Monday, April 11, 2011

"The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine"

Ida Lupino as Barbara Jean Trenton
“The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine”
Season One, Episode 4
Original Air Date: October 23, 1959

Barbara Jean Trenton: Ida Lupino
Danny Weiss: Martin Balsam
Marty Sall: Ted de Corsia
Jerry Hearndan: Jerome Cowan
Sally: Alice Frost

Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Rudy Butler, Henry Grace
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Jean Valentino 
Music: Franz Waxman

And Now, Mr. Serling:

“This motion picture projector and this film provide a background to next week’s story when a most distinguished actress takes a journey into The Twilight Zone. Miss Ida Lupino stars in “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine,” a haunting story of a haunted woman that I think you’ll find interesting and perhaps shocking. We hope you’ll join us then. Thank you and good night.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Picture of a woman looking at a picture, movie great of another time, once brilliant star in a firmament no longer part of the sky, eclipsed by the movement of earth and time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit and run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame.”


     Barbara Jean Trenton, an aging, reclusive actress, spends nearly all of her time in the darkened screening room of her Beverly Hills mansion, drinking heavily and attempting to recapture the glory days of her youth by endlessly screening the old movies in which she starred. She fantasizes about the leading men that shared the screen with her two decades or more ago. One actor in particular, Jerry Hearndan, has always held a special place in her heart and she watches the movies they made together over and over.
     Barbara Jean’s maid, Sally, and her agent, Danny, become increasingly concerned about her unhealthy fixation on the past and the amount of time she spends in the dark watching old movies. Danny, in an attempt to break Barbara Jean out of her unhealthy habits, arranges for an audition with a large movie studio. Barbara Jean excitedly agrees to read for the part, despite the fact that it is for a movie producer she has never liked, Marty Sall. Barbara Jean dreams of a romantic leading role, like the ones she’s had in the past, in a love story or a musical.
     When she arrives at Marty Sall’s office, she quickly realizes that the part the producer has lined up for her is a small role that makes her advanced age glaringly apparent. Barbara Jean erupts in anger and refuses to even read the script. Sall gets angry, too. The producer harshly tells the aging actress that she is living in the past and she doesn’t have the clout in the movie industry that she once had. Barbara Jean storms out of his office and Danny, the ever-loyal agent, verbally puts Sall in his place before returning with Barbara Jean to her home.
     For Barbara Jean, the horrible encounter with the producer is the breaking point. She has decided to fully live in the past, to allow her fixation to totally consume her. She believes that if she wishes for it hard enough, she can will herself to return to the past she is desperately obsessed with. She tells Danny that she wants to throw a party and invite all of her friends from years ago. Danny, knowing that this regression is not healthy, attempts to convince her to give up the past, to move on, that the other actors from years ago have since moved on or died. Barbara Jean will hear nothing of it. Danny leaves and she resigns herself to the dark screening room.
     When Danny returns the next day he is greeted by a very distraught Sally, who tells him that, when she enters the screening room, she swears that Barbara Jean isn’t in the room at all, that she is only up on the screen. Danny brushes this aside. He is excited with good news and he rushes to the screening room to tell Barbara Jean about it. Reluctant to let him in, she finally caves when he mentions that he has asked Jerry Hearndan, her leading man of years past, to visit her home that same afternoon. Excited as a young girl, Barbara Jean rushes off to prepare for his visit.
     When she emerges she is faced with a harsh truth in the physical form of Jerry Hearndan. Now aged twenty five years, Heardan is a bald, bespectacled old man that has given up acting to run a chain of supermarkets outside of Chicago. Barbara Jean, in her twisted mental state, refuses to believe this, insisting that the old man is not really Jerry Hearndan but an aged imposter. She turns her back on him and Jerry leaves. Danny, distraught at the disaster of Hearndan’s visit, leaves as well. Barbara Jean is alone and she once again retreats to her screening room where she can see Jerry Hearndan as he was when he was young and handsome. She talks to the screen, willfully wishes it to be real once again. Later, the maid enters the screening room and is greeted with a shocking sight. Screaming, she drops a serving tray with a crash on the floor and runs out.
     Danny arrives at the house and, at the behest of Sally, enters the screening room. Sally has turned off the projector and becomes anxious when Danny decides to turn it back on. They both watch the screen. There, on the screen, is a film of Barbara Jean’s home, the very home they now sit in. From the front doors enter a costumed array of young people, all actors from twenty five years ago, all actors from Barbara Jean’s movies, even those actors that have since died. Then Barbara Jean enters the film and greets all of her guest, inviting them to continue the party at the poolside. As she is walking away on the arm of the young Jerry Hearndan, Danny calls out to the screen, calling for Barbara Jean to come back. As though she hears him, Barbara Jean turns and looks. Then, with a goodbye wave, she tosses her scarf across the threshold of the stairway and retreats off screen. The film ends, the screen goes black.

     Danny walks out of the room, stunned. In the hallway, on the floor, he finds Barbara Jean’s scarf. He picks it up and holds it near, smiling, knowing that Barbara Jean has indeed wished herself back into the past, forever.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“To the wishes that come true, to the strange, mystic strength of the human animal, who can take a wishful dream and give it a dimension of its own. To Barbara Jean Trenton, movie queen of another era, who has changed the blank tomb of a projection screen into a private world. It can happen, in The Twilight Zone.”


