Air date: March 11, 1960
It's just another workday 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 the phone isn't working. However, that's not his biggest problem, because his whole world is about to change with the utterance of one word: "Cut."
Arthur, who thought he was alone in the office, turns around. He discovers that one of the walls has somehow been replaced by a soundstage, complete with director and a full production crew!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, an actor playing the titular role in the film The Private World of Arthur Curtis. However, Gerald believes that he really is Arthur Curtis.
Gerald is assaulted by his angry former wife who wants to squeeze from him the 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. The episode is dedicated to his tribulations in the in-universe Real Life where he is always treated as Gerald Raigan but continues to insist that he is Arthur Curtis.
A World of Tropes:
- The Alcoholic: It's hinted that Gerald Raigan 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, and the story works either way.
- Divorce Assets Conflict: It is harsh between Gerald Raigan and his wife Nora. However, Arthur Curtis doesn't seem to know anything about that conflict. His wife even takes the checkbook out of Gerald's drawer and literally spells his name to him so that he can sign a check.
- Gainax Ending: It is implied that the character might indeed have been Arthur Curtis all along. He lived in his own universe and only once crossed into the universe where the most part of this episode is set and where he had to be an actor named Gerald Raigan playing his own role. Then Arthur happily returned to his wife Marian.
- Happily Married: Arthur Curtis and his wife Marian.
- 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 but can only see the departing vehicle.
- Longing for Fictionland: Brinkley thinks that Gerald Raigan has convinced himself that he is Arthur Curtis as he is attracted by the character's happy life with his loving wife Marian and daughter Tina.
- Lost in Character: What the 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 (David White), Gerald's agent, turns out to be the one in the harsh universe of Gerald. He is first demanding to him and warns that his career can stop if he continues to be as negligent as before. However, later, as Curtis/Raigan goes on saying that he is definitely Curtis the lawyer, but not Raigan the actor, Brinkley confesses that he understands the hero and he also wishes he was another character than he is. Later Curtis/Raigan steals Brinkley's car to arrive in time before the set was dismantled to return in the other universe.
- The Oner: Done to establish the reality of Arthur Curtis' world so that the Proscenium Reveal would be that much more shocking. Arthur enters his office, opens the blinds on the window, 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 the businessman Arthur Curtis at his work. Then it is this trope and the viewer sees the camera and the shooting crew so one can think that the previous part was about simply Gerald Raigan playing Arthur Curtis. The rest is a bit more complicated, though...
- 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 Curtis' daughter Tina is named after Richard Matheson's daughter.
- We All Die Someday: Subverted in the closing narration.