Saturday, June 15, 2024

"The Old Man in the Cave"

 

“The Old Man in the Cave”
Season Five, Episode 127
Original Air Date: November 8, 1963

Cast:
Major French: James Coburn
Goldsmith: John Anderson
Jason: John Marley
Evie: Josie Lloyd
Man: John Craven
Woman: Natalie Masters (uncredited)
Harber: Frank Watkins (uncredited)
Douglas: Leonard Greer (uncredited)
Furman: Don Wilbanks (uncredited)
 
Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (based on “The Old Man” by Henry Slesar)
Director: Alan Crosland, Jr.
Producer: Bert Granet
Director of Photography: Robert Pittack
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Walter Holscher
Film Editor: Richard Heermance
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and Robert R. Benton
Assistant Director: Charles Bonniwell, Jr.
Casting: Patricia Rose
Music: stock
Sound: Franklin Milton and Philip N. Mitchell
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at MGM Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling: 

“Next on Twilight Zone a journey into a future moment, a nightmarish, frightening moment in time, when man sits in his own rubble and surveys the legacy he’s left to himself. James Coburn and John Anderson star in “The Old in the Cave,” recommended viewing for the more imaginative amongst you, on The Twilight Zone.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:

“What you’re looking at is a legacy that man left to himself. A decade previous he pushed his buttons and, a nightmarish moment later, woke up to find that he had set the clock back a thousand years. His engines, his medicines, his science were buried in a mass tomb, covered over by the biggest gravedigger of them all: a bomb. And this is the Earth ten years later, a fragment of what was once a whole, a remnant of what was once a race. The year is 1974, and this is The Twilight Zone.” 

Summary: 

            Ten years after The Bomb, in the rubble of what was once an American town, a group of weary, hungry survivors gather to await the return of Mr. Goldsmith, who will bring word from the old man in the cave on whether or not they can safely eat a store of canned goods. The survivors lament their situation, their inability to grow healthy crops, their lack of edible food, and desperately hope this food was canned before The Bomb, and is free of radiation. They hold out for word from the old man in the cave, who has kept them alive with the knowledge of where to plant crops and what food is safe to eat.

            Goldsmith reads a printed message from the old man in the cave and returns to deliver the information. The canned food is not safe to eat. This news is met with groans of despair. The survivors notice the approach of a vehicle. Within are four men in military outfits carrying rifles. The leader introduces himself as Major French of Central State Command and informs those gathered that they will now be under his authority in an effort to unify survivors. 

            Goldsmith tells the soldiers that they should move on, as their authority is not recognized here. Major French first tells Goldsmith that he doesn’t have a choice and then strikes the man, knocking him down. When Major French observes the malnourished condition of the survivors, he asks why no one is eating the canned goods. He is told of the old man in the cave.

            Major French demands to see the old man and forces Goldsmith to lead him to the cave, while the soldiers and survivors follow along. They arrive at the cave to find it blocked by a strong door. Major French attempts to blow open the door with a hand grenade. This has no effect on the door. Major French yells to the old man inside the cave that this is only the beginning of their efforts to get through the door. This draws a fit of laughter from some of the survivors.

            Returned to the settlement, Major French further challenges Goldsmith’s authority by opening a can of food and eating the contents. When the survivors see that no immediate ill effects befall Major French, they give in to their hunger and tear into the food supply that the old man in the cave determined was not safe to consume. At the soldiers’ bidding, a store of liquor is opened and enjoyed by all. Only Goldsmith resists partaking of the food and drink. 

            Later that night, Goldsmith confronts Major French, calling him a murderer and holding him responsible for the eventual deaths of the survivors from eating the food the old man in the cave deemed unsafe. Major French scoffs at this and stands on the back of his vehicle to make a proclamation. “There is no old man in the cave,” he tells the survivors. Again, Major French forces Goldsmith to the cave while the others follow behind. This time, French threatens Goldsmith’s life if Goldsmith doesn’t open the door that seals the cave. Reluctantly, Goldsmith opens the door with a lever hidden beneath a rock at the base of the cave. 

            The survivors rush into the cave. They stop suddenly, stunned by the sight which confronts them. Before them is a large computer, alive with paneled lights. Major French tells the gathered survivors that they must kill this thing and free themselves from its control. In a fit of drunken madness, the survivors rush forward with fists and stones to strike at the computer. Goldsmith can only watch as they destroy the “old man” in the cave, who has kept them alive this long. 

            Later, Goldsmith walks amid the fallen bodies of the dead, spread out across the ground. The food and drink was not safe to consume and has claimed the lives of the soldiers and survivors. Goldsmith is now alone, the only remaining survivor.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

“Mr. Goldsmith, survivor, an eye witness to man’s imperfection, an observer of the very human trait of greed, and a chronicler of the last chapter, the one reading ‘suicide.’ Not a prediction of what is to be, just a projection of what could be. This has been The Twilight Zone.”

Commentary: 

Henry Slesar
(via Wikipedia)

Producer Bert Granet and series creator Rod Serling were likely drawn to the work of writer Henry Slesar by the successful adaptations of Slesar’s stories on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, as well as by Slesar’s numerous appearances in science fiction and mystery magazines of the time. Slesar’s stories, notable for their ironic and convention-defying twist endings, began appearing in 1957 during the third season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, occasionally with scripts by Slesar. Slesar's initial episode was “Heart of Gold,” scripted by James P. Cavanagh from Slesar's story "M Is for the Many," which originally appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Slesar's association with Hitchcock's television programs continued with forty-six additional episodes through the second season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964. Readers interested in more information about Slesar’s association with Hitchcock’s television programs are encouraged to visit the Bare Bones E-Zine, where Jack Seabrook has reviewed Slesar’s episodes for the Hitchcock series in detail. 

Slesar’s stories also frequently appeared in the pages of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, beginning also in 1957, as well as in Alfred Hitchcock book anthologies and in other books associated with Hitchcock. Examples of the latter include collections of Slesar’s stories, which often featured the famous director's name more prominently than Slesar's, such as Alfred Hitchcock Hand-Picks and Introduces: A Bouquet of Clean Crimes and Neat Murders (Avon, 1960), Alfred Hitchcock Introduces: A Crime for Mothers and Others (Avon, 1962), and Death on Television: The Best of Henry Slesar’s Alfred Hitchcock Stories, edited by Francis M. Nevins, Jr. and Martin H. Greenberg (Southern Illinois University Press, 1989). Slesar also wrote the introduction to Hitchcock in Prime Time, an anthology of stories adapted on Hitchcock’s television programs, including one from Slesar, also edited by Nevins, Jr. and Greenberg (Avon, 1985).

Slesar contributed to hundreds of television scripts for a variety of series, including anthology programs such as Circle of Fear, Tales of the Unexpected, and the revival series of both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. Much of his television work included writing soap operas such as Search for Tomorrow, Somerset, and The Edge of Night, the latter of which netted Slesar a Daytime Emmy Award in 1974. 

Slesar was born Henry Schlosser (later legally changing his name) in Brooklyn in 1927, the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. He began publishing science fiction and mystery stories in 1955 and won an Edgar Award in 1959 for his first mystery novel, The Gray Flannel Shroud, a novel colored by Slesar’s career in advertising. Slesar’s output of science fiction and fantasy stories are mostly from early in his career (many can be freely read on Project Gutenberg) but he continued to write mystery stories and novels for decades, including such novels as Enter Murderers (1960) and The Thing at the Door (1974), considered by many to be his finest novel, as well as story collections such as Acrostic Mysteries (1985) and Murders Most Macabre (1986). Slesar’s soap opera work informed his novels The Seventh Mask (1969), adapted from a storyline from The Edge of Night, and Murder at Heartbreak Hospital (1993). Slesar also produced work for other mediums such as radio (over 40 scripts for CBS Radio Mystery Theatre) and stage production. He died in 2002.

