Monday, August 26, 2019

"I Dream of Genie"

Howard Morris as George P. Hanley, with magic lamp

“I Dream of Genie”
Season Four, Episode 114
Original Air Date: March 21, 1963

George P. Hanley: Howard Morris
Ann: Patricia Barry
Watson: Loring Smith
Roger: Mark Miller
Starlet: Joyce Jameson
Masters: James Millhollin
Sam: Bob Hastings
Clerk: Robert Ball
The Genie: Jack Albertson

Writer: John Furia, Jr.
Director: Robert Gist
Producer: Herbert Hirschman
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Associate Producer: Murray Golden
Assistant to Producer: John Conwell
Art Direction: George W. Davis & John J. Thompson
Film Editor: Eda Warren
Set Decoration: Henry Grace & Don Greenwood, Jr.
Assistant Director: John Bloss
Sound: Franklin Milton & Joe Edmondson
Music: Fred Steiner
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“A new author joins the ranks of The Twilight Zone crew when John Furia, Jr. gives us several stunningly new twists to a classic character in ‘I Dream of Genie.’ Join Howard Morris, Patricia Barry, and Loring Smith as they take their trip into The Twilight Zone.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Meet Mr. George P. Hanley, a man life treats without deference, honor, or success. Waiters serve his soup cold. Elevator operators close doors in his face. Mothers never bother to wait up for the daughters he dates. George is a creature of humble habits and tame dreams. He’s an ordinary man, Mr. Hanley, but at this moment the accidental possessor of a very special gift, the kind of gift that measures men against their dreams, the kind of gift most of us might ask for first and possibly regret to the last if we, like Mr. George P. Hanley, were about to plunge head-first and unaware into our own personal Twilight Zone.”
From L: Roger (Mark Miller), Ann (Patricia Barry)
and George P. Hanley (Howard Morris)


            George P. Hanley, a meek and mild bookkeeper, wishes to purchase a birthday gift for Ann, the pretty secretary who works in the same office. He chances upon a gift shop where the salesman pressures George into purchasing a tarnished lamp, the antique sort made famous in the tale of Aladdin.
            George’s opportunity to give Ann the birthday gift is spoiled by their coworker Roger, a boisterous and confident man who easily wins Ann’s attention with a present of lingerie. George takes Ann’s intended gift home instead. George’s dog Attila appears agitated by the giftwrapped box, prompting George to unwrap it and remove the lamp. Noticing the tarnished metal, George polishes the lamp with a cloth. In a flash of light and smoke a man appears in George’s apartment. He is a wisecracking man in modern dress who introduces himself as the Genie of the lamp. George is to be granted a single wish but is warned to carefully ponder the consequences of his desires.
            Not wanting to make a mistake, George considers the possible outcomes in a series of reveries. He imagines himself married to Ann if Ann were also a world famous actress. This fantasy comes apart when George realizes that he would hardly get a moment alone with Ann, who would likely fall into the arms of her handsome leading man, probably one with the appearance and disposition of Roger.
            George then pictures himself as a fabulously wealthy captain of industry. He imagines growing tired of living only to spend money and being rudely informed by an assistant that he could never stop spending money because too many people depend on it for their livelihoods.
            Finally, George imagines being the President of the United States but quickly discovers that his altruistic ideals would be crushed beneath the weight of responsibility which accompanies the office. The thought of navigating through a national crisis such as an alien invasion sends the fantasy tumbling down. George suddenly has an epiphany. He has thought of a wish which will give his life purpose while also removing the burdens of responsibility and the pressures of love and wealth.
Later, the magic lamp finds its way into a trash can in a back alley where it is discovered by a transient. The old man rubs the lamp and in a flash of light and smoke the Genie appears. It is George P. Hanley, who has finally found his purpose.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Mr. George P. Hanley. Former vocation: jerk. Present vocation: genie. George P. Hanley, a most ordinary man whom life treated without deference, honor, or success, but a man wise enough to decide on a most extraordinary wish that makes him the contented, permanent master of his own altruistic Twilight Zone.” 

