Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Long Live Walter Jameson"

Kevin McCarthy as the immortally doomed Walter Jameson
"Long Live Walter Jameson"
Season One, Episode 24
Original Air Date: March 18, 1960

Cast:
Professor Walter Jameson: Kevin McCarthy
Professor Samuel Kittridge: Edgar Stehli
Susanna Kittridge: Dody Heath
Laurette Bowen: Estelle Winwood

Crew:
Writer: Charles Beaumont (original teleplay)
Director: Anton Leader
Producer: Buck Houghton
Makeup: William Tuttle
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Music: Stock

And now, Mr. Serling:
"Next week the culprit is Charles Beaumont, the gentleman responsible for a story unlike any you've ever seen. You talk of immortality, the business of being able to live for as long as one wants. Well, next week you'll see Kevin McCarthy at the tail end of a life that's gone on for two thousand years. The play is called, 'Long Live Walter Jameson,' on The Twilight Zone."

Rod Serling's Opening Narrarion:
"You're looking at act one, scene one of a nightmare, one not restricted to witching hours and dark, rain-swept nights. Professor Walter Jameson, popular beyond words, who talks of the past as if it were the present, who conjures up the dead as if they were alive. In the view of this man, Professor Samuel Kittridge, Walter Jameson has access to knowledge that couldn't come out of a volume of history but rather from a book on black magic; which is to say that this nightmare begins at noon."