Martin Balsam as Danny Weiss
     “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” is an underrated episode, one of the mostly forgotten episodes that are not good enough or bad enough to stick in the memory of the average viewer but which still present a high level of quality in one or more areas of production. "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" is underrated not because of its plot (derivative and predictable), or script (littered with stilted dialogue and lapsing into mood killing sentiment), or even the characters (largely stereotypical), but because of the performances, which lift the episode above the deficiencies in these other areas. It is the performances that draw the viewer back to the episode again. With capable directing, the episode builds to a pitch-perfect mood of sinister atmosphere that brings to mind all of the darkness, mystery, and bizarre culture that characterized the Golden Age of Hollywood. 
         The episode is chiefly concerned with the fatal allure of the past (a subject of fascination for Rod Serling), but it is also concerned with death, and, metaphorically, the death of old Hollywood, a time highly romanticized in the cultural mind. The films of this era (1920's-1940's) had the simplicity, and the casual brutality, of fairy tales, films of broad humor or sweeping romantic adventure or brooding Gothic horror. On the opposite side of this is the suggestion of immortality through art, in this case old films. It is the suggestion that there exist an immortality of sorts inherent in the cultural products of the past that lends the episode its power.  
          The episode is structured like a fable, the forgotten princess locked away in a castle who longs for a prince from her past to rescue her. The story is crowned with a largely illogical happy ending that represents hope and sentiment despite the dark and obsessive nature of the episode. This ending greatly destroys the carefully built mood and tension of what had come before. The strange Poe-meets-Hollywood feel of the story is swept away the moment Martin Balsam picks up the scarf by the staircase, smiles and says, “To wishes, Barbie.” It’s a complete one hundred and eighty degree turn in terms of mood and atmosphere.  
     When Danny views the final footage of Barbara Jean walking off into her fantasy netherworld along with all of the dead or long gone actors from the past, the atmosphere should reinforce the idea that she is walking off with ghosts, that Barbara has essentially chosen death over living her life to the fullest in the here and now. Of course there is an interpretation of the episode that sees Barbara Jean escape into the happiest moments of her life. But at what cost? When the projector screen goes black, it should be a disturbing moment, not a reassuring one. The obvious inspiration for this episode, Billy Wilder's 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, gets the message right. There is no going back. Where one desires to go back to is never as one remembers it being through a haze of nostalgia. 
       Serling was conflicted about a person's longing for the past and what the past ultimately signifies to the person we are at present. It was a subject he returned to again and again throughout his career, and for as many stories as he wrote about not being able to go home again ("Walking Distance," "No Time Like the Past," "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar"), he wrote a number displaying that an escape into the past is possible ("A Stop at Willoughby"). 
     Ida Lupino is simply perfect as Barbara Jean Trenton. She was an astonishingly talented woman from a family of artists who became the only person to both star in an episode of the series as well as direct another. She was the only woman to direct an episode of the series, as well, the fifth season episode, "The Masks," from a Rod Serling script. That episode happens to be one of the finest the series has to offer, largely due to Lupino's moody direction, and is Rod Serling's final great masterpiece of the series. Lupino here plays the role of the obsessed film star with compassion while avoiding the temptation to emulate Gloria Swanson's manic performance in Sunset Boulevard. Lupino was an versatile actress and director who was particularly well versed in film noir in both capacities. As an actress she appeared in They Drive by Night (1940), High Sierra (1941), alongside Humphrey Bogart, Road House (1948), and On Dangerous Ground (1951). She directed the hard hitting film The Hitch-Hiker in 1953 for RKO. Lupino also directed episodes of Kraft Suspense Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and a whopping 9 episodes of Boris Karloff's Thriller, including the classics "Trio for Terror" and "La Strega." She was something of a child prodigy, acting and writing in her own productions by age 7, and harbored dreams of being a writer. Her father, Stanley Lupino, a legend in musical comedy, encouraged her talent in acting and Ida began serious study of the art form in her early teens. By the late 1940's, Lupino was writing, producing, and directing independent films while navigating the studio system of Hollywood. She died in Los Angeles on August 3, 1995, aged 77. 
       Martin Balsam, an Academy Award winning actor that should be a familiar face to genre television and film fans everywhere, is reliable as always. Balsam is the type of character actor one comes to appreciate not only for his range but for the way in which he not only adjusts to the character but also adjusts the character to himself. He is not an actor that is going to slip completely into a role but he is going to be convincing and believable. Balsam held roles in two exceptional thrillers from the sixties (Psycho (1960) and Cape Fear (1962)), starred as the psychologist trying to help a doomed time traveler in Rod Serling's "The Time Element," for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (the unofficial Twilight Zone series pilot), and appeared again in the season four episode “The New Exhibit.” A prolific actor, Balsam is also remembered for his role in 12 Angry Men (1957) and appeared in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, one of which, "The Equalizer," plays on Balsam's small stature. 
        As noted earlier, "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" was unquestionably influenced by director Billy Wilder's 1950 film noir Sunset Boulevard, starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a washed up and reclusive film starlet from the silent era who still lives thirty years in the past while remaining secluded in her dilapidated mansion. Norma also, like Barbara Jean Trenton, spends much of her time watching prints of her old movies, yearning to be young again. By chance, Desmond meets a handsome aspiring screenwriter named Joe Gillis, played by William Holden, and works to keep him as her "pet" writer while he produces a screenplay that will bring her back into the limelight. Of course, it all ends in tragedy with Gillis's death at the hands of Desmond in a desperate act of lover's rage. By the time Serling came to produce "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine," Sunset Boulevard already held a reputation as an exceptional film.
        A note about the exceptional music in the episode. It is provided by legendary German-American composer Franz Waxman, who, ironically, also provided the score to Sunset Boulevard (for which he won an Academy Award). Waxman's music will sound familiar to genre fans from movies such as Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Rebecca (1940), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Suspicion (1941), and Rear Window (1954). Unfortunately, this is the only episode Waxman lent his talents to. He died in 1967. It is interesting to note here that director Mitchell Leisen and composer Franz Waxman were once titans in Hollywood but were no longer in demand by the time they came to work on The Twilight Zone. It lends a poignancy to this story about a love of the past, and of past glories in the golden days of Hollywood. 

Grade: C


-Rod Serling went on record several times as saying he held no love for this episode and considered it an all-around failure.
-Ida Lupino also directed the exceptional season five episode “The Masks,” scripted by Rod Serling. 
-Martin Balsam also appeared in the unofficial pilot for The Twilight Zone, "The Time Element," from The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and the season four episode “The New Exhibit.”
-Alice Frost played the part of Aunt Amy in the season three episode “It’s a Good Life.”
-"The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Kathy Garver and Charles Shaughnessy. 
-"The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" was adapted into a short story (as "The 16-Millimeter Shrine") by Walter B. Gibson for Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Revisited (Grosset & Dunlap, 1964). 

--Jordan Prejean

"Mr. Denton On Doomsday"

Dan Duryea as gunfighter turned town drunk Al Denton
“Mr. Denton on Doomsday”
Season One, Episode 3
Original Air Date: October 16, 1959

Al Denton: Dan Duryea
Henry J. Fate: Malcolm Atterbury
Dan Hotaling: Martin Landau
Liz: Jeanne Cooper
Pete Grant: Doug McClure
Charlie: Ken Lynch
Leader: Arthur Batanides
Man: Bill Erwin
Doctor: Robert Burton
Peter Grant: Doug McClure

Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Allen Reisner
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Rudy Butler and Henry Grace
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franlin Milton and Jean Valentino
Music: Stock
And Now, Mr. Serling
“Next week we invite you to take a walk down a western frontier street at the elbow of a doomed gunman, whose salvation lies in nothing less than a magic potion and a colt .45. Mr. Dan Duryea stars in ‘Mr. Denton on Doomsday’ next week on The Twilight Zone. We hope you’ll be able to be with us. Thank you, and good night.”
Rod Serling’s Opening Narration
“Portrait of a town drunk named Al Denton. This is a man who’s begun his dying early, a long agonizing route through a maze of bottles. Al Denton, who would probably give an arm or a leg or a part of his soul to have another chance, to be able to rise up and shake the dirt from his body and the bad dreams that infest his consciousness. In the parlance of the time: this is a peddler, a rather fanciful-looking little man in a black frock coat. And this is the third principal character of our story. Its function? Perhaps to give Mr. Al Denton his second chance.”