Martin Grams, Jr., in his book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic, reports that Slesar’s story “The Old Man” was brought to the attention of Rod Serling by Sybil S. Gurner of Los Angeles, presumably through the copious correspondence the series received from its viewers. What ultimately drew Serling to adapt the story for The Twilight Zone was the opportunity to craft a tale of group dynamics juxtaposed with an event that threatens the survival of the group, a story type featured in several episodes written by Serling, including some of his best. 

via Ebay

Slesar’s story, the “short-short story” selection for the September, 1962 issue of Diners’ Club Magazine (pictured), tells of a society depopulated by an atomic war in which a cabal of “Governors” house and maintain the “old man,” a computer, in a stone house on a hill. The Governors created the myth of the old man to disguise the truth about the computer’s existence while using the machine’s computations to instruct the lives of the villagers who dwell in the valley below. Tango, a spy for the Governors, reports back from a village meeting with news of unrest among the villagers, who rebel against the benign control of the Governors and the “old man.” The old man has existed for generations, leading to questions in the minds of the villagers about the old man’s real age, and the mental decline that accompanies advanced aging. Why should they go on listening to what the old man says they should do, asks Sierra, a farmer’s son with a withered arm, who leads the villagers in a charge on the stone house on the hill. The villagers batter their way inside, killing Tango and the Governors. When the mob discovers the computer in an upstairs room, they destroy it as well. Without the computer’s information, the villagers soon die out.

Slesar’s story presented the foundation upon which Rod Serling built the story he wished to tell, one imbedded with a strong warning in an era of high political tensions. As such, “The Old Man in the Cave” is an episode less instructively compared to the story on which it is based and better compared to thematically related episodes of the series written by Serling.

“The Old Man in the Cave” is frequently compared to Serling’s first season episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” and for obvious reasons. Both episodes concern the growing power struggles within a group of individuals fighting for survival against an unknown or immeasurable threat, as well as the death and destruction that results from the collapse of rational decision-making within the group. Both episodes also contain moments of mob violence. Another episode that offers a comparison, and also contains an unnerving sequence of mob violence, is Serling’s “The Shelter,” from the third season. This episode could serve as a prequel to “The Old Man in the Cave,” in that “The Shelter” examines group dynamics during an imminent threat of The Bomb, while “The Old Man in the Cave” examines group dynamics after The Bomb has fallen.

Unlike these earlier episodes, however, in which the struggle for power within a group is dispersed among several individuals, “The Old Man in the Cave” is primarily concerned with the conflict between two central figures of authority, the benevolent Mr. Goldsmith and the violent and commanding Major French. In this way, “The Old Man in the Cave” closely resembles Rod Serling’s fourth season episode “On Thursday We Leave for Home,” which also concerns a group of isolated survivors under a seemingly benevolent leader whose authority is challenged by the arrival of military officials.

            “The Old Man in the Cave” can be viewed as the inverse of “On Thursday We Leave for Home,” serving as a way for Serling to explore the results of a role reversal between the primary figures of authority. In the earlier episode, the power and control established by the leader of the survivors, Captain Benteen, is threatened by the arrival of Colonel Sloane, the leader of a mission to rescue the survivors. Replace the names Benteen and Sloane with Goldsmith and French, respectively, and you essentially have the story again with “The Old Man in the Cave.” However, the role reversal between these authority figures leads to different and problematic results.

Captain Benteen is ultimately driven to madness and ensures his own premature death through an inability to relinquish his authority as leader of the survivors. Colonel Sloane is the figure of hope, sanity, and rationality in the episode, able to save the survivors but forced to abandon Benteen to his chosen fate. Conversely, in “The Old Man in the Cave,” Goldsmith is presented as the voice of reason forced to contend with madness and premature death brought on by Major French and his men. The viewer is entirely encouraged to sympathize with Goldsmith and to reject the methods of Major French, who attempts to seize control of the survivors through intimidation and bravado. These changes, both from the original story and from Serling’s thematically related episode, ultimately serve the twist ending retained from Henry Slesar’s original story, pithily expressed by the author as: “Then they killed the old man, the computer. It didn’t take the people long to die.”

By the end of the episode, Goldsmith is delivering such dialogue directed to the dead Major French as: “When we talked about the ways that men could die, we forgot the chief method of execution. We forgot faithlessness, Major French.” Dialogue like this, coupled with the messianic figure of Goldsmith and the deity-like existence of the old man in the cave, result in the episode playing like a religious allegory, in which a faith healer is challenged by a figure of secular authority. Though unlikely a direct influence, there are also shades of Ray Bradbury’s “The Man,” a 1949 story collected in The Illustrated Man (1951), in which the brash and skeptical leader of a planet-hopping space crew denies the existence of a messianic figure despite evidence of the man’s good works. As author Marc Scott Zicree wrote in his review of “The Old Man in the Cave” for The Twilight Zone Companion: 

“. . . there are several issues raised by the episode that are hard to ignore. For instance, Goldsmith views the computer as a deity-like authority, and when the people demand to know the identity of ‘the Old Man’ and disregard his instructions, this is considered the ultimate act of faithlessness – the punishment being death. But, in actuality, a computer is not a god, it is a man-made tool, and the townsfolk’s insistence to know the true nature of their leader seems less an act of faithlessness than a natural human curiosity for vital information, a desire for democracy, for self-determination.”           

            Other problematic aspects of the episode result from retaining certain features of Slesar’s story while jettisoning the narrative details that provide context to the events of the story. For instance, it is never revealed why the computer in the cave is called the “old man.” This is explained in Slesar’s story but left unexplained in the episode. Is it a purposeful deception by the computer or by Goldsmith, as it is with the Governors in the original story? If so, deception is hardly an ethical foundation for faith. Also, as pointed out by Zicree in his review, it is never explained by what means the computer receives the power needed to operate in this decimated world. How did the computer get into the cave in the first place? These are trifles, perhaps, but they display the problems that arise in retaining only the barest structure of the source material while also attaching a strong moral message to the narrative.

             The work of Henry Slesar was again adapted for the fifth season of The Twilight Zone for “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross,” scripted by Jerry McNeely and directed by Don Siegel from Slesar’s story published in the May, 1961 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The story tells of the titular rough-hewn loser, played by Don Gordon, who discovers that he can trade attributes with another person through a simple agreement. Ross makes a number of “trades” in an effort to land the girl of his dreams, played by Gail Kobe, but commits a fatal error when he seeks to gain the quality of compassion from the girl’s father, played by Twilight Zone veteran Vaughn Taylor. 

"Examination Day"

            Another of Slesar’s short-short stories, “Examination Day,” from the February, 1958 issue of Playboy, was adapted for the first season of the first revival Twilight Zone series in 1985. Slesar’s bleak story was faithfully scripted by series producer Philip DeGuere and directed by Paul Lynch for the opening segment of the sixth episode. It tells of a future society in which children are forced by the government to take an intelligence test at the age of twelve. Christopher Allport and Elizabeth Norment portray Richard and Ruth Jordan, who anxiously await the results of their son’s test. Their son, Dickie, played by David Mendenhall, is a bright child and his parents are horrified to learn that the government test has determined that Dickie is too intelligent and that the boy will be euthanized. 

John Anderson

            “The Old Man in the Cave” includes some notable and familiar faces among its collection of character actors. Mr. Goldsmith is played by John Anderson, who appeared in three previous episodes of the series. Anderson (1922-1992) was a versatile performer specializing in everyman characters who excelled in eliciting sympathy from the audience. Anderson portrayed the angel Gabriel opposite Jack Klugman’s suicidal trumpet player Joey Crown in Rod Serling’s first season episode “A Passage for Trumpet.” Anderson later portrayed Captain Farver on a doomed flight lost in time in Serling’s second season episode “The Odyssey of Flight 33.” In the fourth season, Anderson appeared in a highly sympathetic role opposite Albert Salmi in “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville,” Rod Serling’s adaptation of Malcolm Jameson’s story “Blind Alley.” Anderson was a hugely prolific actor who appeared in many favorite television series, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Outer Limits, and The Sixth Sense, a series packaged in syndication with Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. 

