Monday, May 4, 2020

"Passage on the Lady Anne"

L to R: Wilfrid Hyde-White, Gladys Cooper, Lee Philips, Joyce Van Patten

“Passage on the Lady Anne”
Season Four, Episode 119
Original Air Date: May 9, 1963

(In alphabetical order)
Millie McKenzie: Gladys Cooper
Toby McKenzie: Wilfrid Hyde-White
Ian Burgess: Cecil Kellaway
Alan Ransome: Lee Philips
Eileen Ransome: Joyce Van Patten

Captain Protheroe: Alan Napier
Officers: Cyril Delevanti, Jack Raine
Addicott: Colin Campbell
Spierto: Don Keefer

Writer: Charles Beaumont (based on his story “Song for a Lady”)
Director: Lamont Johnson
Producer: Bert Granet
Director of Photography: Robert Pittack
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Paul Groesse
Film Editor: Everett Dodd
Set Decoration: Henry Grace, Frank R. McKelvy
Assistant to the Producer: John Conwell
Assistant Director: Ray De Camp
Music (composer): René Garriguenc
Music (conductor): Lud Gluskin
Sound: Franklin Milton, Joe Edmondson
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at MGM Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next on Twilight Zone: an exercise from the typewriter of Charles Beaumont, a sea voyage into the darker regions of the Zone. Our stars in alphabetical order: Gladys Cooper, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Cecil Kellaway, Lee Philips, and Joyce Van Patten.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Portrait of a honeymoon couple getting ready for a journey, with a difference. These newlyweds have been married for six years and they’re not taking this honeymoon to start their life but rather to save it, or so Eileen Ransome thinks. She doesn’t know why she insisted on a ship for this voyage except that it would give them some time and she’d never been on one before, certainly never one like the Lady Anne. The tickets read ‘New York to Southampton,’ but this old liner is going somewhere else. Its destination: The Twilight Zone.”

            Eileen Ransome convinces her workaholic husband Alan to allow her to accompany him on a business trip to London. Furthermore, Eileen is to decide their mode of transportation. She decides on travel by sea. She figures this will allow them to spend more time together. They have been married for six years and the overbearing strain on their marriage brought about by Alan’s dedication to business has reached a breaking point.
Mr. Spierto, the travel agent, regrettably informs the Ransomes that, as it is the off-season, most of the ships are not running their regular schedules. Upon viewing a list of available ships, Eileen selects the Lady Anne, an aging vessel embarking, unbeknownst to them, upon its final voyage. Against the strong protestations of Alan and Mr. Spierto, Eileen books two tickets for the Lady Anne.
The Lady Anne is a beautiful old ship and Eileen is excited to travel. Alan is gloomy and seems only grudgingly going along because he made a promise to Eileen. Shortly before boarding, the Ransomes encounter an elderly English gentleman named McKenzie who seems incredulous that the Ransomes have secured passage on the Lady Anne and insists that a mistake has been made. Alan shows their tickets and considers the matter settled. The Ransomes are confronted again, however, shortly before departure by McKenzie and his friend Burgess, who go so far as to offer the couple ten thousand dollars to leave the ship. The elderly men refer to the journey as a private cruise and insist they want to help the Ransomes by discouraging them from travelling along. The Ransomes remain adamant about their intention to stay on the ship.
Alan and Eileen make a startling discovery once the ship has departed. Everyone on board besides themselves is very old. Being the only young people draws attention to the Ransomes. This particularly works against them when they have a very public argument centered on Alan’s displeasure at being stuck on an old, slow ship filled with elderly people, as well as the damage his obsession with business is doing to their marriage. It appears as though the Ransomes have finally crossed the breaking point in their troubled relationship.
Eileen and Alan agree to a chilly truce to save face and endure the remaining journey to London. Although Alan does not desire to do so, Eileen accepts an invitation to tea for both of them from McKenzie and his wife. McKenzie invited the couple to tea in order to apologize for his earlier behavior and to ensure the couple that they will not have to leave the ship. Mrs. McKenzie informs the Ransomes that they won’t have to die after all. Alan and Eileen are understandably confused by this statement but McKenzie ensures them that it is only a figure of speech.
McKenzie further explains that the Lady Anne has not had any new passengers in several years and this journey is a gathering of all the people who have spent time on the Lady Anne in the past. The people on board consider their prior time on the Lady Anne to be among the happiest, most important times in their lives. Mrs. McKenzie speaks of the ship as an enchanted vessel and reveals that the Lady Anne is being retired. Those on board decided to take this final two-way journey with her, from London to New York and back again.  
Eileen becomes upset over the conversation and Alan takes her outside to get some fresh air. Alan notices that the ship is headed north rather than in the eastward direction they should be travelling. Alan looks out to sea and when he turns again he finds that Eileen has vanished. He frantically searches the ship but cannot find his wife anywhere. No one else seems concerned over Eileen’s disappearance. Hours pass and Alan is in a panic, fearful that Eileen may have fallen overboard.
McKenzie takes Alan to the bar for a drink in order to ease Alan’s mind, ensuring the younger man that Eileen has not really gone but that Alan has only missed her. Burgess, slightly drunk, joins the men to deliver a rant on the demise of the Lady Anne, blaming the modern condition of hurry and impatience for wanting to scrap the old ship, a symbol of the past.