            John Furia, Jr. first met Rod Serling while working for CBS during the glory days of Playhouse 90, the program where Serling made his reputation as an award-winning television writer. Furia took the opportunity of attending a rehearsal of one of Serling’s plays to introduce himself to the famous television writer, whom Furia found to be affable and encouraging. Furia later honed his own television writing skills through freelance work on several anthology programs where his path crossed with that of future Twilight Zone producer Herbert Hirschman. Hirschman later contacted Furia about contributing an hour-long script to the fourth season of The Twilight Zone. Though eager to work with Serling and on the series, Furia was initially reluctant due to the show’s reputation for science fiction, a genre which held little interest for him. With Hirschman’s assurance that he could write whatever he desired as long as it fit within the parameters of the strange and fantastic, Furia was inspired by the Aladdin legend to craft a script examining the repercussions of getting what one most desires. Although new to the series, Furia was not entirely unfamiliar with some of the other writers on the show. He had earlier lived near and worked in the same Studio City office building as Earl Hamner, Jr. and he also knew George Clayton Johnson from Writers Guild activities.
            The series had earlier brought in writers outside the show’s core stable to contribute a single script with some success in episodes such as “The Chaser” and “The Trouble with Templeton,” but as time wore on the show would come to rely more and more upon scripts not written by the writers who made the show so successful during the first three seasons. By the fifth season the show’s final producer, William Froug, was routinely shelving scripts from Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and Jerry Sohl in order to send into production such underwhelming material as “From Agnes – With Love,” “Caesar and Me,” and “Come Wander with Me.” The biggest problem with bringing in a new writer to a series like Twilight Zone is the lack of creative synchronization with the other writers on the show, often resulting in repetitive and redundant material, as is the case with “I Dream of Genie.” The series writers not only shared working relationships but were also close personal friends who often traded ideas and borrowed from one another’s works, gradually forming a recognizable creative identity for the series. The challenge for a writer new to the series was the ability to craft an effective script while also tapping into that creative unity established by that which came before.
            By this point in the series there had been numerous episodes dealing with wishes, genies, and the type of loser characters exemplified by George P. Hanley. Even the episodes which dealt with precognition and deals with the Devil rang familiar with the themes presented in “I Dream of Genie.” The show had approached the material directly in episodes such as “A World of His Own” and “The Man in the Bottle,” and with such largely unsuccessful comedic characters as James B.W. Bevis (“Mr. Bevis”), Luther Dingle (“Mr. Dingle, the Strong”), and Agnes Grep (“Cavender Is Coming”).
            In this way the odds were largely against John Furia, Jr. and his chosen subject. Despite an appealing narrative structure which highlighted the sketch comedy skills of Howard Morris and a talented cast, the script was simply too lacking in originality to be hoped for anything other than an entertaining diversion. Morris and company likely elevated the material from the way it read upon the page and the most engaging aspects of the episode are the moments in which the performers change characters between each of George P. Hanley’s daydreams. In one of these reveries Hanley dreams of being the first man on the moon while wearing the same helmet and uniform seen on actor Steve Forrest in the previous episode, “The Parallel.”

            Furia struggled with crafting a satisfactory ending to “I Dream of Genie,” exploring several different scenarios before ultimately settling upon an ironic twist ending, a familiar aspect of the series which had largely, and wisely, been abandoned when the show transitioned to an hour-long program. Unfortunately, the combination of an unoriginal script, overly familiar character types, and a rather ludicrous twist ending was not a recipe for success and “I Dream of Genie” could ultimately be filed if not among the worst episodes then certainly among the most forgettable. One cannot help but wonder why, particularly this late in the series, the show was still attempting this sort of broad comedy. Perhaps it was simply an effort to create variety but it must have been apparent to those involved that the show was at its strongest when presenting serious, introspective fantasy or potent topical dramas and that the low success rate for this type of humorous material did not warrant these continued efforts to forge a comedic identity on the series. 
            John Furia, Jr. (1929-2009) broke into television writing in 1960 with an episode of General Electric Theater. He contributed to several series during that decade, mostly westerns and anthology series, and continued writing into the 1980s for such series as Earl Hamner’s The Waltons and Aaron Spelling’s Hotel, the latter of which he co-developed based on Arthur Hailey’s 1965 novel. Furia, Jr. was also an instructor of screenwriting at the University of Southern California.