John Marley

            The character in the episode who most represents the everyman, however, is Jason, as portrayed by John Marley. Marley (1907-1984) previously appeared on the third season of the series as Mr. Cox, the supervisor of Sunnyvale Rest Home, where the elderly residents play a magical game of “Kick the Can,” as scripted by George Clayton Johnson. Marley was an equally prolific character actor whose television credits go back to the early days of the medium with appearances on Suspense and Inner Sanctum. Marley later appeared on such series of interest as One Step Beyond, The Outer Limits, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker.  

James Coburn

            Perhaps the most notable cast member is James Coburn (1928-2002) as the gruff Major French. Coburn’s career was much too long and varied to effectively summarize here except to say that he studied acting at UCLA before beginning his professional career on the New York stage. He appeared in several early television series such as Studio One, Suspicion, and General Electric Theater before he found an enduring niche in television westerns and crime dramas. Coburn appeared in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “The Jokester,” alongside the aforementioned Albert Salmi, and in an adaptation of Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” Coburn’s film career began in earnest with the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven. Notable film roles include the James Bond-inspired Our Man Flint (1966), and its sequel In Like Flint (1967), as well as an Academy Award-winning supporting role late in his career in Affliction (1997). Also of interest is Coburn’s role as host of the short-lived horror anthology series Darkroom, which ran on ABC for seven episodes in 1981-1982. The series featured scripts and stories by such notable writers as Robert Bloch, William F. Nolan, Fredric Brown, Cornell Woolrich, Davis Grubb, Robert R. McCammon, and Alan Brennert, a writer and story consultant on the first revival Twilight Zone series. 

            Despite fine acting and excellent characterizations, the narrative inconsistencies, lapses in logic, and questionable moralizing in “The Old Man in the Cave” reduce the impact of the episode. Rod Serling brilliantly explored the dramatic possibilities of similar material in three previously mentioned episodes, all of which come highly recommended. The well is here beginning to run dry, however, and the results are further diluted when filtered through the work of another writer. Like much of the material from the final season of the series, a return trip over familiar ground results in diminished returns. Ultimately, “The Old Man in the Cave” remains an engaging yet minor entry in the series. 

Grade: C 

Next Time in the Vortex: A deep dive into the November/December, 1983 issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. Thanks for reading! 

Acknowledgments:
--The Twilight Zone Companion (3rd ed.) by Marc Scott Zicree (Silman-James, 2018)
--The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr. (OTR, 2008)
--“The Hitchcock Project-Henry Slesar” by Jack Seabrook (Bare Bones E-Zine (barebonesez.blogspot.com))
--“Henry Slesar” by Frances McConachie (Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers (3rd ed.), edited by Lesley Henderson (St. James Press, 1991))
--The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Modern Crime Fiction by Mike Ashley (Carroll & Graf, 2002)
--The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (4th ed.) (sf-encyclopedia.com)
--The Alfred Hitchcock Wiki (the.hitchcock.zone/wiki)
--The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (isfdb.org)
--The Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)
--“Henry Slesar” (Wikipedia (Wikipedia.org)) 


Notes: 

--“The Old Man” by Henry Slesar was first published in the September, 1962 issue of Diners’ Club Magazine. The story was included in The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories, edited by Richard Matheson, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh (1985).
--Henry Slesar’s story, “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross” (1961), was adapted for the fifth season of The Twilight Zone. Slesar’s 1958 story, “Examination Day,” was adapted for the first season of the first revival Twilight Zone series (1985).
--Rod Serling’s teleplay for “The Old Man in the Cave” was published in volume 4 of As Timeless As Infinity: The Complete Twilight Scripts of Rod Serling, ed. by Tony Albarella (Gauntlet Press, 2007).
--Alan Crosland, Jr. also directed the fourth season episode, “The Parallel,” as well as the fifth season episodes “The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms” and “Ring-a-Ding Girl.”
--John Anderson also appeared in the first season episode, “A Passage for Trumpet,” the second season episode, “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” and the fourth season episode, “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville.”
--John Marley also appeared in the third season episode, “Kick the Can.”
--“The Old Man in the Cave” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Adam Baldwin. 

-JP

Additional Images:


Cover art by Jim Bramlet

James Coburn hosting Darkroom


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

"Living Doll"

 
“Living Doll”
Season Five, Episode 126
Original Air Date: November 1, 1963 

Cast:
Erich Streator: Telly Savalas
Annabelle: Mary LaRoche
Christie: Tracy Stratford
Voice of Talky Tina: June Foray (uncredited) 

Crew:
Writer: Jerry Sohl (credited to co-plotter Charles Beaumont)
Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Producer: William Froug
Director of Photography: Robert Pittack
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Malcolm Brown
Film Editor: Richard Heermance
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and Robert R. Benton
Assistant Director: Charles Bonniwell, Jr.
Casting: Patricia Rose
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Sound: Franklin Milton
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at MGM Studios 

And Now, Mr. Serling:

“Next on Twilight Zone a show that might very aptly be called “The Living End,” and with comparable aptness is called “Living Doll.” It’s written by colleague and cohort Charles Beaumont, and stars Telly Savalas and co-stars Mary LaRoche. Mr. Beaumont supplies us with a little weirdy involving a man and a doll. It comes well recommended. Next time out, “Living Doll.” 

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:

“Talky Tina, the doll that does everything, a lifelike creation of plastic and springs and painted smile. To Erich Streator, she is a most unwelcome addition to his household. But without her, he’d never enter The Twilight Zone.”

Summary: 

            Annabelle and her young daughter Christie arrive home from shopping with their arms laden with packages. Annabelle instructs Christie to go directly upstairs to her bedroom when they go inside the house. As they arrive inside, Erich Streator, Annabelle’s husband and Christie’s stepfather, is seated at a desk in the living room. He stops them before Christie can go upstairs to ask what they purchased. Annabelle tells Erich it’s just a doll and Erich counters that Christie doesn’t need another doll. Reluctantly, Annabelle tells Christie to show “Daddy” her new doll.

            Christie places the large box on the coffee table and unwraps the strings that bind it. From the box she removes a pretty doll in a plaid dress with pigtails, ribbons and an impish grin. “She’s alive, Daddy,” Christie says, “and her name is Talky Tina.” Erich fumes at the thought of how much a doll like that must cost.

            Christie winds a key in back of the doll and Talky Tina’s head and arms move as she speaks in a child’s voice. “My name is Talky Tina and I love you very much.” Erich pushes Annabelle on the cost of the doll and Annabelle counters that it isn’t really the cost of the doll that bothers him. Erich derisively refers to the “Freudian” ideas of Christie’s doctor. Annabelle tells him that it isn’t the doctor’s fault that Christie feels rejected. This further angers Erich. When Christie turns the key to activate Talky Tina again, Erich yells at the girl to “shut that thing off!”

            Christie drops Talky Tina and dashes upstairs. Annabelle scolds Erich for speaking to the girl that way and follows her daughter upstairs. Left alone, Erich walks over and picks up the doll. He turns the key in back of the doll and is stunned when Talky Tina says: “My name is Talky Tina and I don’t think I like you.” Not believing what he’s just heard, Erich turns the key again. “My name is Talky Tina and I think I could even hate you.”

            Erich flings the doll away from him. Talky Tina crashes against the far wall and falls to the floor. Erich stares in disbelief as Talky Tina’s eyes slowly open and she speaks. “My name is Talky Tina and you’ll be sorry.”   