Henry J. Fate (Malcolm Atterbury)

     In a frontier town where dreams have died and turned to hopeless prayers, Al Denton may be the last dreamer in this forgotten place. Once a legendary gunslinger, a quick-draw specialist whose reputation was challenged daily by young men with guns on their hips, each one eager to test Denton’s skill and claim the prize of a killer’s reputation, Denton is merely a shadow of his former self: weak, broken, pitiful, and enslaved by the bottle. He draws the attention of Hotaling, a gunfighter that takes sadistic pleasure in ridiculing Denton for the price of a drink in the local saloon. Denton draws the pity of a concerned woman and a sympathetic bartender but it’s not enough for him to rise above the sad hole he’s fallen into.
    Then comes a day when a traveling salesman rides into town with the name of Henry J. Fate painted across his covered wagon. This peddler of wares makes his first order of business to place a six-shooter in the hand of the downtrodden Denton. With gun in hand, Denton is unwittingly backed into a showdown with Hotaling. By the guiding glances of Henry J. Fate, which have an almost telepathic effect, Denton pulls off two impossible shots and disarms the sadistic bully. Word travels quickly and Denton knows that soon more young gunfighters will be riding into town to challenge him. Once upon a time, Denton took the life of a sixteen year old boy in a duel, a boy who’d rode into town with the intention to kill him simply because Denton was known as the best. Now, Denton fears, the vicious cycle that brought him to this point will begin again.
     After Denton is visited by a couple of tough cowboys informing him of the impending visit of one Pete Grant, a sure-handed gunfighter eager to do away with Denton and make a reputation as the fastest gun around, Henry J. Fate’s covered wagon draws Denton’s attention. Fate tells Denton that he, Fate, stocks a potion that, when a gunfighter drinks it, will make that man unbeatable, the fastest and truest shot anybody’s ever seen. The catch being that the potion is only effective for ten seconds after it is ingested. After giving Denton a demonstration of what the potion can do, Fate passes on a second dose free of charge but with a little advice. Denton’s already made a date to meet Pete Grant later on in the local saloon. Fate advises Denton to drink the potion the second Grant comes through the doors.
     The showdown comes when Pete Grant rides in and makes his way to the saloon where he calls out Denton. Grant is barely more than a kid with his curly blonde hair and cherubic face, but Denton knows that Grant isn’t leaving until the two of them draw down on each other. Without a choice, and doubting his ability to be as good with a gun as he once was, Denton drinks the potion Fate gave him only to look across the saloon and see Pete Grant doing the exact same thing!

     A moment later, the two men draw on each other. Each is as fast as the other, with both men landing a wounding shot to the other’s gun hand, ending their gun fighting days for good. Denton tells young Pete Grant that this is a blessing, that the young man has been saved from the hard life that Denton has endured. The episode fades out on Henry J. Fate riding his covered wagon out of town.
Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

“Mr. Henry Fate, dealer in utensils and pots and pans, liniments and potions; a fanciful little man in a black frock coat who can help a man climbing out of a pit, or another man falling into one. Because, you see, fate can work that way, in The Twilight Zone.”


Martin Landau as the bully Dan Hotaling
      “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” is one of Rod Serling’s “loser” episodes, where the main character is on the wrong side of luck, struggling daily, and dangling at the end of a rope. Then something “magic” comes along, something unbelievable that intrudes upon the character’s unfortunate reality, the effect of which forever changes their life and their outlook on the future. In every one of these stories there is a pivotal choice to be made by the character. The magic is never free and never without need of human action. “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” exemplifies this theme. Serling’s scripts of this type established the theme by presenting a main character possessed of a singular misfortune that is the root cause of their misery. Some of the most commonly used are alcoholism, seen in "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," "A Passage for Trumpet" and "Night of the Meek," the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, seen in episodes such as "King Nine Will Not Return" and "The Arrival," and cowardice or other self destructive tendency, as in "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room" and "The Last Night of a Jockey."
       "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" benefits from its excellent Old West setting. Tales of the Old West were surprisingly common on the series. The best episode dealing with the theme is probably Montgomery Pittman's "The Grave," from the third season, but the Old West crops up in one form or another in such episodes as "Execution," "Dust," "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim," "Showdown with Rance McGrew," and "Mr. Garrity and the Graves."
        Rod Serling originally pitched the idea for the episode on the promotional footage which accompanied the screening of the pilot episode “Where Is Everybody?” held for potential series sponsors. At that time the episode was titled “Death, Destry, and Mr. Dingle.” Serling scrapped Mr. Dingle for Mr. Denton but later used Mr. Dingle for a second season episode in which Burgess Meredith played “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.” Mr. Dingle, in his original incarnation, was scripted to be a teacher in a frontier schoolhouse who daydreams of gun fighting and adventure only to be falsely rumored to be a deadly gunslinger (he is, in truth, terrified of violence). Serling also previously used the name Denton, the real life name of a childhood acquaintance, for the role of a sheriff in the Playhouse 90 production of “A Town Has Turned to Dust.”

        The best parts of “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” are the moments that elevate the episode to a high emotional pitch. Nearly every episode Serling wrote had at least one moment of this emotional intensity. Though “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” does not quite carry the emotional weight of Serling’s best efforts, it does bear a good deal, and the majority of the credit goes to Dan Duryea’s weary performance as Al Denton.
     Duryea (1907-1968), whom Film Noir authority Eddie Muller described as "always the glowing center of attention in any scene," enjoyed a fruitful film career throughout the late forties and the fifties. In his prime, he was an incredibly magnetic actor who made his name playing villains in a number of well-regarded films, mostly in the smoke and fog shrouded land of Film Noir offerings such as The Woman in the Window (1944), Criss Cross (1949), and Too Late for Tears (1949). Duryea had a villainous role in the western Winchester '73 (1950) and a small but memorable role as a Nazi spy in Fritz Lang's 1945 film Ministry of Fear, one of three Lang films to feature Duryea. Duryea landed the occasional redemptive role as well, such as that of a drunken songwriter out to prove his friend innocent of murder in the 1946 film Black Angel, based on the 1943 novel by Cornell Woolrich, which featured a theatrical release poster that screamed: "Duryea! . . . That fascinating tough guy of Scarlet Street." Duryea moved into television by the late 1950's, working with Twilight Zone producer Buck Houghton on China Smith, a series co-written by Rod Serling's Night Gallery producer Jack Laird. He worked right up until 1968, the year of his death from cancer at age 61. 
     The villain of the episode is not Duryea, of course, but versatile actor Martin Landau (1928-2017), making the first of two memorable appearances on the series (the other being Rod Serling's underrated spy thriller "The Jeopardy Room" from the fifth season). Landau is likely best known for his role on the television series Mission: Impossible as well as for his Academy Award-winning performance as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994). Landau also appeared in episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Space: 1999, the 1980's revival series of both The Twilight Zone (season one's "The Beacon") and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and two highly regarded episodes of The Outer Limits, "The Man Who Was Never Born" and "The Bellero Shield." 

     What works against “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” are the moments when the tension is killed by hammy dialogue or stilted action. It is quite unbelievable, for instance, that the hands of both gunfighters are injured so badly that they will never be able to shoot a gun again and yet they appear to be all but unharmed, needing no real medical attention, just a bandage wrapped around an unclean wound. Like using the name of Fate for the magic man in the episode, this sort of fairy tale logic and sly humor detract from the seriousness of the episode's tone. 
     “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” is a still a highly enjoyable episode. The Old West setting is excellent and the episode works well as a quick-punching, two-act morality play. The acting is fine and, if nothing else, the episode manages to pull the viewer very quickly into an immediately recognizable dramatic situation.