Alan returns to their room and, incredibly, finds Eileen in bed waiting for him. Eileen has no memory of having disappeared. In that moment Alan realizes how much he loves his wife and vows never to forget the torment of losing her for even so brief a time.
The Ransomes are enjoying their newfound happiness the following night at a party with the rest of the passengers when Alan notices that the ship’s engines have stopped. A nasty surprise arrives with Captain Protheroe a short time later. The crew has gathered the Ransomes’ things and the couple are being put off the ship. Alan refuses, believing it to be a joke, prompting the First Officer to produce a gun to ensure the Ransomes that this is a serious affair.
Alan and Eileen are placed in a lifeboat along with their belongings, supplies, and the assurance that the authorities have been contacted and the Ransomes will be retrieved shortly. Alan and Eileen begin to understand why they were removed from the Lady Anne as they watch the old ship sail away and slowly disappear into the fog.
Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“The Lady Anne never reached port. After they were picked up by a cutter a few hours later, as Captain Protheroe had promised, the Ransomes searched the newspapers for news, but there wasn’t any news. The Lady Anne, with all her crew and all her passengers, vanished without a trace. But the Ransomes knew what had happened. They knew that the ship had sailed off to a better port, a placed called The Twilight Zone.”

            Charles Beaumont, to my mind, was the finest writer on the series during the fourth season. This is not to say the show’s other writers did not produce quality material for the much-derided hour-long format. Richard Matheson’s “Death Ship,” Earl Hamner’s “Jess-Belle,” and Rod Serling’s “On Thursday We Leave for Home” are episodes I feel stand with the best of the series. Charles Beaumont’s work on the fourth season, however, was consistently good from beginning to end, from the season premiere, “In His Image,” through to his midseason masterpiece, “Miniature,” and the moving and affecting penultimate episode, “Passage on the Lady Anne.” This trilogy of episodes represents a notable shift in Beaumont’s output from the potently effective introspective nightmares of the half-hour episodes to richer, more optimistic fare which still retained many of Beaumont’s familiar thematic traits. Beaumont also produced a fine satirical episode, “Printer’s Devil,” and provided the story for “The New Exhibit,” an episode ghost-written by Jerry Sohl and one which many viewers consider a highlight of the season. Beaumont’s single misstep was the ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful “Valley of the Shadow.”
            The six episodes (including “The New Exhibit”) Beaumont contributed during the fourth season constitute a greater output from the writer than on any other season. This feels significant when one considers that Beaumont, due to sudden and debilitating health issues previously discussed on this blog, wrote no additional episodes after “Passage on the Lady Anne.” Another Beaumont teleplay, “Gentlemen, Be Seated,” an adaptation of Beaumont’s 1960 story about a near future society in which laughter has been eliminated and a clandestine group of office workers who nightly celebrate politically incorrect humor, was completed and scheduled for the fifth season but was ultimately left unproduced by series end. The episodes credited to Beaumont during this final season were written by Jerry Sohl or John Tomerlin based on Beaumont’s ideas and stories.
The bitter irony which should not be lost on the viewer is that “Passage on the Lady Anne,” the final episode in this late outburst from Beaumont, figuratively mirrors the very real struggle which descended on him at this time. Generally speaking, “Passage on the Lady Anne” is about taking that final journey on one’s own terms, to see the journey through to the end by returning to a place of happiness and success. For Charles Beaumont, The Twilight Zone is the Lady Anne, and although his final passing was far less romantic than that portrayed in the episode, posterity has shown The Twilight Zone to be that which has done the most to keep Beaumont’s flame burning. His work on the series has come to be considered career defining. Fortunately, the world is not yet ready to scrap the old-fashioned television show the way in which the world is ready to scrap the old ship in “Passage on the Lady Anne.”