            Annabelle comes downstairs and looks at the doll lying on the floor. “I don’t like what it says,” Erich tells her. Annabelle picks up the doll. Erich takes it from her and attempts to demonstrate the strange things the doll says. He winds the key. “My name is Talky Tina and I love you very much.” Erich shoves the doll at Annabelle. “That’s not what it said a minute ago.”

            Annabelle confronts Erich about his anger toward Christie. Erich turns defensive, mocking Annabelle for suggesting that he is incapable of loving children because they can’t have children of their own. Annabelle denies this and suggests that he could love Christie if he’d only give himself a chance. Annabelle says that she knows Erich got the short end of a bargain when they married but that she and Christie will do anything to make him happy.

            Christie comes downstairs and tells Erich she’s sorry for making him angry. Erich relents and tells the girl it was all his fault. Annabelle gives Talky Tina to Christie and the girl turns the key in back of the doll as she returns upstairs. “My name is Talky Tina and I love you very much.”

            Later, at the dinner table, Talky Tina is seated next to Christie and the girl is pretending to feed the doll from her plate. Erich looks at the doll and Talky Tina winks at him. “I didn’t know your doll could wink,” he says to Christie. “Tina can’t wink, Daddy,” Christie responds. Annabelle says that Tina will be an ideal playmate for Christie, a statement which causes Erich to turn defensive again, insinuating that Annabelle is mocking him for being unable to produce a brother or sister for Christie, and that Annabelle bought the doll to remind Erich of his impotence.

            The doorbell rings. It’s Christie’s friend Linda. Christie goes out to play, leaving Talky Tina at the dinner table. Erich is left alone with the doll as Annabelle carries the dinner dishes into the kitchen. Talky Tina activates as Erich sits next to her. “My name is Talky Tina and I’m beginning to hate you.” Erich chuckles as he says to the doll: “My name is Erich Streator and I’m gonna get rid of you.”

            Talky Tina informs Erich that he wouldn’t dare get rid of her because Annabelle and Christie would hate him, and she, the doll, would hate him. Erich places the doll on the table in front of him and removes a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. Annabelle reenters the room and Erich explains that he’s seeing how the doll works. When Annabelle leaves again, Erich strikes a match and dabs the flame to the doll’s nose before lighting his cigarette. When the doll lets out a small cry, Erich asks if it has feelings. “Doesn’t everything?” responds Talky Tina. “Then I can hurt you,” Eric says. “Not really,” the doll responds, “but I could hurt you.”

            “Threats from a doll,” Erich says in disbelief, chuckling uneasily. Annabelle reenters the room. Erich pushes the doll across the table and stabs out his cigarette. He tells Annabelle the game is over. Annabelle doesn’t know what he is talking about. Erich believes Annabelle and Christie are playing a trick on him, using a walkie-talkie to make Talky Tina say threatening things. Christie returns briefly to collect Talky Tina to show the doll to her friend.

            Annabelle denies playing any tricks but Erich won’t let go of the idea, convinced she and Christie are using microphones to affect the speech of the doll. Erich asks why the doll doesn’t speak when Annabelle is in the room. Annabelle is stunned as she realizes that Erich is serious. Erich storms out of the room, telling Annabelle that she’ll be sorry for playing games and keeping secrets.

            Erich enters the garage calling for Christie where instead he finds Talky Tina alone. The doll looks at him, seeming to be alive. Erich picks up the doll and opens the lid to the trash can. “You are going be sorry,” says the doll as Erich drops Talky Tina into the trash can and replaces the lid.

            Later that evening, Annabelle and Christie search for the doll. Erich denies any knowledge of its whereabouts. Mother and daughter go upstairs to continue their search. The telephone rings. Erich picks up the receiver and hears the doll’s voice on the other end. “My name is Talky Tina and I’m going to kill you!”

            The line goes dead as Erich says “Hello?” and “Annabelle?” into the receiver. He returns to the garage and removes the lid of the trash can. The doll is no longer inside. Erich storms back into the house, calling for Annabelle. “Where is she?” he demands, still convinced a trick is being played on him. Erich admits to throwing the doll in the trash can and Annabelle is horrified by his behavior. She swears to Erich that she is not playing a trick on him. It dawns on Erich that it couldn’t have been Annabelle on the phone. He begins to consider the horrifying possibility that the doll really is alive and trying to harm him, but he clings to the notion that Christie is the one playing a trick on him. He finds the girl asleep upstairs with the doll next to her in bed.

            As Erich approaches the bed, Talky Tina’s eyes open as she says: “I told you you’d be sorry.” When Erich reaches for the doll, Talky Tina says: “Christie, Christie, wake up, Christie.” The girl awakens and Erich wrestles the doll from her, leaving the girl in tears. “Daddy! Daddy!” cries Christie. “I’m not your Daddy!” Eric spitefully tells her as he leaves the room with the doll.

            Erich carries Talky Tina to the garage. He places the doll in a vice and tightens it on the doll’s head. “Die!” he whispers to the doll. “You’ll die,” the doll responds, giggling. Erich tries to burn the doll with a blowtorch but the flame extinguishes each time he brings it near the doll. He removes the doll from the vice and places it before an electric saw. He runs the saw against the doll’s neck but cannot make a mark on the doll.

            Annabelle catches him in this insane act and tells him to stop this behavior. Erich angrily pushes her away. As a last, desperate attempt to be rid of the doll, Erich shoves Talky Tina into a burlap sack and binds it with rope. He drops the doll into a trash can and stacks bricks on top of the lid.

            Erich finds Annabelle packing suitcases upstairs. Annabelle tells him that he’s become a stranger to her, a sick, neurotic stranger, and that he needs to see a doctor. “Tell him you tried to kill a doll.” Erich sits on the edge of the bed and says he’ll give the doll back to Christie if it will make Annabelle change her mind.

            He returns to the garage and removes the sack from the trash can. As he pulls the doll from the sack, Talky Tina says: “My name is Talky Tina and I don’t forgive you.” Erich pleads with the doll to shut up. He carries the doll back inside the house and gives it to Christie.

            Later that night, Erich is awakened in bed by the sound of Talky Tina’s whirring mechanism. He slowly gets out of bed to investigate. Annabelle wakes up but Erich tells her to stay there. He first looks into Christie’s room. The girl is asleep but the doll is not in bed with her. Erich looks around the room but cannot find the doll. He hears the whirring mechanism of the doll in the hallway. He walks to the edge of the stairs, listening. Erich takes two steps down the stairs when his foot comes down on the body of the doll, sending him tumbling violently down the length of the stairs.

            Talky Tina tumbles down the stairs and lands next to him. The doll is the last thing Erich sees before he dies. Annabelle appears at the top of the stairs, calling out Erich’s name. She rushes down the stairs to check on him, finding him dead. Her hand picks up the doll next to his body. Talky Tina’s eyes slowly open as she says: “My name is Talky Tina . . . and you’d better be nice to me.” Annabelle drops the doll in horror.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

Of course, we all know dolls can’t really talk, and they certainly can’t commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian. Especially a doll like Talky Tina, who did talk and did commit murder – in the misty region of The Twilight Zone.” 

Commentary: 

I. Ghostwriting: Charles Beaumont and Jerry Sohl 

Jerry Sohl in 1973

            In 1977, when author Marc Scott Zicree began work on The Twilight Zone Companion (published in 1982), he contacted surviving members of the series (actors, writers, directors, producers) for interviews. When Zicree interviewed George Clayton Johnson, the writer of such memorable episodes as “Nothing in the Dark,” “A Game of Pool,” and “Kick the Can,” Johnson suggested Zicree interview Jerry Sohl, whom Johnson said would have an interesting story to tell about The Twilight Zone. Zicree knew Jerry Sohl (1913-2002) from Sohl’s science fiction novels Costigan’s Needle (1953) and Point Ultimate (1955), as well as from Sohl’s scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits, and Star Trek. But Zicree could not connect Sohl with The Twilight Zone. There was a simple reason for this.

