjured up an atmosphere of relaxation that lulled listeners into a false sense of security; we had no real inclination of the events to follow as he began the story.  In an interesting stylistic move, the (uncredited) director of this production had Douglas' voice fade out, and his speeches were continued by the Governess.  This suggested some kind of close relationship between the two of them: Douglas simply recounted the Governess' tale, without offering any comment on it. 
The major change to the novella occurred at the end of this production; almost a third of the action was removed.  The action concluded with a newly-written happy ending taking place by the lake, in which the governess banished the ghosts for ever through sheer willpower.  Once she had done this, the children could return to their happy-go-lucky lives at Bly, secure in the knowledge that they had the governess to protect her. 
In this interpretation, The Turn of the Screw was reshaped as a rite-of-passage tale.  Once the governess had learned to cope with the demons within her - as well as the demons haunting Bly - she could bring about the happy ending.  This was certainly not what James had written, but seemed particularly appropriate for an anthology series called Favorite Story, in which listeners were encouraged to view classic tales like old friends, whose company should be enjoyed rather than abhorred.
Given the production's limited running-time, this version of The Turn of the Screw was very entertaining.  Edna Best was particularly good at suggesting the Governess' gradual acquisition of maturity.