            “Passage on the Lady Anne” is Beaumont’s adaptation of his story “Song for a Lady,” a title indicating the final journey at the center of the story. It first appeared in Beaumont’s 1960 collection from Bantam Books, Night Ride and Other Journeys, which also contained The Twilight Zone stories “Perchance to Dream” and “The Howling Man.” Although the story structure remained essentially the same in its adaptation to television, Beaumont changed a number of internal story elements in addition to the more prosaic story title. The first differing element which jumps out at the reader is the situation of the two central characters, Alan and Eileen Ransome, who, in “Song for a Lady,” are truly newlyweds rather than the struggling married couple in “Passage on the Lady Anne.” In the story, the Ransomes book passage on the Lady Anne before they are married. Due to this essential change in the characters, there is no troubled marriage at the center of the story, which became an important element in the television episode. The story is narrated in the first person by Alan and the focus is less on the Ransomes than on the elderly passengers and their relationships to the Lady Anne. Alan and Eileen function primarily as a lens through which the reader views these relationships between the old people and the old ship taking them to their final rest.
            Another noticeable change from story to screen is in the condition of the Lady Anne. In the television episode, the Ransomes dread that the Lady Anne will be an old wreck, hardly capable of staying on the water, when in fact it reveals itself to be an old but beautiful pearl of a vessel, ornate and elegant in an old-fashioned style. In the original story the ship truly is a wreck, or close to it. Although the Ransomes believe the ship to be beautiful from afar, contrary to “descriptions of the ship had led us to expect something between a kayak and The Flying Dutchman,”* it is soon seen this way from Alan’s viewpoint: “Then we got a little closer. And the Lady Anne turned into one of those well-dressed women who look so fine a block away and then disintegrate as you approach them. The orange on the hull was bright, but it wasn’t paint. It was rust. Rust, like fungus, infecting every inch, trailing down from every port hole. Eating through the iron.”
            Other changes are largely superficial and generally concern minor incidents of character and dialogue. Jack McKenzie in the story becomes Toby McKenzie in the episode. Eileen, rather than Alan, speaks many of the confrontational lines to McKenzie and Burgess in the story. Burgess is also given a wife in the tale, Cynthia, whereas the element of his being a widower is given particular focus in the episode. Beaumont retains large amounts of dialogue from his story, much of it Alan’s internal dialogue, though the speaker often changes in the adaptation. Burgess’s memorable, drunken rant on the wretched state of modern society is, in the story, delivered by a character named Van Vlyman. This scene is powerful in both the story and the episode due largely to Beaumont’s spirited writing. The message behind the rant was likely close to Beaumont’s own thoughts on the issue as he, in collaboration with friends, wrote a number of nostalgic essays, collected in Remember? Remember? (1963), many of which lament the same sort of problems modern society creates for the lover of old things and the older ways of doing things.
          Beaumont seems to have much to say about the way in which modern society treats the elderly. The Lady Anne, and its passengers, are referred to as "relics" and "antiques." As Serling informs us in the closing monologue, the disappearance of the ship and its elderly passengers is not reported in any newspaper, suggesting that the old go largely unnoticed in the culture as they have outlived their usefulness. 
The ending of the story is also quite different from the episode. In the story, Alan and Eileen are placed in the lifeboat and observe as, in the distance, the Lady Anne first catches fire and then sinks into the water. This fiery ending was wisely changed to the more atmospheric ending seen in the episode, with the informative coda of Rod Serling’s closing narration to alleviate any ambiguity.
            Overall, the reader comes away from the story with a sense of speed and compression, especially compared to the measured pacing of the episode. The story moves very quickly with little of the nuances in character and incident which make the episode memorable and enjoyable. Beaumont likely selected this story from among his published tales for adaptation because he felt as though he could improve on the tale if given another run at it. He had a good idea in the original story but had not given the tale the attention to character and conflict which it warranted. Beaumont was given a wider canvas than normal and expertly utilized the hour-long format to deliver an episode which vastly improves upon the original story by retaining the essential hook but imbuing the tale with greater elements of conflict, wit, heartbreak, and redemption.