            Jerry Sohl never received a writing credit on The Twilight Zone, although, as he revealed to Zicree, he wrote three teleplays that were produced on the series, including “Living Doll.” The reason Sohl did not receive credit on the series was that he ghostwrote the teleplays for his friend Charles Beaumont, who received on-screen credit for the episodes. 

Charles Beaumont in 1960

Charles Beaumont (1929-1967) was second only to series creator Rod Serling in the production of scripts for The Twilight Zone, writing such memorable episodes as “Perchance to Dream,” “Long Live Walter Jameson,” “The Howling Man,” “Miniature,” and many more. Beaumont was not averse to collaboration during his writing career, writing a collaborative novel under a pseudonym with John Tomerlin (Run from the Hunter by Keith Grantland) as well as many collaborative teleplays and articles, some of which were solely credited to Beaumont. The numerous articles Beaumont wrote for Playboy magazine, for example, collected in Remember? Remember? (1963), were often partially or entirely written by others. As Beaumont’s biographer Roger Anker wrote, “Beaumont was always full of a thousand ideas and a thousand projects, and approached them all with fantastic energy.” However, Beaumont was “often so busy he would enlist the help of his friends to complete the assignments.”

These friends included such writers as William F. Nolan, John Tomerlin, OCee Ritch, George Clayton Johnson, William Idelson, Ray Russell, and Jerry Sohl. The typical arrangement was that Beaumont would acquire the assignment through his connections in publishing, film, and television, work with the other writer on a basic plot or outline, and then split the money fifty-fifty after the finished work was turned in. Sometimes Beaumont and the other writer worked collaboratively on the script or article, while other times the other writer solely composed the work based on Beaumont’s story, idea, or outline. There are several examples of this on The Twilight Zone, including “The Prime Mover,” “Long Distance Call,” “Dead Man’s Shoes,” and “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You,” episodes which credited Beaumont in collaboration with another writer. Then there are the three episodes written by Jerry Sohl, which solely credit Beaumont.  

Jerry Sohl was initially reluctant to reveal his role on The Twilight Zone to Marc Scott Zicree (the ghostwriting was a violation of Writers Guild rules) but eventually related his involvement with the series and the method of his collaborations with Charles Beaumont. Beaumont and Sohl would typically meet on a Sunday in a coffee shop or restaurant. The two writers would then verbally work out the plot for an episode from Beaumont’s initial idea. Once the story was established, Beaumont would pitch the idea to producers on the series, sometimes with a written outline. If the pitch was accepted, Sohl would write the script and Beaumont would turn it in. Beaumont, as the contracted writer on the series, was responsible for revisions to the script during production. Of the three episodes written by Sohl, the others being “The New Exhibit,” from the fourth season, and the later fifth season episode “Queen of the Nile,” “Living Doll” saw the most changes from script to screen, making the episode perhaps the most purely collaborative of the three. More on this in a moment.

 Beaumont initially used ghostwriters or uncredited collaborators as a means to complete the large number of assignments for which he’d been contracted. As writer William F. Nolan related to Marc Scott Zicree: “He’d have like five different TV scripts, a movie script that he’s supposed to be working on – and each one, the producers thought Beaumont was working on exclusively. But meanwhile, he’d have OCee Ritch holed up in one part of the city writing a draft of one, he’d have Jerry Sohl holed up writing a draft of another, John Tomerlin would be writing a draft of a third, I’d be polishing a magazine article for him, he’d be trying to get the movie written, Ray Russell would be working with him on a Roger Corman project, and he’d just be running and running, making different appointments.”

By the middle of 1963, however, Beaumont’s need for ghostwriters was due to a different, and more tragic, reason. Beaumont began exhibiting the symptoms (advanced aging, memory loss, speech impairment, rapid physical decline) of the early-onset Dementia that would ultimately take his life on February 21, 1967. Beaumont was only thirty-eight years old at the time of his death. The true nature of the disease that took Beaumont’s life has not been firmly established. At the time of his diagnosis by doctors at UCLA in 1964, it was believed to be either Alzheimer’s or Pick’s Disease. Some of Beaumont’s friends, however, believed the writer may have fallen victim to Bromide poisoning, due to the large amounts of Bromo-Seltzer Beaumont ingested to battle chronic headaches.

During production on the fifth season of The Twilight Zone, Beaumont was, for a time, still able to meet with producers and pitch ideas for the series, though his ability to write scripts rapidly diminished. Jerry Sohl wrote scripts for the series, without receiving credit or the benefits that came along with credit, as a means of helping the Beaumont family, which included four young children, during Charles Beaumont’s growing health crisis. Although Sohl later told Marc Scott Zicree it was foolish on his part to write the scripts without receiving credit, he also acknowledged that it ultimately freed him from having to deal with producers or directors, allowing him to simply write.

Beaumont had a close circle of friends who were shocked, saddened, and angered by the diagnosis of an incurable, terminal disease for the talented writer. Although his friends and family were helpless to stop the effects of the disease, efforts were made to assist the Beaumont family during Charles Beaumont’s decline, including the publication of the aforementioned Remember? Remember? as well as a collection of Beaumont’s best stories, The Magic Man and Other Science-Fantasy Stories, published in 1964 by Fawcett Crest with a foreword by Ray Bradbury and an afterword by Richard Matheson. John Tomerlin also wrote the fifth season Twilight Zone episode, “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You,” based on Beaumont’s 1952 story “The Beautiful People,” sharing credit for the script with Beaumont.   

The final script written entirely by Beaumont for The Twilight Zone was the fourth season’s “Passage on the Lady Anne,” based on his story “Song for a Lady” from his 1960 collection Night Ride and Other Journeys. Another Beaumont script, “Gentlemen, Be Seated,” based on his story from the April, 1960 issue of Rogue, was slated for production during the fifth season but went unproduced on the series. The same fate befell two scripts by Jerry Sohl, “Who Am I?” and “Pattern for Doomsday,” scripts which would have properly credited Sohl on the series. All three of these scripts have been published. “Gentlemen, Be Seated” appeared in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One, edited by Roger Anker (Gauntlet Press, 2004), while Sohl’s unproduced scripts appeared in Filet of Sohl, edited by Christopher Conlon (BearManor Media, 2003). Charles Beaumont’s original outline for “Pattern for Doomsday” was published in Forgotten Gems from the Twilight Zone, Volume 1, edited by Andrew Ramage (BearManor Media, 2005). 

Since the publication of The Twilight Zone Companion, Jerry Sohl has been acknowledged numerous times for his contributions as writer on the series. Furthermore, Sohl is now recognized as the author of one of the most memorable episodes of the entire series, as “Living Doll” is regularly placed near the top of any poll of the best episodes and is used prominently in marketing the series. Sohl gave several interviews in the latter portion of his life in which he discussed his role on the series, resulting in Sohl now being firmly established as the writer of “The New Exhibit,” “Living Doll,” and “Queen of the Nile.” This latter episode, which also aired during the fifth season, was, despite its similarities to Beaumont’s first season episode “Long Live Walter Jameson,” the only one of the three episodes written by Sohl under Beaumont’s name based entirely on Sohl’s idea, which was inspired by a scarab ring that had been gifted to Sohl. 

Final validation for Jerry Sohl’s contributions to the series came twofold upon the writer’s passing on November 4, 2002. The Los Angeles Times noted in their obituary Sohl’s work on such television series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Star Trek, The Outer Limits, Route 66, Naked City, and The Twilight Zone. More importantly, The Twilight Zone Scripts of Jerry Sohl, edited by Christopher Conlon, appeared in 2004, finally collecting Sohl’s scripts for the series under his name. 

