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Recap / The Twilight Zone (1959) S1E23: "A World of Difference"
aka: The Twilight Zone S 1 E 23 A World Of Difference

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Arthur Curtis (or is it Gerald Raigan?) talks to Nora.

Rod Serling: You're looking at a tableau of reality, things of substance, of physical material: a desk, a window, a light. These things exist and have dimension. Now this is Arthur Curtis, age thirty-six, who also is real. He has flesh and blood, muscle and mind. But in just a moment we will see how thin a line separates that which we assume to be real with that manufactured inside of a mind.

Air date: March 11, 1960

It's just another day for Arthur Curtis (Howard Duff), a respectable businessman. After giving his secretary some instructions, he enters his office and tries to make a phone call, but finds that the phone isn't working. That's not his biggest problem, because his whole world is about to change with the utterance of a single word: "Cut."

Having thought he was alone in the office, Arthur turns around to discover that one of the walls has somehow been replaced by a soundstage, complete with director and a full production crew. According to these people, Arthur is actually Gerald Raigan, a struggling actor playing the titular role in the film The Private World of Arthur Curtis. However, Gerald believes that he really is Arthur Curtis.

Gerald/Arthur is assaulted by his angry ex-wife Nora, who wants to squeeze the divorce money given to her by the court decision (as much of it as she can). However, he never caves in and continues claiming that he is Arthur Curtis to everyone around him.

A World of Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: It's hinted that Gerald has a problem with the bottle.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Is Arthur Curtis a real person? Or is he a delusional Gerald Raigan? We never find out for sure, but the story works either way. If Arthur is real, we also never find out what prompts his trip through the Twilight Zone.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: A harsh one between Gerald and his ex-wife Nora. Arthur doesn't seem to know anything about this conflict, prompting Nora to take a checkbook out of Gerald's drawer and literally spell his name to him so that he can sign the check.
  • Gainax Ending: It is implied that our main character might have been Arthur all along. He lived in his own universe and only once crossed into a parallel universe where he's an actor named Gerald Raigan playing his own role. The end of the episode has Arthur happily returning to his wife Marian in his original universe.
  • Happily Married: Arthur and his wife Marian, sharply contrasted with Gerald and Nora.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Curtis/Raigan hijacks Brinkley's car, which was conveniently parked in front of his house. Brinkley runs out of the house to stop him, but can only see the departing vehicle.
  • Longing for Fictionland: Brinkley thinks that Gerald has convinced himself that he is Arthur Curtis, as he is attracted by the character's happy life, with his loving wife and daughter.
  • Lost in Character: What the film crew thinks is Gerald's problem.
  • Mind Screw: Par for the course for The Twilight Zone. It is very convoluted and no-one can definitely say whether the character ultimately is Arthur Curtis or Gerald Raigan.
  • Mistaken from Behind: Arthur Curtis mistakes a little girl for his daughter Tina from behind.
  • Nice Guy: Brinkley, Gerald's agent, turns out to be the one in the harsh universe Arthur is stuck in. He is first demanding to him and warns that his career will stop if he continues to be negligent. However, as Raigan goes on saying that he is definitely Arthur, Brinkley confesses that he understands how fulfilling it is to be the hero, also wishing he was another character than he is.
  • The Oner: Done to establish the reality of Curtis' world so that the Proscenium Reveal would be that much more shocking. Arthur enters his office, opens the blinds, then turns around to make a phone call. When he hears the word "Cut!" and turns back, the wall with the window is gone, replaced by the soundstage. The camera never cuts away from Arthur during the scene. According to Marc Scott Zicree's The Twilight Zone Companion, director Ted Post accomplished the trick by having the office wall built on rails and silently moved out of the way while Arthur was making his phone call.
  • Proscenium Reveal: The first several minutes of the film show businessman Arthur Curtis at his office. Then a camera and shooting crew are revealed to be facing Arthur from offcamera.
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Gerald, during his first phone call to the operator.
  • Show Within a Show: Gerald Raigan plays the title character in the film The Private World of Arthur Curtis (the plot of which is never revealed).
  • Tuckerization: Arthur's daughter Tina is named after Richard Matheson's daughter.
  • We All Die Someday: Subverted in the closing narration.

Rod Serling: The modus operandi for the departure from life is usually a pine box of such and such dimensions, and this is the ultimate in reality. But there are other ways for a man to exit from life. Take the case of Arthur Curtis, age thirty-six. His departure was along a highway with an exit sign that reads, 'This Way To Escape.' Arthur Curtis, en route to the Twilight Zone.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Twilight Zone S 1 E 23 A World Of Difference


TZ: A World of Difference

Arthur Curtis goes about his day as usual, but then he spots a film crew where a wall used to be.....

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / ProsceniumReveal

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