            Robert Gist (1917-1998) came to directing through acting. As an actor, he made his way to Broadway by way of Chicago radio and then on to film. He became interested in directing while performing in the film Operation Petticoat (1959). The film’s director, Blake Edwards, later hired Gist to direct episodes of Peter Gunn. Gist continued to act while directing dozens of television episodes for such series as Route 66, Naked City, and The Untouchables. Gist directed the first season Star Trek episode “The Galileo Seven.”

            Howard Morris (1919-2005) is perhaps best remembered as the rock-throwing, trouble-making mountain man Ernest T. Bass in The Andy Griffith Show. Morris first gained recognition a decade earlier alongside Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner on Your Show of Shows in now-classic comedy sketches. Morris was also a talented and prolific voice performer whose work can be heard across dozens of Hanna-Barbera productions beginning in the 1960s, including The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo. Morris contributed voice work to several additional animated productions, notably the series of cartoons related to Archie Comics and as Hamburglar in the McDonaldland series. Morris appeared in the 1998 film The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, based on Ray Bradbury’s 1958 short story, as well as episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, “The Lethal Ladies,” directed by Ida Lupino, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Most Likely to Succeed.”

Barry in a promotional
photo for the episode
            Patricia Barry (1922-2016), born, and sometimes billed as, Patricia White, was awarded a contract with Warner Brothers after winning a Rita Hayworth look-alike contest. A notable early genre appearance was in the 1946 film The Beast with Five Fingers, directed by Robert Florey. Barry moved into television during the earliest days of the medium with numerous appearances on anthology programs. She played the wife of Jack Klugman in the short-lived sitcom Harris Against the World (1964-1965) and was a familiar face on such soap operas as All My Children, Guiding Light, and Days of Our Lives. Barry appeared in episodes of Suspense and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “Good-Bye George” and “Completely Foolproof,” as well as some of the better episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, including “The Purple Room,” written and directed by Douglas Heyes, “A Good Imagination,” from writer Robert Bloch and director John Bram, and “A Wig for Miss Devore,” from the August Derleth story, again directed by Brahm. Later genre appearances included the television horror film Crowhaven Farm (1970) and a memorable turn in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) in director Joe Dante’s reimagining of “It’s a Good Life.”

            The episode also features a brief appearance from Jack Albertson (1907-1981) as the Genie. Albertson is best known for the role of Ed Brown, the latter half of Chico and the Man, for which he was awarded an Emmy. Albertson received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Subject was Roses (1968), a role he recreated from his Tony Award-winning performance in the Broadway version. Albertson is also known as Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). A veteran of Vaudeville, Albertson appeared in a few uncredited film roles in the 1940s before moving into television in the 1950s, appearing on dozens of series including such anthology programs as The Clock, Inner Sanctum, and Climax! Albertson appeared in the Lon Chaney biopic The Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). He can be seen in the third season Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter,” as well as “Dead Weight,” a segment from the second season of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. Interesting later work included providing the voice of the ornery Amos Slade in Disney’s animated feature The Fox and the Hound (1981) and an appearance in the cult horror film Dead & Buried the same year. Albertson’s brief appearance in “I Dream of Genie” caused some disagreement as Production Manager Ralph W. Nelson was unhappy with Albertson’s performance and expressed his desire to reshoot the entire sequence in a letter to Rod Serling. Time and budget constraints ultimately prevented the reshoots from happening. Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, also expressed the opinion that Albertson’s performance as the Genie was a troublesome spot in the episode, largely owing to the modern dress and wisecracking nature of Albertson’s take on the familiar character type. It is interesting to contrast Albertson’s fast-talking Genie with the various sinister Devils on the series or the dryly foreboding performance of Joseph Ruskin as “The Man in the Bottle,” as well as with George P. Hanley’s stereotypical look and manner as the Genie at the end of the episode.
Loring Smith with Howard Morris
            “I Dream of Genie” is rounded out with performances from Loring Smith, Mark Miller, Joyce Jameson, James Millhollin, and Bob Hastings. Smith (1890-1981), here playing Watson, is remembered for an early role in Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) as well as portraying “Honest” Luther Grimbley in Rod Serling’s farcical second season Twilight Zone episode “The Whole Truth.”