II. Creating “Living Doll”

            Few television series respected the work of the writer to the degree of The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling, perhaps the greatest television writer in the history of the medium, created the series largely for the purpose of writing teleplays free from meddling censors. Serling fought to ensure that the writers he brought to the series received the same level of respect for their work. Even so, it was rare for an episode to be filmed exactly as written, as elements such as production limitations often required revisions to the teleplay. Occasionally, the dramatic structure of the teleplay was altered to achieve a desired effect of character, narrative, or staging, as in “Long Distance Call” or “A Game of Pool.” 

Cover art by David Christiana

Although the structure of the story remained intact, “Living Doll” saw a number of changes, some small, some significant, from Jerry Sohl’s original teleplay. Although there is no way of knowing for certain, especially considering the state of Charles Beaumont’s health at the time, it is reasonable to assume that Beaumont, as the contracted writer, performed the revisions to “Living Doll.” Let’s look at alterations to the script in its transition to the screen.

            The most significant alteration is that Erich Streator is Christie’s father in the original teleplay. The character was changed to Christie’s stepfather in the episode. This change was likely made to further distance the character from the sympathies of the audience. Many viewers see Erich as an ogre, undeserving of any sympathy in his plight. Radio host George Noory, who contributed a commentary for the episode alongside Marc Scott Zicree, several times refers to Erich Streator as “evil,” giving some indication of the average response to the character. In the original teleplay, Erich is certainly unpleasant at times, but he is less the unloving bully presented in the episode.

This change required the addition of a significant amount of dialogue, which in turn required the removal of incidents in the original script. These cuts resulted in an occasional rough transition in the episode, as we will see in a moment.

            To achieve the change from father to stepfather, dialogue concerning the “Freudian gibberish” of Christie’s doctor was added, as was Annabelle’s response that Christie feels rejected. Later, a significant scene was added in which Annabelle tells Erich she can no longer tolerate his anger toward Christie. She pleads with Erich to accept Christie and to try and find it in his heart to love her. Also added was the shocking moment late in the episode when Erich spitefully tells Christie: “I’m not your Daddy!” Dialogue was also added when Annabelle is packing suitcases in which she tells Erich that she can’t let him treat her daughter this way.

            Scenes from the original teleplay that were excised to accommodate this new material include a scene after Erich throws Talky Tina against the wall in which Christie comes back into the room and Erich reluctantly hands the doll to the girl. There is also a scene later in the story in which Erich offers to buy a different doll for Christie.

A more significant excised scene involved Christie and her friend Linda, the latter of whom has a speaking role in the original teleplay. After the scene at the dinner table, Erich finds the girls outside in front of the house, playing with Talky Tina. Erich gives the girls money for the ice cream van down the street but instructs Christie to leave the doll behind. After the girls set off for ice cream, Erich takes the doll to the garage, where he throws the doll in the trash. This scene makes the later statement made by Christie when looking for the doll, “You had her, Daddy,” make sense.

            In the dinner scene in the episode, after Christie returns to retrieve Talky Tina and takes the doll outside, Erich argues with Annabelle for a moment and then walks to the garage. There he finds Talky Tina alone, only minutes after Christie took the doll, compressing the pace of the transition.

Despite such changes removing, or altering, the narrative bridges in Sohl’s original teleplay, changes apparent only on comparison between the original teleplay and the finished episode, it offers a view of the construction of one of the finest episodes of the series, from verbal development to outline to script to finished episode. Furthermore, the fantasy is so brilliantly developed in the episode, so concisely staged and effectively performed, that the viewer hardly notices any compression of narrative. We’re simply drawn effortlessly along as events unfold, believing every moment in this man’s battle with a toy doll. Such is a major part of the enduring appeal of the series, this naturalistic staging of the fantastic intruding upon everyday life.

            Additional, less significant changes were also made. These include the moment in the episode at the dinner table when Talky Tina winks at Erich. In the original teleplay, the doll’s staring eyes disturb Erich and he asks Christie to close them. Later in the same scene, Erich dabs the flame from a match on the nose of the doll. In the original teleplay, Erich twists the doll’s leg to get a reaction. Changes were also made concerning Erich’s efforts to destroy the doll. In the original teleplay, Erich places the doll in a broiler and attempts to light the doll’s clothes on fire with matches. When this doesn’t work (the doll’s clothes won’t catch fire), Erich attempts to cut off the doll’s head with a large cooking knife, again to no avail. This resulted in a small change to dialogue. In the episode, Annabelle tells Erich to see a doctor. “Tell him you tried to kill a doll,” she says. The original teleplay has this line as: “Tell him you burned a doll.” To which Erich gloomily responds: “I didn’t burn it.”

            Changes in the appearance of Talky Tina were also made for the episode. In the original teleplay, Talky Tina is larger and less attractive. Sohl writes: “She withdraws an ugly doll about half her size.” Erich’s line in the original teleplay, “For heaven’s sake, Annabelle, a doll that big -” is thus changed to: “For heaven’s sake, Annabelle, a doll like that would cost -”

            In the original teleplay, Talky Tina is equipped with a key that activates her head and arms as well as a pull-ring on the side of her neck which activates her speech function. In the episode, the key, when turned, activates both effects, since the voice of Talky Tina, provided by veteran voice actress June Foray (1917-2017), was added in post-production. Jerry Sohl likely had the popular Chatty Cathy doll from Mattel in mind when creating Talky Tina, thus the alliterative name and the presence of a pull-ring to make the doll speak, both features of Chatty Cathy.

Chatty Cathy was developed by Ruth Handler (1916-2002) at Mattel in 1959 and introduced the following year as the first mass market doll that spoke. Handler, who founded Mattel with her husband Elliot in 1945, is remembered as the creator of the Barbie doll. Chatty Cathy was created to offer a larger, younger doll in contrast to the small, adult Barbie. Chatty Cathy spoke eleven phrases via an innovative sound system designed by Mattel employee Jack Ryan. Furthermore, the voice of Chatty Cathy was provided by the aforementioned June Foray, which may have led to Foray being hired to voice Talky Tina for “Living Doll.” Either way, Foray does a wonderful job capturing both the initial sweetness and growing malevolence of Talky Tina. “Living Doll” remains, despite Foray having voiced numerous cartoon characters, including Rocky the Flying Squirrel and several characters for Warner Brothers, one of her signature performances. Foray, who passed away in 2017, also contributed voice work to the final episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Bewitchin’ Pool.” 

via WorthPoint

The doll licensed for use in the episode, however, was not Chatty Cathy but rather Brikette from the Vogue Doll Company (pictured), a doll introduced in 1959 as a companion to the company’s popular Ginny doll. Brikette, “the red-headed doll with the impish grin,” was not a talking doll, and brunette and platinum versions of the doll were also offered. It is likely that many families viewing “Living Doll” on its initial broadcast, or soon afterwards, were familiar with a doll like Talky Tina from the dolls in their own homes.  

            The production crew, including prolific director and occasional actor Richard Sarafian (1930-2013), in his only credit on the series, and cinematographer Robert Pittack (1899-1976), did an outstanding job of giving life to Talky Tina, aided by Foray’s performance and the doll’s impish grin and expressive eyes, which were wonderfully manipulated along with the doll’s head and arms to give the doll a semblance of life. This is particularly effective in the final scene, aided by a rare but expert use of slow-motion, where Talky Tina warns Annabelle after the death of Erich. This scene also functions to dispel the notion that the events could be interpreted as having taken place in Erich’s mind. With this powerful final scene, Jerry Sohl avoided the ambiguity that marred the denouement of his earlier episode, “The New Exhibit.” 

A viewer who wishes to own Talky Tina could purchase an original Brikette doll or a talking replica, offered in color (pictured) and black and white, released in 2013 by the toy company Bif Bang Pow!