            Though it is easy to be charmed by displays of more demonstrative elements of fantasy, such as grotesque monsters, time travel, aliens, killer dolls, and the like, The Twilight Zone is somewhat underappreciated as a remarkably effective platform for powerful drama. This is largely due to its creator’s journeyman years in the dramatic anthology programs of the previous decade but also owes something to the writers Rod Serling surrounded himself with, writers such as Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Henry Slesar, Damon Knight, and Jerome Bixby who, alongside others, spearheaded a change in American science fiction and fantasy literature which injected the form with real people facing relatable problems in real situations. “Passage on the Lady Anne” is a very quiet fantasy but a very potent drama which contains further meditations on the recurring themes of Beaumont’s fiction (death and dying, memory and dreams, the fantastic intruding upon a normal course of events) and a powerful strain of conflict and resolve in relationships.
            A number of the scenes and incidents which remain in one’s memory after viewing the episode were created for the adaptation. Primary among these is the relationship between Alan and Eileen Ransome. The perspective lens is shifted from the passengers on the Lady Anne in the story to the troubled couple who find their way on board a death ship in the episode. Lee Philips as the quietly angry and stubbornly unhappy Alan Ransome and Joyce Van Patten as the vulnerable yet defiant Eileen Ransome are excellent in their sole appearances on The Twilight Zone. Alan is easy to dislike through most of the episode though not to the degree that the viewer does not empathize with his immense relief at finding Eileen after the vulnerability of her character manifests itself in a literal disappearance. This incident could have been the hook for a separate and very different Twilight Zone episode, but Beaumont uses it here for a brief sequence to bring together two characters we have previously watched growing apart.
          Depending on how one views Eileen's disappearance, "Passage on the Lady Anne" contains hardly any fantasy element at all. There is the vague notion that the Lady Anne possesses some supernatural aspect given the mythical status assigned to the ship by its aging crew and passengers. While several times Beaumont hints at the supernatural, particularly with the disappearance of the Lady Anne at the end of the episode, the writer never directly shows us anything supernatural. There are no aliens, no ghosts, no talking dolls, nor anything else fantastical. The hint of fantasy becomes, in Beaumont's hands, a way to give the audience a metaphor for Alan's relationship with Eileen. This aspect is particularly apparent when McKenzie tells Alan: "She hasn't gone anywhere. You've just missed her," and in the scene in which Alan recovers his vanished wife in their suite. He says to her: "Where have you been? I've been looking everywhere for you," to which she replies: "I've been here, Alan," the implication being that their relationship has always been there, waiting for him to discover it. 
The chemistry of Lee Philip’s and Joyce Van Patten’s performances, both during the period in which they are waging a silent war and in their later, redemptive moments, is the finest on the series since that of William Shatner and Patricia Breslin in Richard Matheson’s “Nick of Time.” Their argument in the Imperial Lounge is one of the most expertly written, authentically performed scenes in the entire series. It is genuinely uncomfortable for the viewer and Beaumont gives the scene a number of effective touches, such as Alan speaking less and in a lower voice the more Eileen speaks in an animated voice. He also writes Eileen destroying the cigarette package to end the sequence, as Eileen asking Alan for a cigarette had been shown as a petty annoyance to Alan in prior scenes. The episode liberally uses juxtaposition to define its conflicts and resolutions, from the young couple and the elderly passengers to specific scenes, such as the party in the Imperial Lounge and the sudden intrusion of the Captain with a demand for the Ransomes to be put off the ship.
            The episode is filled with small touches which are not in the original story and would likely have been left out or edited from a twenty-four minute episode. A scene not focused on Alan and Eileen, such as the brief sequence in which Millie McKenzie throws Toby’s old letters overboard, would surely not have made the cut of a half-hour episode. Viewers may see such scenes as needless padding but some stories benefit from a richer tapestry of character and incident.