Summary:
                Walter Jameson, a middle-aged professor of history at a distinguished university, gives a lecture on the American Civil War to a packed classroom. He reads passages from the private war journal of Union officer Hugh Skelton. The journal describes, in great detail and from a very personal viewpoint, the hatred felt by Union soldiers for the ruthless Union officer General William T. Sherman, the man that ordered the burning of Atlanta. Sitting in the back of the classroom and listening to Jameson's lecture is the elderly Professor Samuel Kittridge. He wears a look on his face that is part astonishment and part deep curiosity. After the class has been dismissed, Kittridge approaches Jameson and asks about the Union officer Hugh Skelton and how Jameson managed to come by Skelton's war journal. Jameson dodges the question and when Kittridge instead asks to borrow the journal Jameson denies him the priveledge on the grounds that Kittridge is absent minded and has misplaced a previously borrowed item. Kittridge relents and asks Jameson to join him for dinner at his, Kittridge's, house. Jameson agrees and we learn that Jameson is engaged to Kittridge's daughter, Susanna.
                We meet Susanna as she answers the door when Jameson arrives at the Kittridge home later that evening. Susanna is young, not yet thrity, and beautiful, and clearly in love with Jameson. Samuel Kittridge enters the room and, after some light chatter, announces that dinner is ready. After dinner, the elder Kittridge sends Susanna upstairs to continue her study for a PhD. Susanna reluctantly agrees and Kittridge and Jameson sit down to continue a previously begun game of chess in the living room.
                It is here that we learn the cause for the apparent apprehension on the part of Samuel Kittridge. When the hands of the two men meet, one young, one old and wrinkled, Kittridge begins to question Jameson while they continue their symbolic game of chess. The questions all pertain to Jameson's age. When Kittridge does the math, adding up the time from which Jameson arrived at the university until now, the age that Jameson gives him doesn't add up. Jameson admits his "real" age and believes that Kittridge's apprehension is that Jameson is too old to marry Kittridge's young daughter. This, Kittridge tells him, is true, in a very specific sense.
                Kittridge fetches a book of the Civil War photographs taken by famed photographer Matthew Brady. He tells Jameson that his curiosity had been roused by the story of Union officer Hugh Skelton. He shows Jameson a photograph of Skelton and the Union officer is identical in appearance to Walter Jameson, even down to a mole on his face and the ring on his pinky. Observing that he cannot lie his way out from behind the evidence presented by the photograph, Jameson decides to tell Kittridge the truth about himself. Jameson walks over to a sculpted bust of Plato and tells Kittridge that he, Jameson, is old enough to have known Plato personally, making him over two thousand years old!
                Kittridge believes the fantastic tale and clings to the hope that Jameson holds the key to eternal life. Jameson, however, can provide no such key. He tells a tale of being, like Kittridge, terribly afraid of dying and of visiting an alchemist a very long time ago. This alchemist gave to Jameson the gift of immortality, a gift he knows now to be a curse. He tells Kittridge of the horror of watching your loved ones grow old and die while you never age. He tells about never being able to stay in one place for fear of those around you finding out your secret. He also poses the question of whether Kittridge would really want to achieve immortality as an old man with an old man's body and problems. Kittridge, angered and afraid, forbids Jameson to marry his daughter, stating that sparing her the heartbreak of the future, when Jameson must inevitably abandon her, is worth Susanna being angry now. On this issue, Jameson does not relent. When Susanna is roused by their rising voices and comes downstairs, Jameson tells her to get her things together, that they are going away tonight to get married. Susanna is excited and, defiant of her father, runs upstairs to get ready. After an idle threat by Kittridge, Jameson walks across the street to his own home. Unbeknownst to Jameson, we see a very old woman hiding in the shadows of a large tree, spying on Jameson as he walks across the street.
                Inside his home, Jameson sits behind the desk in his office, lit only the lamp on the desk. From the desk drawer he draws a revolver and, for a moment, the contemplation of suicide crosses his expressive face but he does not go through with it. He places the gun back in the drawer. Then, a voice speaks, the voice of a very old woman calling out the name "Tommy." Jameson is startled and turns the lamp forward to illuminate the same old woman that had been spying on him outside. The old woman gets up and turns on the overhead light. After taking a good look at Jameson she is satisfied. She tells him that she is Laurette Bowen and that he was her husband, named Tommy, a long time ago. Jameson tries to play off the uncomfortable situation but to no avail. The old woman is suddenly holding a gun in her hand. Jameson, startled, stands up and begins to plead with the woman. The old woman tells Jameson that his immortal condition is unnatural and that he cannot go on hurting others the way he hurt her in the past. Before Jameson can get another word out, the old woman shoots him. Jameson falls back into his office chair.
                Kittridge hears the gunshot and rushes outside and across the street where he meets the old woman walking quickly away from Jameson's house. Kittridge stops her and asks what happened but the old woman simply rushes past him and on down the sidewalk. Inside the house, Kittridge is confronted with a horrible sight. He finds Jameson in his office, shot, bleeding, and dying. Jameson's death is two thousand years in the making and he ages rapidly right before Kittridge's eyes until Jameson is nothing but dust on the floor amid a empty set of clothes.
                When Susanna also rushes into the office, Kittridge attempts to shield her from the sight but by this point there is only dust and empty clothes left to see. Susanna is confused and afraid and Kittridge leads her away.

Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"Last stop on a long journey, as yet another human being returns to the vast nothingness that is the beginning and into the dust that is always the end."

Kevin McCarthy and Edgar Stehli
Commentary:
                It is interesting to note that "Long Live Walter Jameson" is Charles Beaumont's first original teleplay for The Twilight Zone. While his friend and fellow Zone scribe Richard Matheson preferred to work mostly on creating original material for the show, choosing not to craft a teleplay based on his own short stories until the third season's "Little Girl Lost," Beaumont seems to have been more comfortable adapting his own short stories into script form. With "Long Live Walter Jameson," however, Beaumont escewed any previously published material and created his most haunting and effective script of the first season. Though it is certainly one of the more remarkable and memorable episodes, it is also landmark in that it was the first episode to effectively display the astonishing effects that veteran makeup artist William Tuttle would bring to the show. Tuttle would become as important a member of the production crew as any when his creations began to gain recognition as indelible and instantly recognizable moments in The Twilight Zone's history. Along with very strong performances on the parts of Kevin McCarthy, Edgar Stehli, and Estelle Winwood, "Long Live Walter Jameson" is a classic episode that displays all of the inherent qualities and thematic strengths of The Twilight Zone.