Talky Tina may be the star attraction but she is supported by a small but strong cast in a closely contained episode. Telly Savalas (1922-1994) is familiar to most television viewers of a certain age from his Emmy Award-winning role in the series Kojak (1973-1978), spun off from the television film The Marcus-Nelson Murders (1973). Savalas returned to the role of the lollipop-loving Lt. Theo Kojak after the series ended for a series of television films. Savalas, a WWII veteran and Peabody Award-winning radio host, landed in television in 1959 during a chance audition for the CBS anthology series Armstrong Circle Theatre. Savalas is remembered for his bald appearance and commanding presence and for his roles as tough guys, if not outright sinister characters like Erich Streator in “Living Doll.” Some of Savalas’s most memorable work came alongside Burt Lancaster in the John Frankenheimer films The Young Savages (1961) and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), the latter of which earned the actor an Academy Award nomination. Savalas is also remembered for roles in such films as Cape Fear (1962), The Dirty Dozen (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), and Kelly’s Heroes (1970). 

Telly Savalas

Savalas’s career on the small screen included appearances on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Kraft Suspense Theatre, and Tales of the Unexpected, among many others. Savalas appeared on the second season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in “A Matter of Murder,” directed by David Lowell Rich, a producer on the series, who also helmed the fourth season Twilight Zone episode “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville.” Savalas appeared in two episodes during the first season of Kraft Suspense Theatre, appearing alongside such Twilight Zone performers as Jack Warden, Oscar Beregi, Jr., Ed Kemmer, and Paul Comi. Savalas was directed on the series by Sydney Pollack, who appeared on The Twilight Zone as the gruff theater director Arthur Willis in “The Trouble with Templeton,” and an uncredited Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits. In 1981, Savalas appeared on the fourth series of Roald Dahl’s anthology series Tales of the Unexpected in the episode “Completely Foolproof,” based on a story by Robert Arthur from the March, 1958 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Arthur’s story was previously adapted for the third season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and featured Twilight Zone actress Patricia Barry. 

Mary LaRoche

Savalas is supported in “Living Doll” by two familiar faces on The Twilight Zone, Mary LaRoche and Tracy Stratford. Mary LaRoche (1920-1999), alternately billed as Mary La Roche, is remembered for her roles as screen mother to young actresses Sandra Dee and Ann-Margret in the films Gidget (1959) and Bye Bye Birdie (1963), respectively. LaRoche previously appeared on The Twilight Zone in the final episode of the first season as Mary, the (second) perfect wife created by playwright Gregory West (Keenan Wynn) via dictation machine in Richard Matheson’s “A World of His Own.” LaRoche also appeared alongside Ray Milland and Virginia Gregg (Twilight Zone’s “Jess-Belle” and “The Masks”) on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in “A Home Away from Home,” the opening episode of the second season scripted by Robert Bloch from his story published in the June, 1961 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

Tracy Stratford (b. 1955) was last seen on The Twilight Zone as Tina Miller, the “Little Girl Lost” in the excellent third season episode scripted by Richard Matheson. Stratford’s voice was dubbed by actress Rhoda Williams in “Little Girl Lost,” which slightly mars that episode, but the young actress is more than capable of using her own voice to elicit a great amount of sympathy for Christie in “Living Doll.”

The last, but certainly not least, element that contributes to the success of “Living Doll” is the original score by Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975). The spare and haunting woodwind and harp composition Herrmann provided for “Living Doll” is one of only eight original compositions Herrmann created for the series. Herrmann’s presence on the series is seemingly ubiquitous, however, due to the show’s frequent use of Herrmann’s contributions to the CBS music library. Herrmann composed a final original score for the series later in the fifth season for “Ninety Years Without Slumbering.” 

III. Night Gallery: “The Doll”

            The Twilight Zone explored the theme of dolls in such varied episodes as “The After Hours,” “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” and “Miniature,” and presented stories in which characters figuratively assume the role of dolls in such episodes as “The Little People” and “Stopover in a Quiet Town.” “Living Doll,” with its tale of a vengeful guardian protecting a child from an abusive parent, is very different from the bittersweet or ironic treatments of the doll theme in other episodes of the series. More in-line with “Living Doll” is “The Doll,” the memorable first season segment from Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. 

Adapted by Rod Serling from the story by Algernon Blackwood, directed by Rudi Dorn, “The Doll” tells of Colonel Hymber Masters (John Williams), who returns to England after service in India to take guardianship of his orphaned niece, Monica (Jewel Blanch). A package containing a doll was delivered to the Colonel’s residence prior to the Colonel’s arrival. Although the doll is frightening in appearance, Monica refuses to part with the doll. Colonel Masters explains to Monica’s governess, Miss Danton (Shani Wallis), who believed the Colonel sent the doll as a present for his niece, that the doll was not sent by him nor was it meant for Monica but rather for him. He also explains that the doll is dangerous and that they must get the doll away from Monica without mentioning their intentions in the presence of the doll.

The Colonel buys a new doll for Monica but the other doll tears it to pieces. He attempts to get rid of the doll but it returns to Monica. Colonel Masters is visited by an Indian man named Pandit Chola (Henry Silva), an occultist who has sent the doll as vengeance for the death of his brother, who was executed under orders from Colonel Masters. The man tells the Colonel that the doll will never stop and will always return until its task is complete. “The doll has teeth,” Chola warns Colonel Masters before leaving, “and there is no medicine on earth to save you.”

Colonel Masters hears Monica crying upstairs in her bedroom moments later. With fireplace poker in hand, he rushes upstairs only to face the hideous doll at the top of the stairs. Miss Danton rushes to Monica’s bedroom to comfort the girl, who tearfully tells her governess that she’s seen the doll walk out of her bedroom. Miss Danton and Monica hear the Colonel cry out. Miss Danton finds him on the stairs with a bloody gash on his arm being tended to by a manservant. 

The Colonel instructs Miss Danton to pick up the doll where it lay on the stairs and take it to his study. In the study, Colonel Masters throws the doll into the fire in the grate. “Now it’s destructible,” he tells Miss Danton. “Now that it’s done its job.” Colonel Masters collapses into a chair, dying from his wound. He knew this day would come and he has prepared for it. He instructs Miss Danton to remove a sealed envelope from the top drawer of his dresser and to immediately deliver it to the Indian man to whom it is addressed. “Tell him the thing has happened.” The Colonel tells Miss Danton that he has a considerable life insurance policy and that he took the precaution of making a will which names her as executrix of his estate. He then asks Miss Danton to take care of Monica, to take the girl to some other place where there are other children. With this, Colonel Masters dies. 

Sometime later, Pandit Chola is in his lodgings hurriedly packing in order to make his escape. There is a knock at the door. It is a messenger with a package, a gift from Colonel Masters. Chola unwraps the package to find a doll in the image of Colonel Masters. The eyes of the doll open and it bares its teeth in a menacing grin. 

Cover art by Ronald Clyne

Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) is one of the pillars of English supernatural fiction and the prolific author of such classic tales as “The Willows” (1907), “The Wendigo” (1910), the John Silence occult detective stories, and many, many others. “The Doll,” written late in Blackwood’s career, first appeared in The Doll and One Other, published by Arkham House in 1946. Arkham House publisher August Derleth reprinted the tale the following year in his anthology The Sleeping and the Dead: Thirty Uncanny Tales (published by Pellegrini & Cudahy). “The Doll” was collected in Blackwood’s Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural, published by Peter Nevill in 1949. The story has been reprinted a number of times in anthologies of supernatural fiction, but its novelette length has prevented it from appearing as often as other Blackwood stories. 

John Williams

Despite a hurried and somewhat troubled production, “The Doll” remains one of the most effective and fondly remembered segments from Night Gallery. John Williams (1903-1983), playing the staunch colonial soldier Colonel Masters, is a familiar face on the small screen. He appeared on The Twilight Zone as William Shakespeare in Rod Serling’s fourth season farce “The Bard,” as well as in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Williams also appeared in such Hitchcock films as Dial M for Murder (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955).

