The Death of Chekhov by R. J. Cardullo | Script Revolution

The Death of Chekhov

Anton Chekhov is dying in a hotel at a health resort in Germany, where he is attended by his wife, Olga Knipper, a doctor . . . and a lowly valet.



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Based On: 
“Errand” (1987), a short story by Raymond Carver.

On July 15, 1904, shortly after midnight, Olga Knipper summons a doctor to attend to Anton Chekhov at their hotel in Badenweiler, Germany. The tubercular Chekhov has begun hallucinating, evidently about a trip he once made to Japan. When a certain Dr. Schwöhrer arrives, he senses that Chekhov has little time left. First he gives the patient an injection to speed his heart. Then the doctor says he will send for oxygen, but Chekhov, momentarily lucid, replies that he will be dead before it arrives. At this point, Dr. Schwöhrer goes to the telephone and calls the hotel’s kitchen to order a bottle of champagne and three glasses.

A rumpled young valet delivers the champagne, receives a tip from the doctor, and exits. Then the Dr. Schwöhrer pours three glasses and presses the cork back into the bottle. Knipper puts a cool glass into the hand of Chekhov, who says it has been a long time since he has sampled champagne. He drinks all of it, after which Knipper removes his empty glass. Chekhov rolls onto his side and dies a few seconds later. Knipper asks Dr. Schwöhrer to delay telling the authorities for a few hours; she wishes to be alone with her husband before his body is taken over by others. The doctor agrees and, as he departs, the champagne cork pops out of the bottle.

Knipper sits with her husband until morning, when a knock at the door again reveals the young valet, who has come to deliver a porcelain vase of three yellow roses, as well as to collect the champagne bottle and glasses. Seeing the cork on the floor and the now motionless Chekhov lying on the bed, the valet senses that something is wrong. Knipper, who rejects the flowers and disregards the suggestion that she have breakfast in her room, tells the young man that Anton Chekhov is dead. She asks him to go for a mortician, taking care that he find someone appropriate for a person as important as Mr. Chekhov. Before tipping the valet, Knipper carefully instructs him not to do anything that will call attention to the situation or cause a commotion. As she instructs him, the young man thinks about how to retrieve the champagne cork that is lying near the toe of his shoe. He finally leans over and picks the cork up, then exits.

With the vase of yellow roses still in hand, the valet goes to get the mortician, who takes the three flowers inside his office and says that he will soon leave to attend to Chekhov in his hotel room. Outside, the young man awaits him.

Submitted: May 26, 2021
Last Updated: May 26, 2021

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R. J. Cardullo's picture

The Writer: R. J. Cardullo

A former university film teacher, I turned to screenwriting several years ago. I have also written film criticism for many publications. A New Yorker by birth, I grew up in Miami and was educated at the University of Florida, Tulane, and Yale. My last U.S. address was in Milford, Connecticut; I am now an expatriate residing in Scandinavia. Many of my scripts (both long and short) are adaptations of lesser-known works by well-known authors. I am happy to re-write, collaborate, or write on demand. Thanks kindly for any attention you can give my work. Go to bio

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