Grade: C

Grateful acknowledgement to:

-The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree (Silman-James, 2nd edition, 1992)

-Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir by Eddie Muller (St. Martin's Griffin, 1998)

-"Starring Dan Duryea" by Paul Gaita (; accessed 3/24/2017)


--Director Allen Reisner also directed two episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, "The Nature of the Enemy" and "Brenda," the latter scripted by Twilight Zone director Douglas Heyes under the pseudonym Matthew Howard, based on the story by Margaret St. Clair. 
--Martin Landau also appears in the fifth season episode "The Jeopardy Room."
--Radio and television towers can be seen in the background as Henry J. Fate first rides into town.
--"Mr. Denton on Doomsday" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Adam Baldwin.
--Producer Buck Houghton previously worked with Dan Duryea on Houghton's first job producing a television series with the early 1950's series China Smith. The series was co-written by Rod Serling's Night Gallery producer Jack Laird. 

--Jordan Prejean

"One for the Angels"

Ed Wynn as lovable sidewalk salesman Lew Bookman
“One for the Angels”
Season One, Episode 2
Original Air Date: October 9, 1959

Lew Bookman: Ed Wynn 
Mr. Death: Murray Hamilton 
Maggie: Dana Dillaway 
Truck Driver: Merrit Bohn 
Doctor: Jay Overholts 
Truck Driver: Merritt Bohn
Little Boy: Mickey Maga

Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay) 
Director: Robert Parrish 
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Rudy Butler and Henry Grace
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Lyle Boyer
Sound: Franklin Milton and Jean Valentino 
Music: Stock

And Now, Mr. Serling: 
“Next week I’ll have a reunion with a unique talent and a valued friend.  Our first since ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight.’  Next week on The Twilight Zone, Mr. Ed Wynn stars in ‘One for the Angels,’ playing an old pitchman who sells mechanical toys like this, but whose competition is Mr. Death.  We hope you’ll join us then.  Thank you and good night.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration: 
“Street scene, summer, the present.  Man on a sidewalk named Lew Bookman—aged sixtyish, occupation—pitchman.  Lew Bookman: a fixture of the summer.  A rather minor component to a hot July.  A nondescript, commonplace little man whose life is a treadmill built out of sidewalks.  In just a moment Lew Bookman will have to concern himself with survival.  Because as of three o’clock this hot July afternoon he’ll be stalked by Mr. Death.”

Against the backdrop of a bustling urban walkway, Mr. Lew Bookman makes his living selling oddities and knick knacks to busy patrons of the city on their way from one place to another.  Mr. Lew Bookman: a warmhearted, elderly fellow with a gentle disposition, who wants nothing more in life than to put a smile on the faces of all he meets.  Mr. Bookman is wrapping things up for the day and will momentarily close down his traveling thrift shop and make his way back to the modest apartment space that he calls home.  Unbeknownst to him, this is to be the last day of his life, for Mr. Death is about to make himself known to the elderly man.
          When he gets to his apartment building, Bookman is greeted by a horde of adoring neighborhood children that have been eagerly awaiting his arrival.  His gentle demeanor and quirky stage antics appear to be the highlight of their day.  Upon entering his apartment, however, Bookman is greeted by an abrasive Mr. Death who appears immune to the old man’s charm.  Death launches into his task with the subtlety of a freight train.  He informs the salesman that he is to die at midnight and has until then to get his affairs in order.  Bookman laments to Death that he has always desired to make that one big sales pitch, a pitch grand enough “for the angels.”  He says that to die before doing so would leave him with a sense of failure.  Mr. Death is touched by the man’s plea and agrees to let him live until he makes such a pitch.  Bookman is overcome with joy that he doesn’t have to die, at least not until he makes that big pitch which, as he points out to Mr. Death, could take an indefinite amount of time, possibly even years, to accomplish.  Death, realizing he has been swindled, informs Bookman that he will have to take a replacement instead.  Minutes later a neighborhood girl is hit by a truck in the middle of the street.  Death informs Bookman that the girl is to die at midnight.  As midnight approaches Bookman attempts to divert Death away from his appointment by engaging him in the grandest sales pitch he has ever delivered, a pitch “for the angels.”  The tactic works and Death is unable to claim the little girl.  The salesman is now ready to face the afterlife with an accepting smile as he and Mr. Death stroll casually off into the night.

Rod Serling’s closing narration:
Lewis J. Bookman.  Age, sixtyish.  Occupation: pitchman.  Formerly a fixture o the summer.  Formerly a rather minor component to a hot July.  But throughout his life a man beloved by the children, and therefore...a most important man.  Couldn’t happen, you say?  Probably not in most places.  But it did the Twilight Zone.

         "One for the Angels” is the first example on The Twilight Zone of what had already become an emblematic theme of Rod Serling’s work; an essentially decent human being, etching out a simple existence, struggling with an obstacle much greater than himself.  In this case we have a quirky, aging salesman who feels that he’s done nothing substantial with his life, attempting to outfox Death itself.  “In Praise of Pip,” “The Night of the Meek,” “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room,” and “A Stop at Willoughby” are all episodes that reflect a premise similar to this one.  The lowly protagonist would become one of several reoccurring motifs in Serling’s episodes.  This was Serling’s greatest strength as a writer.  Although his villains and supporting characters were often crude and one dimensional, his efficiency to tap into the aspirations and frailties of the common man were what made his protagonists so accessible to an audience.  This is what made his dramatic work in the decade before The Twilight Zone so compelling.
           Fantasy, however, especially fantasy formulated to fit a half-hour television show, is quite different; it revolves primarily around the plot instead of the characters.  This is where Serling often came up short as a writer.  “One for the Angels” is no exception.  In the story, Death is unable to claim the life of eight year old Maggie because Bookman distracts him with his magnificent sales pitch and Death never makes it into her apartment to do so.  The significance of Death having to actually be in her apartment to take her seems oddly convenient in terms of plot, especially considering that earlier in the day he was able to orchestrate the poor girl getting hit by a truck when he wasn’t even outside to witness it.
           There is another motif at work in this story that was common to many scripts Serling wrote for The Twilight Zone: the idea that fate is the omniscient universal force and that those who interfere with it do so at a high cost.  When Bookman requests that he be granted an additional stay on Earth he is merely attempting to cheat Death into granting him immortality.  What he doesn’t realize until later is that cheating fate can have dier consequences (although he ends up cheating Death a second time and doesn’t suffer the same fate).  “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs is the most famous example of this sort of story, where a character is granted a wish that comes true at an enormous price.  This is a popular theme is the field of dark fantasy and it is one that Serling would unfortunately rely on as a crutch, given his contractual obligation to write the majority of the series.  “Escape Clause,” “Time Enough at Last,” “A Kind of Stopwatch,” “The Last Night of a Jockey,” and “The Man in the Bottle” (a direct imitation of "The Monkey’s Paw") are all examples of this same theme.