                Unlike an earlier Charles Beaumont episode, "Perchance to Dream," "Long Live Walter Jameson" is directed and acted in a very straight manner. There is no frenetic camera work and the stock soundtrack is very unassuming and very subtle. The actors themselves, through the unwavering straight-foward nature of their performances, lend credence to the grounding of a fantastic element in the believable reality of the fictional construct. Though The Twilight Zone would rarely be subtle in its fantastic elements, the episodes were always attempts to ground that fantasy in a very recognizable reality. It was therefore of utmost importance to have strong performances and competant production to prevent the episodes from delving into a laughable state. Every aspect had to be accounted for and perhaps William Tuttle's work on the rapid aging process that is Walter Jameson's death was the most important, for if the production of that scene looked in any way cartoonish it would destroy the viewer's all-important willing suspension of disbelief and the whole illusion would be shattered.
                One of the more powerful and symbolic scenes in the episode was inexplicably cut out of The Twilight Zone's syndication package, presumably for reasons of time restraint brought on by the increased presence of commercial interruption. This is the scene in which the two professors, Kittridge and Jameson, play a game of chess. The scene is important symbolically as it is indicative of the battle between these two men, one to protect a secret and the other to find that secret out. It is also important for the hand comparison scene, a brief scene in which the hands of the two men meet and are seen to starkly contrast on account of the effects that aging has had on both men. It is a subtly metaphorical scene in an episode full of them and it is played very straight and, as a result, exectuted extremely well. The entire episode actually hinges on the mounting of tension maintained between these two men, exchanged almost exclusively through dialogue, which in itself serves as dramatic action until the culmative action that climaxes the episode. Jameson, even once his secret is out, does not so much present the viewer as an out-and-out villain as much as a man desperate and very much adapted to a certain form of survival. Once threatened, he panics and attempts to flee with the latest object of his affection, even though at this point he certainly realizes that he has made a terrible mistake and remained too long in one place, too close to one man intelligent enough to discover his secret. In certain respects, the final action of the scene, however powerful it is, is somewhat of a anticlimatic moment because the tension upon which the drama has been hanging has already broken. The inevitable results are surprising more in horrific effect that in a quality of unexpectedness.
                There is a second cut scene which actor Kevin McCarthy discusses on the commentary for the DVD release of the first season. McCarthy describes a scene in which Jameson and Susanna Kittridge are walking along a midway and a man, against Jameson's wishes, takes their picture for an engagement announcement in the local newspaper. the character Laurette Bowen (Estelle Winwood), a scorned lover from Jameson's past, mentions viewing such a photograph and gives that for the reason she has managed to track Jameson down. It is the second time in the episode that a photograph is the cause for Jameson's undoing and the viewer wonders why a man intent on keeping his immortal life a secret would ever submit to having his photograph taken in the first place. 