The memorably creepy doll in the segment is never seen committing an act, its movements kept hidden from the viewer, but it is effectively posed to give it a semblance of menacing intelligence. Once seen, the image of the doll is difficult to forget. The design and construction of the doll was the work of sculptor Chris Mueller (1906-1987), whose career in films included work on The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), This Island Earth (1955), and Jaws 2 (1978). 

Rod Serling’s script required changes from Blackwood’s story, largely due to the time limitations of the segment and the novelette length of Blackwood’s tale. Serling changed the relationship between Colonel Masters and Monica from father-daughter to uncle-niece, and added details of Colonel Masters’s actions in India which brought about the doll’s vengeance (Blackwood leaves out these details). The character of Pandit Chola is also Serling’s creation, as it is a largely silent and unnamed man in Blackwood’s story, a character fleeting in appearance. Serling likely added Chola to create a speaking role for dramatic effect, and to achieve the epilogue to the segment. This twist ending, in which Colonel Masters sends a vengeful doll of his own, is also Serling’s addition to the tale. In Blackwood’s story, the doll bites Colonel Masters on the throat in Monica’s bedroom, almost like the bite of an insect. Masters casually throws the doll away from him and the doll is removed from the story by the hand of an unseen person through Monica’s bedroom window. Masters accepts his fate and dies quietly in his study.

Blackwood tells the story from the perspective of Monica’s Polish governess, Madame Jodzka, who shares the strange experiences concerning the doll with the cook and a maid before spurring Colonel Masters into action to protect Monica and thus seal his fate.

Blackwood’s tale has in common with many other tales of dolls in horror and fantasy fiction the element of magic, typically some form of witchcraft, as the engine which drives the machinations of the doll. Talky Tina is driven by no such engine, at least none that is revealed to the viewer. The final sequence of the episode dispels the notion that the actions of Talky Tina were the product of Erich Streator’s mind. Could it be that the doll is spurred by the rage and resentment in Streator’s character, like the machines that attack Bartlett Finchley in Rod Serling’s first season episode “A Thing About Machines,” or the household items that destroy the unfortunate protagonist of Richard Matheson’s story “Mad House” (1953)? There is no way of knowing, nor does the story need to reveal this to function as effectively as it does. It is, in part, this unnerving ambiguity which lends a timelessness to the episode, and has allowed the episode to remain highly memorable and effective even amid the wave of numerous imitators that have followed in its wake. I give it my highest recommendation. 

Grade: A+ 

See Also: "Jerry Sohl's Legacy in The Twilight Zone"

Next Month in the Vortex: We continue our episode guide with a look at “The Old Man in the Cave,” starring James Coburn and John Anderson, directed by Alan Crosland, Jr., and scripted by Rod Serling from a story by Henry Slesar. Thanks for reading! 

Acknowledgments:

-The Twilight Zone Companion (3rd ed.) by Marc Scott Zicree (Silman-James, 2018)

-The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr. (OTR, 2008)

-A Critical History of Television’s The Twilight Zone, 1959-1964 by Don Presnell and Marty McGee (McFarland & Co., 1998)

-Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: An After-Hours Tour by Scott Skelton and Jim Benson (Syracuse University Press, 1999)

-“Introduction: Jerry Sohl and The Twilight Zone” by Christopher Conlon (The Twilight Zone Scripts of Jerry Sohl, edited by Christopher Conlon (BearManor Media, 2004))

-“The Ghost in the Zone” by Marc Scott Zicree (Filet of Sohl, edited by Christopher Conlon (BearManor Media, 2003))

-Commentary on “Living Doll” by Gary Gerani (The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension DVD Box Set, 2014)

-Commentary on “Living Doll” by Marc Scott Zicree and George Noory (The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension Box Set, 2014)

-“Living Doll” (teleplay) by Jerry Sohl (as by Charles Beaumont) (Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, December, 1982)

-“Remembering Charles Beaumont” by Roger Anker (Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, June, 1989)

-Chatty Cathy Documentary (Mattel Creative Advertising Services, 1998)

-The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (isfdb.org)

-The Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) 

Notes:

--Jerry Sohl also wrote the teleplays (uncredited) for the fourth season episode, “The New Exhibit,” and the fifth season episode, “Queen of the Nile.”

--Mary LaRoche also appeared in the first season episode, “A World of His Own.”

--Tracy Stratford also appeared in the third season episode, “Little Girl Lost.”

--June Foray also provided uncredited voice work for the fifth season episode, “The Bewitchin’ Pool.”

--“Living Doll” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Tim Kazurinsky.

--The teleplay for “Living Doll” was first printed, as by Charles Beaumont, in the December, 1982 issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. Editor T.E.D. Klein wrote: “Charles Beaumont (1929-1967) was one of the most formidable talents ever to write for The Twilight Zone, though in the work he produced toward the end of his life – as in this issue’s Living Doll – it’s important to acknowledge the significant contribution of fellow writer Jerry Sohl.” The teleplay for “Living Doll” was collected in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Jerry Sohl, edited by Christopher Conlon (BearManor Media, 2004).

--In The Work of Charles Beaumont: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide (Bibliographies of Modern Authors No. 6) by William F. Nolan (Borgo Press, 1986), Nolan provides this entry for "Living Doll": page 34, item E 30: "Living Doll," ghost-written by Jerry Sohl, produced for The Twilight Zone, first aired on November 1, 1963. Adapted from an unpublished story by Beaumont and Sohl. 

--A Shirley Temple doll that may be an homage to Talky Tina can be seen seated on a sofa in the queue at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Walt Disney World.

--Those interested in additional reading on the topic of dolls in horror and fantasy fiction are directed to three anthologies: The Haunted Dolls, edited by Seon Manley and Gogo Lewis (Doubleday, 1980), which contains Algernon Blackwood’s “The Doll,” Doubles, Dummies and Dolls: 21 Terror Tales of Replication, edited by Leonard Wolf (Newmarket Press, 1995), and a recent selection of tales, Deadly Dolls: Haunting Tales of the Uncanny, edited by Elizabeth Dearnley (British Library, 2024), part of the British Library's Tales of the Weird publication series. Also of interest are Sigmund Freud's 1919 paper on The Uncanny (Das Unheimliche), centered on dolls and doppelgangers, and The Guide to Supernatural Fiction by E.F. Bleiler (Kent State University Press, 1983), which lists and describes dozens of novels and stories on the theme. 

--In an interesting connection within the subjects of this post, Ronald Clyne, the cover artist for Algernon Blackwood's The Doll and One Other (Arkham House, 1946), was a friend and collaborator of Charles Beaumont. Beaumont and Clyne grew up in Chicago and entered science fiction fandom as teenagers. Roger Anker, in his introduction to Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (1988), describes Beaumont's relatively brief career as a pulp illustrator. Anker writes that, in the early 1940s, Beaumont's "interests then shifted from typewriter to drawing board and his illustrations began to appear in a number of pulp magazines under the brush name E.T. Beaumont. His first cartoon, done in collaboration with his friend and fellow artist, Ronald Clyne, appeared in Fantastic Adventures in October, 1943."  Ronald Clyne (1925-2006) provided the cover for Charles Beaumont's first collection of stories, The Hunger and Other Stories (1957) and for Beaumont's novel The Intruder (1959), as by Robert Clyne. Clyne contributed several cover illustrations for Arkham House in the 1940s, including for books by J. Sheridan LeFanu, H.P. Lovecraft, H. Russell Wakefield, Robert Bloch, A.E. Coppard, Henry S. Whitehead, Carl Jacobi, Fritz Leiber, and Arkham House publisher August Derleth. Clyne also provided covers for The Arkham Sampler and Weird Tales, and continued working for Arkham House (and other fantasy and SF publishers) into the early 1970s. 

-JP