           Stepping into the role as the lovable Lew Bookman is the equally lovable Ed Wynn.  Known for his slapstick brand of humor and his gentle demeanor, Wynn is remembered today as one the most beloved icons of Hollywood during the 1950's and 60's.  Wynn's career as an entertainer actually stretches back to the turn of the twentieth century when he started as a vaudeville comedian in the famous Ziegfield Follies stage productions, often co-starring with W.C. Fields.  When his vaudeville days began to dry up Wynn turned his talents to radio starring in the popular show The Fire Chief during the early 1930's.  The show spawned two film adaptations, Follow the Leader (1930) and The Chief (1933), with Wynn starring in both.  From 1949 to 1950 Wynn hosted two different variety shows, The Ed Wynn Show on NBC and The Camel Comedy Caravan on CBS.  Several years later Wynn's son (and fellow Twilight Zone alumni)Keenan Wynn encouraged him to take up acting.  In 1956 Wynn, then in his mid-sixties, suprised everyone when he delivered an incredibly moving dramatic performance in the Playhouse 90 production of Rod Serling's Requiem For a Heavyweight.  During the last decade or so of his life Wynn experienced the most successful chapter of his career and proved himself as an actor that could easily switch back and forth between comedy and drama.  His notable films roles include The Great Man (1956), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959; he was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his performance as Albert Dussell), a live action comedy version of Cinderella (1960) starring Jerry Lewis, and the George Stevens epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).  He also found a home at The Walt Disney Company during this time and many of his best known performances are as Disney characters.  He was the voice of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (1956), as the Toymaker in Babes in Toyland (1961), as the Fire Chief in The Absentminded Professor (1961) and as Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins (1964).  Wynn passed away in 1966 at the age of 79.
            Murray Hamilton also turns in a good performance here as Mr. Death.  Hamilton was a prominent stage and screen actor during his career which spanned over four decades.  He is best remembered today for his role as the mayor in Jaws and Jaws 2.  He also appeared in such landmark films as No Time For Sergeants (1958), The Hustler (1961), The Graduate (1967) and The Way We Were (1975).  He died in 1986 at the age of 63.
           All in all, “One for the Angels” may not be a particularly memorable episode within the scope of The Twilight Zone catalog, but I wouldn’t discourage people away from it.  It’s an easy-to-view episode with a warmhearted charm, and Ed Wynn’s performance as Lew Bookman is immensely enjoyable.

Grade: C

--Serling had actually written a script called “One for the Angels” several years before for the CBS Television anthology series Danger, in which a second-rate pitchman delivers a pitch so grand that he is able to keep a crowd of onlookers gathered around his apartment in order for his little brother to escape a band of angry mobsters (he ends up being shot and killed anyway.)  He reused the title and the lead character but rewrote the entire script to incorporate a fantasy element.  He supposedly wrote the lead character especially for Ed Wynn after the two had worked together in “Requiem for a Heavyweight.”
--"One For the Angels" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Ed Begley, Jr. (Falcon Picture Group, 2002).
--Ed Wynn also starred in the fifth season episode, “Ninety Years without Slumbering.”
--Robert Parrish also directed two other Season One episodes, "The Mighty Casey" and "A Stop at Willoughby."
--Murray Hamilton also appeared in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "Dr. Stringfellow's Rejuvenator." 

--Brian Durant

"Where Is Everybody?"

Earl Holliman, first resident of
The Twilight Zone
“Where Is Everybody”
Season One, Episode 1
Original Air Date: October 2, 1959

Mike Ferris: Earl Holliman 
Air Force General: James Gregory 
Doctor: Paul Langton 
Reporter #1: James McCallion
Air Force Colonel: John Conwell
Reporter #2: Jay Overholt
Air Force Captain: Carter Mullaly
Reporter #3: Gary Walberg
Air Force Staff Sergeant: Jim Johnson

Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay) 
Director: Robert Stevens 
Producer: William Self
Director of Photography: Joseph LaShelle 
Art Direction: Robert Clatworthy and Alex Golitzen
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman and Ruby Levitt
Assistant Director: Joseph E. Kenny
Editor: Roland Gross
Makeup: Bud Westmore
Sound: Leslie I. Carey and Vernon W. Kramer
Music: Bernard Hermann

And Now, Mr. Serling (recorded in 1961 for a re-run of the episode): 
“I’m about to show you a picture of something that isn’t what it looks like. Pleasant little town? It isn’t this at all. It’s a nightmare. It’s a chilling, frightening, journey of one man into a mystifying unknown. You’re invited to join that man in a most unique experience. Next week, Earl Holliman asks, and you’ll ask with him, Where is Everybody?" 

 "Here’s an item we forgot. A moment for the people who pay the tab. It’s often said that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’  Case in point. Before we meet again try Oasis. You’ll know what I mean.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
The place is here, the time is now, and the journey into the shadows that we’re about to watch could be our journey.”


             Mike Ferris is traveling on foot down a rural highway when he wanders into a quaint little town that looks like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, a quiet, idyllic place, complete with town square, drugstore, diner, and movie theater. It will become the setting of his nightmare. He has no memory of who he is and no known destination. The town shows all the normal signs of a functioning community except for one essential element: there are no people. Ferris wanders into a café where a jukebox plays to an empty room. A smoking cigar lies unattended in an ashtray in the local police station. A phone rings inside a phone booth but no one is on the other end of the call. As he wanders from place to place Ferris grows suspicious. He feels like he is being watched. As night falls on the town, his paranoia and loneliness finally eat away at what is left of his rationality. He collapses against a stoplight, frantically pushing the ‘walk’ button and pleading for someone to help him.

            Cut to a different place entirely. Mike Ferris is being observed on a monitor by a group of military officials. The ‘walk’ button he believes himself to be pressing is actually the panic button inside the isolation chamber that he has been strapped into for the past 400 hours. Ferris is an Air Force astronaut aboard a simulated flight to the moon. Upon witnessing his fragile condition, the General in charge of the project decides to have Ferris removed from the chamber.  After a few moments Ferris regains his grasp on reality and inquires of the staff doctor as to why he believed he was in an imaginary town with no people in it. The doctor explains to Ferris that man has an instinctive need for companionship and without it the mind will begin to make up scenarios in order to fight the loneliness. As he is being taken away by medical personnel he realizes that when the time comes for him to go on a real flight to the moon there will be no panic button to push and no one to come and rescue him from his own mind. 

Rod Serling’s closing narration: 
“Up there, up there in the vastness of space, in the void that is sky, up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the stars waiting, waiting with the patience of eons, forever waiting…in The Twilight Zone.”