            The supporting cast is a highlight of the episode. The episode gathers a charming collection of talented and familiar English performers to populate the Lady Anne, many of whom are making repeat performances on the series. The newcomers include genial Wilfrid Hyde-White as Toby McKenzie, who takes the Ransomes under his wing to educate them on the history and significance of the Lady Anne and its final voyage, and Alan Napier, best known as Alfred on television’s Batman, who makes a brief but effective appearance as the stony Captain Protheroe. The remainder of the supporting cast will likely be familiar to regular viewers of the series. Gladys Cooper, as Millie McKenzie, makes the second of three appearances on the series, sandwiched between outstanding performances in “Nothing in the Dark” and “Night Call.” Though Cooper did not work with Rod Serling’s material on the series, she elevated three very good scripts from the show’s other principal writers, George Clayton Johnson, Charles Beaumont, and Richard Matheson. Cecil Kellaway returns to the series as Burgess after his unforgettable appearance as the wily and dangerous Jeremy Wickwire in Charles Beaumont’s first season episode, “Elegy.” Cyril Delevanti gets to hold the gun in “Passage on the Lady Anne,” his fourth and final appearance on the series. Delevanti memorably portrayed the old man Smithers who dreams of robbing a bank in “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” and, unforgettable, as the stone-faced servant who hides a manic inner life in “A Piano in the House.” Finally, Don Keefer makes the second of his three appearances on the series as the smug travel agent Mr. Spierto. Keefer memorably portrayed Dan Hollis, whose bad thoughts get him transformed into a jack-in-the-box by little Anthony in “It’s a Good Life.”
            The episode also marks the return of director Lamont Johnson to the series. Johnson last sat behind the camera for the third season episode “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby,” and previously directed some of the finest episodes of the series, including “The Shelter,” “Five Characters In Search of an Exit,” and “Kick the Can.” Johnson’s presence on “Passage on the Lady Anne” may have been a draw for Gladys Cooper to appear in the episode as the two previously collaborated on the excellent third season episode, “Nothing in the Dark.” The atmospheric cinematography of Robert W. Pittack deserves mention, as well. Pittack arrived on The Twilight Zone late in the third season to photograph Charles Beaumont’s “Person or Persons Unknown.” He remained on the series through the fourth season to alternate with regular cinematographer George T. Clemens, due to the increased shooting time per episode for the hour-long format. Pittack’s talent was readily apparent and he was retained for the fifth season, photographing such memorable episodes as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “Living Doll,” and “Night Call.”

            Although “Passage on the Lady Anne” lacks that truly memorable element (a fantastic display, a clever ending, etc.) which might lift it among the company of the best episodes, it remains a powerful drama graced by outstanding lead performances, a charming collection of supporting players, the return of one of the finest directors on the series, and an eerie atmosphere complemented by excellent photography and a memorable musical score. It is a fine final episode from the typewriter of Charles Beaumont and comes recommended.