                "Long Live Walter Jameson" displays all of the major themes of writer Charles Beaumont's fiction and especially that of his Twilight Zone output. Though there are exceptions, most notably season four's "Miniature," Beaumont's episodes are heavily concerned with the effects of death and dying in a very direct manner. Short stories like "The Hunger," "A Death in the Country," "Mourning Song," and "Black Country" (all of which can be found in the collection Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (Dark Harvest, 1988) as The Howling Man (Tor, 1992) feature reflections on the specter of death and the emotional and physical aspects of dying. Among his first three episodes for The Twilight Zone, the theme of death and dying is all-pervasive. "Perchance to Dream" concerns a man afraid to go to sleep for fear that a recurring nightmare will take his life. "Elegy" takes a morbidly humorous approach to dying when three astronauts crash land on a planet that serves as a mortuary for the deceased wishing their preserved bodies to be displayed performing their favorite activites. With "Long Live Walter Jameson," Beaumont presents us with two men, one old and one immortally young, both afraid of death, and both running out of time. By the end of the episode, Kittridge's dream of defeating death is horribly crushed by his own old age and the sight of Walter Jameson's death as a bodily transformation into dust on the floor. Beaumont would further explore the themes of death and dying in such notable episodes as season two's "Shadow Play" and season four's "Passage on the Lady Anne," both of which are based on previously published material. The episode that most resembles "Long Live Walter Jameson," however, is the fifth season's "Queen of the Nile." This episode was co-plotted with writer Jerry Sohl after Beaumont's health began to decline. It concerns an apparently ageless movie star that manages to remain immortal by the use of an Egyptian scarab ring and occasional human sacrifice. Though much darker in tone yet not as effectively executed as "Long Live Walter Jameson," "Queen of the Nile" mirrors the former episodes in many ways.
                Makeup artist William Tuttle joined the production crew on The Twilight Zone as the reigning head of the makeup department at Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios. He was apprenticed under Jack Dawn at 20th Century Fox before following Dawn to MGM when, in 1934, Dawn was given the position as head of the makeup department. After Jack Dawn retired, Tuttle served as head of the MGM makeup department for over twenty years. Tuttle was a prodigious talent and earned the first ever Academy Award given to a makeup artist for his work transforming the appearance of Tony Randall in 1964's The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao. The film was scripted by Charles Beaumont from Charles G. Finney's 1935 novel The Circus of Dr. Lao. Tuttle's other makeup creations can be seen in such films as The Wizard of Oz (uncredited) (1939), Forbidden Planet (1956), The Time Machine (1960), and Young Frankenstein (1974). Some of his most memorable and renowed makeup creations appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone, including notable work in "The Howling Man," "Eye of the Beholder," "WIll the Real Martian Please Stand Up?," "The Dummy," "To Serve Man," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," and "The Masks."
                For "Long Live Walter Jameson," Tuttle used a proven method for black and white film effects when aging actor Kevin McCarthy in a single continous shot. It is the same method used for the famous transformation scene in 1932's Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, starring Fredric March in an Academy Award winning role. For the initial stages of the aging process, Tuttle drew lines on Kevin McCarthy's face in both red and green colors. Photographer George Clemens used red and green filters to conceal and then reveal the aging lines, giving the effect of McCarthy aging before the viewer's eyes. As stated before, this method works only for black and white filming. Tuttle's main method as a makeup artist was to make molds of an actor's likeness, formed in flexible wax with a structural layer of Plaster of Paris, which could be manipulated to fit the needs of the desired effect.  For the deep aging process undergone by Walter Jameson, Tuttle made several molds of different portions of Kevin McCarthy's face, manipulated the features to look aged, and then refitted them upon McCarthy's face with foam adhesive. The effect is convincing and wonderfully done. William Tuttle is the subject of a 1968 MGM short film titled King of the Duplicators.