"The sensation was unrelated to anything he'd ever felt before. He awoke, but had no recollection of ever having gone to sleep. And, to mystify him further, he was not in a bed. He was walking down a road, a two-lane black macadam with a vivid white stripe running down the center. He stopped, stared up at a blue sky, a hot, mid-morning sun. Then he looked around at the rural landscape, high, full-leafed trees flanking the road. Beyond the trees were fields of wheat, golden and rippling."
                    -"Where Is Everybody?" by Rod Serling (Stories from the Twilight Zone (1960))
       As the premiere episode of The Twilight Zone, “Where Is Everybody?” perfectly sets the tone for the series.  The episode begins as Mike Ferris discovers a mysterious town with signs of life in every direction but no visible inhabitants. In the second act, the conflict escalates to a suspenseful climax as Ferris’s paranoia mounts and his reasoning begins to deteriorate. In the final scene, we see that he is not in a town at all, but in an experimental isolation chamber. Thus, all the pieces of the puzzle come together. This would become the formula used throughout the series and the show’s success is due largely to the simple format of an ordinary person thrust into an extraordinary situation. This format grabbed the audience’s attention within the first few minutes and held it to the finale where there would usually be some sort of twist or a logical explanation of events. Many of the hour-long episodes in the fourth season suffer because they cannot successfully fit this format. 

                An interesting aspect of "Where Is Everybody?" is the number of symbols and motifs in the episode which would be repeated throughout the course of the series. There is the symbol of the broken clock, seen again in "Time Enough at Last" and "A Kind of Stopwatch." There is the otherworldly call in a phone booth, seen again in "The Hitch-Hiker" and "The Jungle." There is also the recurring symbol of a mirror, one of the show's most oft-repeated images, seen in episodes such as "Mirror Image," "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room," "The Mirror," and "The Masks." Mike Ferris also enjoys a drugstore sundae, seen again in "Walking Distance." 

             In terms of the approach to fantasy, however, “Where Is Everybody?” is atypical in that by episode's end it is revealed to be almost entirely devoid of any fantasy elements. For the pilot episode, Serling understood that his job was not to write a science fiction masterpiece; he needed to sell the show to CBS and creating something commercially viable was essential. CBS had twice shot down his previous attempts at a fantasy program when he submitted "I Shot an Arrow Into the Air," about an alien encounter, and a time travel fantasy, "The Time Element." 
           Once the series was ordered, Serling turned in a script titled "The Happy Place," about a near future in which citizens over the age of sixty are sent to idyllic rest homes in order to be euthanized. The script was passed on by pilot producer William Self, causing a brief rift between the two men, who had only recently met on the occasion of coming together to create The Twilight Zone. Self imparted to Serling that the type of dark and powerful drama he was accustomed to writing on Playhouse 90 was not going to sell the series to the network. Serling came to understand what the network executives did not want to see. They did not want a far-out concept or a bleak story. Thus, he deliberately toned down the fantasy aspect with "Where Is Everybody?" 

             Producer William Self held experience in virtually every form of film and television production by the time he came to an executive role in program development at CBS. The Twilight Zone was Self's maiden project in his new executive role. Self began acting in the 1940s in feature films and worked in that capacity until 1952, when he stopped acting and moved to the production side of the young medium of television. One of Self's early jobs was to oversee production on China Smith, a low-budget adventure series featuring future The Twilight Zone performer Dan Duryea. China Smith was also co-written by Jack Laird, future producer of Rod Serling's Night Gallery. Self later oversaw production on the Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars where he hired a young production assistant from RKO named Buck Houghton as story editor on the series. During his time on that series, Self created Meridian Productions, several members of whom, including cinematographer George T. Clemens and Production Manager Ralph W. Nelson, would later become valued production members on The Twilight Zone. When Self exited his producer role on the series after the pilot episode, he recommended to Serling that Buck Houghton be considered as regular producer on the series. Houghton's subsequent three-season run as producer was the apex of the series and he fit both molds required of him on the show, that of a producer who could be counted upon by the network as well as one intuitively in-touch with the creative side of production.

             Serling initially got the idea for "Where Is Everybody?" while walking around an empty studio backlot, which resembled a real town but was devoid of people. A similar experience inspired Earl Hamner Jr. to craft his thematically related fifth season episode, "Stopover in a Quiet Town." This subtle approach to fantasy compliments the first half of the episode rather nicely in that there is only a suggestion that anything supernatural is occurring. However, once the curtain is drawn and it is revealed that all of the events we are witnessing are taking place in Ferris’s mind, the lack of the supernatural seems to take the audience in an unanticipated direction. It takes the viewer into an entirely new story with new characters, a new setting, and a new perspective of the protagonist. 

                 Serling would use this device in several other episodes. “King Nine Will Not Return,” the premier episode of the second season, shares much in common with "Where Is Everybody?" and concerns the pilot of a World War II bomber who awakens after a crash to find that his crew has mysteriously vanished. At the end of the story it’s revealed that the entire event has taken place in his mind (or has it?). “King Nine” is a more complex episode given that the main character is struggling not only with the burden of loneliness but with the guilt of abandoning his crew, which makes the ending slightly more believable. The two episodes are also related in another manner. One of the regrets Serling had about "Where Is Everybody?" is that it is devoid of any fantasy. When Serling adapted the story for his 1960 volume, Stories from the Twilight Zone, a book released just as the first season was finishing its initial broadcast, he added a moment at the end of the story in which a ticket stub from the imaginary movie theater is found in the pocket of Ferris's uniform. In the story, Ferris reached into the box office and took a ticket, tearing it himself at the usher stand as he entered the theater. The scenes give the eerie suggestion that Ferris had actually been in some other world, whether one of his imagining or not is left to the reader's own imagination. When Serling came to write "King Nine Will Not Return" to open the second season of the series, he added a similar scene to the end of the tale in which sand is found in the pilot's shoes, giving the impression that it was not a hallucination at all but that he may have actually gone back in time. 

Loneliness is the primary theme at work in "Where Is Everybody?" The show would return to this theme many times throughout its five season run in episodes like “The Lonely,” “A Stop at Willoughby,” “Nothing in the Dark,” “Two,” “Miniature,” “Probe 7 – Over and Out,” and many more.  The main element which fails to lend it verisimilitude is the fact that, on some level, Ferris knows he is in an isolation chamber. He is aware that he is being monitored by people who are there with him in the same room, and he also knows that the panic button is his get-out-of-jail-card which he can press at any time to end his claustrophobic nightmare.  It seems doubtful that under such fail-safe circumstances his mind would construct such an elaborate hallucination.  It is also amazing how fast he recovers from what is presumed to be a complete mental collapse. He is able to regain his senses enough to rationally answer the doctor’s questions, although this can be excused due to the limitation of time.