            Texas native Mark Miller (b. 1924) found steady work in film and television from the mid-1950s until the late 1970s. A versatile performer who appeared in everything from westerns to soap operas to science fiction programs, he can be seen in the seventh season Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “Apex,” as well as episodes of The Waltons and, ironically, I Dream of Jeannie.
Howard Morris with Joyce Jameson

            Joyce Jameson (1932-1987) appeared in episodes of Science Fiction Theatre, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Munsters, The Waltons, and Harris Against the World, the latter alongside Patricia Barry and Jack Klugman. Jameson’s film appearances include two films from writer Richard Matheson, Tales of Terror (1962), adapted from the stories of Poe and directed by Roger Corman, and The Comedy of Terrors (1963), directed by Jacques Tourneur.

James Millhollin and Morris
            James Millhollin (1915-1933) is a familiar face to Twilight Zone viewers from his earlier appearances in “The After Hours,” where the actor memorably broke the fourth wall, and “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.” The prolific film and television performer can be seen in episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Insomnia”), One Step Beyond (“Moment of Hate”), Batman, and Lost in Space, among many others.

            Like Howard Morris, Bob Hastings (1925-2014) is perhaps best remembered as a voice actor, providing voices for several animated features based on DC Comics characters, notably the voice of Commissioner Gordon in numerous Batman animated productions. Hastings was a versatile and prolific television performer with appearances on The Munsters, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Incredible Hulk, I Dream of Jeannie, and Earl Hamner’s The Waltons and Falcon Crest.

            “I Dream of Genie” possesses some moments of successful comedy from an engaging cast but largely suffers from the banality of its narrative, stock characters, and a silly twist ending. On top of this it covers the same ground as the series presented a dozen times beforehand, going back to the earliest episodes. Although the episode is not a complete failure, it is certainly nowhere near the fore of great episodes, or even successful hour-long episodes, and strikes one as the type of episode which has given the fourth season as a whole a poor reputation among viewers.

Grade: D

Grateful acknowledgement to:
-The Internet Movie Database (
-The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree
-The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr.
-Interview with John Furia, Jr. conducted by Dennis Etchison and Marc Scott Zicree (The Twilight Zone 5th Dimension DVD collection).

--Patricia Barry also appeared in the first season episode “The Chaser,” as well as the “It’s a Good Life” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
--Loring Smith also appeared in second season episode “The Whole Truth.”
--James Millhollin also appeared in the first season episode “The After Hours” and the second season episode “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.”
--Jack Albertson also appeared in the third season episode “The Shelter” as well as the second season Night Gallery segment “Dead Weight.”
--“I Dream of Genie” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Hal Sparks.



  1. Too bad such a good cast is wasted. I've become a real fan of Howard Morris in recent years and am always glad to see Patricia Barry. I recently saw her in an early role on TCM's Noir Alley. She was billed as Patricia White. I also like James Milhollin. He was on an Odd Couple as I recall, when Felix's parrot dies. Classic.

    1. I really like this cast as well and they make this a better episode than it should have been, considering the script. Howard Morris deserves a wider reputation. Barry and Millhollin are TZ royalty and they seemed to be in everything around this time. Barry was in some truly great Thriller episodes and Millhollin shopped that classic deadpan style around well.

  2. Great cast, funny moments, but an hour long was like a long build up to a joke that wasn’t that funny in the end. Plus the idea of a genie granting wishes was “been there, done that” by now.