                Actor Kevin McCarthy, Walter Jameson in the episode, is likely most recognizable to modern viewers as the lead in director Don Siegal's 1956 adaptation of Jack Finney's 1955 novel The Body Snatchers, filmed as Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Along with Howard Hawk's The Thing From Another World (1951)(based on John W. Campbell's 1938 novella "Who Goes There?") and producer George Pal's and director Byron Haskin's production of H.G. Wells's 1898 novel The  War of the Worlds (1953), Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the finest science-fiction films of that decade, a decade densely populated with filmed offerings of science-fiction. Earlier in his career, McCarthy  made his mark as a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nominee for his role as Biff Loman in the 1951 film version of Arthur Miller's 1949 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play, Death of a Salesman. In later years, McCarthy would gain memorable roles as a regular in the films of director Joe Dante, including Prianha (1978), The Howling (1981), and Twilight Zone: the Movie (1983), in which he appeared in the third segment, Joe Dante's reimagining of the classic Zone episode, "It's a Good Life," itself an adaptation of the Jerome Bixby's 1953 short story of the same name. Like the character of Walter Jameson, McCarthy had the gift of longevity on his side. He died on September 11, 2010 at the age of 96.
Beaumont, early 1960s
                On a sad note, one cannot help but compare the effects of Walter Jameson's final demise, the rapid and intense aging process acheived by makeup artist William Tuttle, to the real-life plight of writer Charles Beaumont. By mid-1963, the young writer was displaying abberant behavior that was initially attributed by his friends and family to the effects of his increasing intake of alcohol. The truth of the matter was much more serious. Beaumont was displaying the symptoms of a very early onset of Alzheimer's Disease or a similar degenerative disease of the brain. Though he did his best to hide the affliction, Beaumont displayed outward signs of acute memory loss, weight loss, trouble in speech and motor skill function, an inability to keep track of time, chronic fatigue, devastating headaches, an alarming increase in the signs of aging, and a frustrating inability to write to his own satisfaction. He found it increasingly difficult to finish any written work and, with money from the royalties of his previous books running out, he was unable to sell much, if any, new material. As author Marc Scott Zicree first reported in his The Twilight Zone Companion (Bantam, 1982, revised Silman James, 1992), Beaumont was forced to "farm out" his ideas for new episodes of The Twilight Zone to his close friends and fellow writers Jerry Sohl and John Tomerlin. These included the episodes "The New Exhibit," from season four, "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You," and the now-classic "Living Doll," both from season five. Beaumont's friend and former fiction editor at Playboy, Ray Russell, was also at this time helping Beaumont complete film scripts for producer/director Roger Corman at American International Pictures, where Beaumont would be credited with scripting what is perhaps that studio's finest Poe-film The Masque of the Red Death (1964), as well as The Premature Burial (1962) starring Ray Milland and Hazel Court, The Haunted Palace (1963) starring Vincent Price and based on H.P. Lovecraft's short novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (written in 1927 but not published until 1941), and The Intruder(1962), aka Shame, based on Beaumont's novel of the same name. Beaumont's other screenwriting credits include Burn, Witch, Burn (1962), co-written with Richard Matheson based on Fritz Leiber's 1943 novel Conjure Wife (this screenplay has subsequently been printed in editor Christopher Conlon's tribute anthology to Richard Matheson He Is Legend (Gauntlet 2009)), producer/director George Pal's The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), and several teleplays for episodic television including work for Wanted: Dead or Alive, One Step Beyond, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Suspense, Have Gun-Will Travel, Route 66, Naked City, and Thriller. It is clear that at the time Beaumont's mysterious disease began to negatively effect his writing career, he was as the height of his creative powers.
                As documented by Beaumont editor and biographer Roger Anker in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One (Gauntlet, 2004) , by early 1964 Beaumont decided to temporarily move from his home in southern California to the east coast, opting to take a small apartment in Manhattan in which he planned to finish a novel titled Where No Man Walks. Beaumont's time in Manhattan was a disaster. His novel was never finished, and, by July, Beaumont returned to California and allowed himself to be checked into the UCLA Neuro-Psychiatric Clinic for testing. It was then that the severity of Beaumont's situation was fully realized. By the time of his release in August of that year, his friends and family realized that Beaumont's drinking was a reaction to, and not a cause of, his problem, which UCLA doctors diagnosed as Alzheimer's, or possibly Pick's, Disease. It has also been suggested that Beaumont's mental and physical degeneration may have occurred from acute lead poisoning contracted through his heavy use of Bromo-Seltzer, which was distrubuted in lead-lined cannisters, which the young writer consumed in large quantities in an attempt to deal with chronic headaches. Whatever the true cause of Beaumont's terrible condition, it would not be much longer before the complete breakdown of Beaumont's functional awareness and cognative ability, not to mention his ability to continue his prolific creative output.
                The stories related by Beaumont's close friends are terribly sad stories of a young man's brillant mind being slowly and irreparably erased. Beaumont acted as though films he had seen dozens of times, King Kong for example, he was only now viewing for the first time. After his release from the UCLA medical center, he accidentally set two fires in his own home, once setting the drapes on fire with a cigarette and then simply sitting there, unaware of the danger to his life, until friends and family were able to get him away and put out the flames. Beaumont's meetings with producers and publishers were disastrous during this time. He struggled mightily to speak and had to speak very slowly and diliberately. He would often arrive unshaven and unable to remember and articulate his prepared plans for the meetings. Beaumont would lose control of his emotions, often erupting into anger or tears as his awareness and understanding of what was happening to him would come and go with shocking irregularity. By the end of his terrible ordeal, Beaumont would be unable to perform such basic tasks as dressing and walking. The situation was a nightmare of emotional and financial strain on the Beaumont family, which included four young children.
                In the end, as expressed by Beaumont's close friend, author William F. Nolan, the saving grace of the disease was that Beaumont was unaware of what was happening to him. In March of 1965, Beaumont entered the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, where he died on February 21, 1967, at age thirty-eight. He was described as appearing to be ninety years old when he died. Like the fictional horror of Walter Jameson, the very real truth was that Charles Beaumont wasted away mentally and physically, depriving readers and viewers of one of the greatest literary fantasists of the latter part of the 20th century, as well as a family of a husband and father, and friends of an inspiration and mentor. Fortunately for us, Charles Beaumont left behind exceedingly fine work and his legacy undoubtedly lies in his contributions to The Twilight Zone.
               