“Where Is Everybody?” is an episode which depends, almost entirely, on the performance of its lead actor. Earl Holliman is completely believable as the frantically lost Mike Ferris. His role is not an easy one, considering that his character is alone for the majority of the episode and speaks aloud to himself as a way of providing exposition to the audience. Holliman later recalled what he thought of as "dreadful" read-throughs with Serling, director Robert Stevens, and producer William Self, in which Holliman was essentially forced to deliver a protracted monologue, unable to engage in the accustomed practice of reading with another performer. It is an incredibly effective performance in that there is never a moment when Holliman loses the audience’s attention. Holliman initially did not want to take the role. Despite appearing in the famous 1953 film Forbidden Planet, Holliman was not fond of science fiction and fantasy. But the opportunity to work with Rod Serling and the quality of the script ultimately decided him in favor of doing the pilot. Serling later wrote Holliman a letter of praise citing his performance as essential not only to the success of "Where Is Everybody?" but also to the future success of the series. For Holliman, this sort of praise was the most satisfying form of compensation and he kept Serling's letter famed upon a wall in his home for many years afterwards. 
Rod Serling and Earl Holliman

      Holliman was born in Delhi, Louisiana in 1928 and studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse and UCLA. In 1956 he won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his role as Jim Curry in the film The Rainmaker, starring Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn.  His other notable film appearances include Forbidden Planet (1956), Giant (1956), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) and The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), the latter with John Wayne and Dean Martin. In the 1960’s he began a long and versatile television career. On the same night that “Where is Everybody?” was first broadcast (October 2, 1959) Holliman also appeared in the starring role of the first episode of the short-lived CBS western series Hotel de Paree, which also featured Strother Martin and Jeanette Nolan, both of whom would later feature on The Twilight Zone. From 1974 to 1978 he starred as Lieutenant Bill Cowley in the CBS series Police Woman with Angie Dickinson. In 1983 he was featured in the critically acclaimed mini-series The Thorn Birds. 

        Holliman later recalled to interviewer Douglas Snauffer that the entire first day of shooting on "Where Is Everybody?" was lost due to a camera malfunction. To make matters worse, Holliman discovered he had the flu and was running a high fever. The effects of the illness can be heard in Holliman's hoarse voice at moments in the episode.

The episode also owes a great deal to director Robert Stevens, whose fluid camera work brings Serling’s script to life. In one of the more memorable shots from the series, Stevens frames Earl Holliman as he races down the stairs in the movie theater and runs straight into, and shatters, a full length mirror; it is only here that the audience realizes Stevens was not actually filming Holliman but rather Holliman’s reflection in the mirror. In the early 1950’s Stevens made a name for himself as director, writer and producer on the live CBS series Suspense. Today he is best remembered for his prolific work on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, where he directed nearly fifty episodes between the two shows.

       The final aspect of "Where Is Everybody?" which bears mention is the excellent musical composition by Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann possessed an almost unique talent for capturing the otherworldly in his melancholy scores. Herrmann was a prolific composer for film, television, and radio, renowned for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, Psycho, etc.). The Twilight Zone was very fortunate to acquire Herrmann's talents throughout the course of the series, as he would lend his distinctive music to some of the most enduring episodes, including "Walking Distance," "The Hitch-Hiker," "Eye of the Beholder," and "Living Doll." Herrmann's original title theme music, featured during the first season, is the preferred theme music by many fans of the series, ourselves included. 

Despite its relatively minor flaws, “Where is Everybody?” remains an immensely enjoyable episode, one which holds a distinctive place in the lexicon of popular culture as the beginning of one of the most celebrated series in the history of American television.
Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgement to:
-"Self Appraisal," interview of William Self by Tom Weaver, Starlog #299 (June, 2002)
-"Enter the Zone," interview of Earl Holliman by Douglas Snauffer, Starlog #252 (June, 1998)


--The original opening sequence to the pilot episode was different in several ways. The biggest difference was that Serling was not the narrator. Serling and producer William Self cast veteran voice-over actor Westbrook Von Voorhis to be the voice of the show. After CBS bought the pilot, however, everyone agreed that a new narrator was needed to avoid sounding like every clichéd science fiction movie of that era. Also, the original opening features images of galaxies and stars with Von Voorhis stating that "there is a sixth dimension." This was later replaced with the animated sequence that was used for most of the episodes in the first season. Serling also rewrote the opening narration to say “There is a fifth dimension…” after he was informed that there were, in fact, only four dimensions.

--This episode was shot in the famous courthouse square on the Universal Studios (then Universal International) backlot where To Kill a Mockingbird and Back to the Future would later be filmed. Universal provided its backlot to CBS as a favor and did not, at the time, provide studio access to television productions. CBS acquired backlot and studio services at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, which gave the show much of its quality appearance.

--Serling later wrote that he got this idea from walking around a movie backlot one day and was struck with how frightening it would be to walk into a city with no inhabitants. Also, the scene where Holliman gets stuck in the phone booth supposedly comes from a real incident where Serling believed he had locked himself in a London phone booth.

--"Where is Everybody?" was adapted into a short story by Rod Serling in Stories From the Twilight Zone (Bantam, 1960). It was also made into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring John Schneider (Falcon Picture Group, 2002).

--James Gregory also stars in the season three episode, “The Passerby,” and in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "Stop Killing Me."

--Paul Langton also stars in the season four episode, “On Thursday We Leave for Home.”

--James McCallion appears in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "The Diary."

--"Where is Everybody?" was adapted into comic book form for the 1979 book Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam; Skylark Illustrated Book) by Rod Serling, stories adapted by Horace J. Elias and illustrated by Carl Pfeufer. 

--Brian Durant and Jordan Prejean

Season 1 (1959-1960)

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. . .    

      The Twilight Zone seemed like an odd endeavor for a writer like Rod Serling. Serling emerged from the era of live television as a dramatist with deep humanistic concerns, writing for prestige dramatic anthology programs such as Kraft Television Theatre and Playhouse 90.  By the time The Twilight Zone aired on October 2, 1959, Serling had been writing television scripts for nearly a decade, receiving an unprecedented three Emmy Awards for his work. It seemed curious, therefore, that a writer at the top of his field as a dramatist would want to potentially risk his reputation by turning his efforts toward tales of fantasy, science fiction, and the supernatural, creative fields generally held in low regard by cultural gatekeepers.

     Serling gained a reputation as a writer willing to tackle pressing social and political issues as well as a writer vehemently opposed to censorship. After witnessing several of his more controversial scripts for Playhouse 90 censored and sanitized to appease corporate sponsors, Serling began to contemplate creating a fantasy program in an effort to alleviate such restrictions. With fantasy, Serling reasoned, he could get away with Martians and robots saying the controversial things which ordinary characters could not. Essentially, he desired to create a program where the writer was in control. He began by creating his own production company, Cayuga Productions, which eventually oversaw production on his new television experiment, The Twilight Zone.

     Before the creation of Cayuga Productions, Serling wrote two hour-long scripts in an attempt to entice CBS to take a chance on a fantasy anthology series. The first, "I Shot an Arrow Into the Air," about an alien encounter in a remote village, was rejected by the network. Serling later reworked the material into the third season The Twilight Zone episode "The Gift," and reused the title for a completely different first season episode suggested by a story idea from Madelon Champion. Serling's second potential script, entitled "The Time Element," was purchased by CBS but the network passed on developing it into a series, or even filming it at all, and ultimately shelved it. Bert Granet, a producer at CBS on The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, who later joined Rod Serling as producer on the fourth and fifth seasons of The Twilight Zone, learned that Serling had sold a script to CBS but that the network shelved it. Eager to work with Serling's material, Granet dug the script out of the network archives and took it to Desi Arnaz, the host and creative entity behind The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. Arnaz loved the script but the corporate sponsor of the series was not as high on the project and both Granet and Arnaz fought hard to get it made. Eventually, the sponsor relented and “The Time Element” was produced on Arnaz's program to wide acclaim and enormous popularity. 