*“Passage on the Lady Anne” was one of several Twilight Zone episodes which directly or indirectly referenced or took inspiration from the legend of The Flying Dutchman, a ghostly vessel often portrayed as a portent of doom, aligning the episode with others such as “Judgment Night,” “King Nine Will Not Return,” “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” “The Arrival,” and “The Thirty-Fathom Grave.”

Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgement to:
-Night Ride and Other Journeys by Charles Beaumont (Bantam, 1960)
-The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (
-The Internet Movie Database (

--Charles Beaumont’s story, “Song for a Lady,” was first published in Night Ride and Other Journeys (Bantam, 1960). Beaumont’s final, unproduced episode for The Twilight Zone, “Gentlemen, Be Seated,” was published in the limited edition volume The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One, ed. Roger Anker (Gauntlet Press, 2004). Volume two never appeared. Beaumont’s original story, “Gentlemen, Be Seated,” was first published in the April, 1960 issue of Rogue and collected in Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories, ed. Roger Anker (Dark Harvest, 1988).
--Lamont Johnson directed seven additional episodes of the series, including “The Shelter,” “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” “Nothing in the Dark,” “One More Pallbearer,” “Kick the Can,” “Four O’Clock,” and “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby.”
--Composer René Garriguenc also provided the scores for “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” “In Praise of Pip,” and “Spur of the Moment,” as well as stock music pieces for several additional episodes. Garriguenc worked closely with the head of the CBS music department, Lud Gluskin, who conducted all of Garriguenc’s scores for the series.  
--Gladys Cooper also appeared in “Nothing in the Dark” and “Night Call.”
--Cecil Kellaway also appeared in “Elegy.”
--Lee Philips also appeared in “Queen of the Nile.”
--Alan Napier was a regular performer on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, appearing in the episode segments “House – with Ghost,” “The Sins of the Fathers,” and “Fright Night.”
--Cyril Delevanti also appeared in “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” “The Silence,” and “A Piano in the House.”
--Jack Raine appeared in an uncredited role in “Spur of the Moment.”
--Don Keefer also appeared in “It’s a Good Life” and “From Agnes – with Love.”
--Joyce Van Patten was divorced from fellow Twilight Zone performer Martin Balsam shortly before she appeared in this episode, which may have given the relationship at the center of “Passage on the Lady Anne” extra resonance for the actress.
--“Passage on the Lady Anne” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres.

-JP & BD 


  1. Thanks for this nice writeup. I can't see Joyce Van Patten without thinking of her on The Odd Couple as (I think) George Furth's fiance.

    1. Thanks, Jack! I wasn't familiar with Joyce Van Patten's career but she is certainly excellent here.

  2. I love "Passage on the Lady Anne" for its atmosphere and setting (I've always felt that the Recording Angel made a clerical error when she wrote my name in the Book of Life, and put "1954" as my birth year when she meant "1854"). It's also wonderful to see so many great old English actors and actresses in one place (especially dear old Wilfrid Hyde-White, whom I was lucky enough to see on the London stage many years ago in "The Pleasure of his Company", opposite Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.). But this episode has one defect that really nags at me. If the "Lady Anne" is really Paradise for its elderly regulars, then why don't they look and act HAPPY? Whenever we see an old couple in the background, they invariably look like unwrapped mummies, glum-faced, silently waiting for death. They should be smiling, holding hands, and leaning in to one another to share private jokes and lovely memories, which they then laugh over. Only the characters in the foreground show any vitality (and we desperately need them; the Ransomes are generally a VERY unattractive pair -- I liked Lee Philips a lot more in "Queen of the Nile", where he wound up as a pile of dust). The warmth and affection with which Gladys Cooper and Wilfrid Hyde-White treat the Ransomes when they put them off the ship is a taste of what the ambience of the whole episode should have been. I've had the enormous pleasure and privilege in my life to enjoy the love and friendship of a number of extraordinary older people, who've done great things in their lives -- and who, even in their 80s and 90s, have been full of life and humor, never failing to comment on a lovely bit of scenery, always appreciating a good joke, and talking with pleasure about how they just enjoyed rereading a favorite book. THEY would have been fully, and happily, at home on the "Lady Anne".