The Frosted Glass Coffin by R. J. Cardullo | Script Revolution

The Frosted Glass Coffin

Through the conversation among three elderly men sitting outside a Miami hotel, "The Frosted Glass Coffin" focuses on the twin predicaments of old age and impending death.



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Based On: 
"The Frosted Glass Coffin" (1941, 1970), a one-act play by Tennessee Williams.

This script is set in a retirement community in Miami, Florida, in the 1950s. The time is early morning. Three elderly men gather outside their hotel to observe the ritual line-up at the cafeteria across the street. One man, Claude Fletcher, expresses outrage over the cafeteria’s recent price-increase and shares his plans to start a petition in protest. The second man, Donald Sykes, argues that the petition will go unnoticed if the newspapers do not publicize it. Each taunts the other as they launch into a heated discussion comparing their respective states of health.

The three men (one of whom, Thomas Reilly, is hard of hard of hearing and mostly uncommunicative) are interrupted by the sound of shouting across the street. They discover that an old woman has fainted while standing in line in the sun. Someone calls out to the men, asking them to run and fetch a taxi. Fletcher laughingly disregards such a request, musing, “Run . . . In our age bracket you’re living in a glass coffin, a frosted coffin; you just barely see light through it.”

Fletcher subsequently delivers news of the recent death of the wife of hotel resident Bernard Kelsey. Sykes and Reilly are shocked by this revelation. Fletcher then divulges the events surrounding Mrs. Kelsey’s passing. The previous night, Fletcher and his wife, Betsy, had driven Winnie Kelsey to the hospital (in response to her complains of abdominal pain), after which they left Mrs. Kelsey in her room and went to retrieve her husband from the hotel. But by the time the trio returned to the hospital, it was too late. Mr. Kelsey has been in a state of denial about his wife’s death ever since.

Fletcher and Sykes now have a dialogue about the habits of wives—overheard by the unseen Betsy Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher even remarks that his wife takes pleasure in knowing that she will most likely outlive him. By this time, Bernard Kelsey has joined the other three men outside the hotel; nearly blind and almost deaf, he is dazed and lethargic. After coming forward and revealing her presence, Betsy tries to persuade Mr. Kelsey to join their party at the cafeteria; he refuses, however. Mr. Fletcher, Sykes, and Reilly get up to go have their breakfast, followed by Betsy. Mr. Kelsey is left sitting alone in front of the hotel. He utters a pained howl of grief, followed by the realization that he, too, is hungry. Yet no one is there now to help him.

Submitted: December 31, 2020
Last Updated: January 1, 2021

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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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