       "The Time Element" (read our review here) is a time travel story starring William Bendix and Martin Balsam and concerns a man who, by means of a recurring dream, travels backwards in time to the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The fantasy story was something fresh on television and its popularity among viewers of The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse attracted the attention of CBS, who backtracked and decided to allow Serling a shot at developing his own fantasy series. 
Earl Holliman in "Where Is Everybody?"

     William Self, an executive in program development at CBS, was assigned to film the pilot at Universal International Studios and Serling set to work developing a script. His first attempt, however, did not go over well. Serling turned in a script entitled "The Happy Place." It was a dark vision of a future in which citizens over the age of sixty are taken to idyllic retirement communities and systematically euthanized. William Self thought the story was a powerful statement but hardly something by which to sell a series to a network. He urged Serling to try again with something different, something lighter. In response, Serling produced a script entitled “Where is Everybody?” The story concerns a young amnesiac who wanders into a town with no residents but with a feeling of being watched. It is revealed at the end of the tale that the young man is in an isolation chamber, the subject of an experiment in preparation for space flight. Hours spent alone has caused his mind to hallucinate the entire experience. This story, with its gripping narrative, realistic setting, and clever twist, was the perfect vehicle to convince the network and potential sponsors to take a shot on the series. After the episode finished shooting, Serling brought it to New York and screened it for CBS network executives and potential sponsors. They bought the series. 

     Although Serling urged pilot producer William Self to stay on-board as regular producer on the series, Self elected to continue his executive role within the network. Upon Self's recommendation, CBS hired Buck Houghton because, as Houghton later put it, "they wanted Rod to be working in tandem with somebody that they knew, instead of somebody that he knew."* William Self previously worked with Houghton when he hired Houghton as story editor during Self's stint as producer on Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars. Houghton never held a particular affinity for fantasy or science fiction but possessed a great eye for talent and excellent taste in story material. Houghton also recognized that the series worked best by adhering to Serling's vision, and that the producer's job would be to see that Serling's vision was represented in everything done on the series. He and Serling hit it off immediately, on both a personal and professional level. Houghton was the steady balance to Serling's manic energy and the combination worked brilliantly for three seasons. 

      Together, Serling and Houghton began the task of acquiring material for the first season. A disastrous open call for unsolicited story ideas, a move perhaps owing to Serling's own professional breakthrough on the Dr. Christian radio series, a program sustained by open submission competitions, yielded zero usable material and was quickly shut down. Writers continued to send in unsolicited story material for the duration of the series, however, often resulting in baseless calls of plagiarism against Serling and the series. Serling decided instead to approach a small group of professional science fiction and fantasy writers, allowing the writers to read nine of Serling's first season scripts and hosting a screening of the pilot film. There was a great deal of anticipation in the professional science fiction community about the prospect of a fantasy program from the finest dramatist of his generation. There was an equal amount of anticipation circulating around the professional acting community. Actor John Anderson, who appeared in four The Twilight Zone episodes, recalled that "Rod Serling already had a tremendous track record on TV, and Twilight Zone was highly touted before it even premiered."**

     Ray Bradbury, then at the height of his success and influence, was the first professional writer Rod Serling consulted. The two writers met in 1958 through a mutual friend, screenwriter John Gay. After a Writers Guild Awards banquet in early 1959, Serling informed Bradbury of his intention to develop a fantasy television series. Bradbury invited Serling to his home where he recommended to Serling many of the writers who later contributed to the series. Although Bradbury contributed only a single teleplay to the series, the third season's "I Sing the Body Electric," the series as a whole owes much to Bradbury's work. 

     Two writers Serling subsequently consulted were Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, both of whom developed under Bradbury's influence and mentorship. Both writers were well established in print and were quickly emerging in the film and television industries. They were suitably excited about the new market for their work and were impressed by Serling's dedication to the writer and to the integrity of the writer's work. Beaumont and Matheson immediately began contributing to the series by selling their short fiction to Serling and by contributing original material, all on a freelance basis. Together with Serling, these two writers and a small core of others who arrived later (George Clayton Johnson, Montgomery Pittman, Earl Hamner, Jr., Jerry Sohl, John Tomerlin) contributed the vast majority of material for the series. It was this tight-knit group of writers, many of whom were personal friends, that gave the series its unique style, balance of content, and consistent quality. For a revealing look at the production of the first season of The Twilight Zone from one of its core writers, see Charles Beaumont's essay, "The Seeing I," in the December, 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The article was reprinted in Filmfax #75/76 (2000).

     With these elements in place, the first season of The Twilight Zone was off and running. 

First Season Crew:
Creator/Executive Producer/Lead Writer: Rod Serling
Producer: Buck Houghton
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens, a.s.c.
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Art Directors: George W. Davis & William Ferrari
Film Editor: Joseph Gluck, a.c.e.
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Sound: Franklin Milton & Jean Valentino
Set Decorators: Henry Grace & Rudy Butler
Special Make-up Effects: William Tuttle
Main Title Theme: Bernard Herrmann 

- The opening title for episodes in the first season alternated between two different animated sequences, each accompanied by a score from Bernard Herrmann. The primary opening is a dreamlike sequence with the following narration by Rod Serling:

“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man.  It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.  It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.  This is the dimension of imagination.  It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”

The other opening, used in five episodes ("Mr. Denton on Doomsday," "Mr. Bevis," "The After Hours," "The Mighty Casey," and "A World of His Own") is darker in tone and opens with an image of a woman’s eye which fades into a picture of a setting sun. Serling's dialogue here is briefer: 

“You are about to enter another dimension.  A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.  A journey into a wondrous land of imagination.  Next stop, the Twilight Zone.”

It was not until the second season that Bernard Hermann’s score was replaced with Marius Constant’s famous opening theme.

- Serling did not regularly appear on-screen as host until the second season.  During the first season he appeared on screen only in preview segments of the episodes. The memorable exception is the season one finale, “A World of His Own,” where Serling appears on-screen at the end of the episode as one of Gregory West’s (Keenan Wynn) imaginary creations. His opening narration is also noticeably different in the first season, particularly for the first dozen or so episodes. Unsure of the exact tone the show should take, he recites his monologues in almost a whisper, and many do not end with the famous "in the Twilight Zone" catch phrase.

*"Buck Houghton: Ghosts of Twilight Zone Past," interview by Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier. Starlog, issue 115 (2/87)
**"Life in The Twilight Zone" by Mark Phillips. Starlog, issue 216 (7/95)

Grateful acknowledgement to: 

-The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree (2nd edition, Silman-James, 1992)

-"The Incredible Scripting Man: Richard Matheson Reflects on His Screen Career" by Matthew R. Bradley (The Twilight and Other Zones: The Dark Worlds of Richard Matheson, edited by Stanley Wiater, Matthew R. Bradley, and Paul Stuve. Citadel Press, 2009). 

-The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury by Sam Weller (William Morrow, 2005)

--JP & BD