Grade: A

Notes:
--Anton Leader also directed the popular third season episode, "The Midnight Sun."
--Writer Charles Beaumont was enamored with the production aspect of the episodes of The Twilight Zone and was often on set during the filming of episodes he had scripted. Actor Kevin McCarthy recalls meeting Beaumont on the set of "Long Live Walter Jameson." McCarthy particularly remembers that Beaumont was a motor sports enthusiast. Beaumont was, in fact, an amateur racer who owned a sports car and often traveled, along with his friends William F. Nolan and John Tomerlin, to compete in racing tournaments. Beaumont also edited, along with William F. Nolan, two books on the subject, The Omnibus of Speed: An Introduction to the World of Motor Sport (Putnam's, 1958) and When Engines Roar: Nineteen Action Packed True Stories That Capture All the Daring and Drama of the Greatest Moments in Auto-Racing History (Bantam Pathfinder, 1964). One of Beaumont's finest short stories also concerns auto-racing. Initially titled "The Deadly Will to Win" and first published in the November, 1957 issue of Playboy, it has subsequently been reprinted as "A Death in the Country." The short story can be found in Beaumont's collections Night Ride and Other Journeys (Bantam, 1960), The Magic Man and other Science-Fantasy Stories (Fawcett Crest, 1965), and in the posthumously published career retrospective Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (Dark Harvest, 1988).
--"Long Live Walter Jameson" was remade as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, which can be heard here: Twilight Zone Radio
--Jordan Prejean



4 comments:

  1. An excellent post! Thank you for all of the detail on the sad life of Charles Beaumont. "Walter Jameson" is really a great episode. I was also very impressed with the acting of Edgar Stehli, who rarely gets much attention.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey thanks, Jack. And I agree that Stehli is really good in the episode and is an excellent character actor in general, as is Estelle Winwood. Sorry I didn't devote more space to their careers. The Beaumont tragedy is certainly a sad story but thankfully his work on the Twilight Zone is well regarded and keeps him from falling into obscurity. Funny how these really talented, prolific genre writers from half a century ago are probably best known to general audiences today from their television work. I think that's the way it is for John Collier and Fred Brown and Henry Slesar too, for their work on Hitchcock's show. That's how I first discovered them. But all those guys and others from that same era have such great work to their names it's a shame they don't regularly remain in print.

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  4. Always glad to have a new visitor to the blog, Dewey, even if you found your way by accident. Very happy you enjoyed the post. I appreciate the kind words and hope you'll come back and join us when we tackle some other episodes, many of which are just as interesting as "Long Live Walter Jameson."

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