Monday, April 11, 2011

"The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine"

Ida Lupino as Barbara Jean Trenton in her glory days as a screen star

“The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine”
Season One, Episode 4
Original Air Date: October 23, 1959

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

Crew:
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.”

Summary:

     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.”

Commentary:


     “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

Notes:

-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

Cast:
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

Crew:
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.”

Summary:

     The place is a desert town in the Old West, the last vestige of the dried gulch that is the American frontier. In a 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 his reputation. Denton tells the sympathetic woman the story of why he’d put gun fighting behind him in the first place. Once upon a time, he 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 that 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.”

Commentary:

      “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 metaphorical 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 upon the future. In every one of these stories, however, there is a pivotal choice which must be made by the character. The magic is never free and never without the need of human action as catalyst. “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” exemplifies this theme. Serling’s scripts of this type establish the theme by presenting a main character possessed of a singular flaw that is the root cause of all their misery. Some of the most commonly used character flaws are alcoholism, seen in episodes such as "A Passage for Trumpet" and "Night of the Meek" (and of which the character Al Denton is a central example), the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, seen in episodes like "King Nine Will Not Return" and "The Arrival," or an inherent cowardice or other self destructive tendency, as in "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room" and "The Last Night of a Jockey."
      This thematic treatment often required Serling to rely on stereotypes and, because of the amount of scripts he was contractually required to provide for the first season, Serling found it all too easy to fall back on this type of story. The first season in particular is littered with them, from "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" and "The Lonely" on through "A Passage for Trumpet" and "Mr. Bevis." Though there are some very good episodes that deal with this theme, there are just as many that are hackneyed works that feel tired and familiar. “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” is too much like the episode which immediately preceded it, “One For the Angels," to be truly effective. The basic structure of the episode also recalls other Serling efforts that recycles the material in many ways, most notably "The Big Tall Wish," “In Praise of Pip,” and “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.” 
     “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” finds its identity, in everything from structure to character to setting, in its relationship to the tall tales centered around the American frontier. Like the folklore it emulates, its simplistic nature is the very thing that betrays its flaws. It is a structure which cannot support the complexity and the layered explorations of theme and character which are the hallmarks of the great segments from the series. It also does not have an effective twist ending, that other quality of the series which seems to draw viewers back to an episode. 
     Much of the first season is uneven in quality and theme partly because Serling did not quite know what he wanted the show to be. Fantasy is a large umbrella for an anthology series to live beneath, leading to the less diverse nature of the storytelling in the early output of the series. In preparation for having to churn out so many scripts, Serling poured over countless genre book anthologies and magazines of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories in an attempt to familiarize himself with the standard treatments of each genre.* As the show moved along, Serling and company produced a treatment for nearly every type of generic story found within these genres, particularly science fiction. It is interesting to point out that Serling created The Twilight Zone in large part so that he could make statements of political and social commentary without suffering the wrath of the sponsors and network executives, but that few, if any, of the very early episodes attempted this goal in any degree. Though Serling's humanistic concerns were always discernible in his efforts on the series, it is not until episode 22, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," that we see the beginnings of Serling's political and social concerns filtered through the show's fantasy construct. That episode also happens to be Serling's first masterpiece for the series. Serling concerned himself with establishing a recognizable identity for the show before delving into the multitude of issues that he fervently addressed in later episodes.
     Along with the aforementioned high quality episodes written by Serling in the early portion of the first season, the entrance of writers Richard Matheson, with “The Last Flight,” and Charles Beaumont, with “Perchance to Dream,” greatly helped the show establish a diverse identity for itself, and propelled Serling toward realizing his own strengths when writing fantasy. By the second season, all three of these principal writers for the show had diverse and identifying characteristics in their styles and subject matter. This gave the show a great variety and yet also constructed a thematic bridge across the episodes. 
     The most positive aspects of “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” are the moments that elevate the episode to a high emotional pitch. Nearly every episode Serling wrote has at least a short moment of this emotional pitch; the best of his episodes carry it all the way through. Though “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” does not quite carry the emotional weight of Serling’s best efforts, it does bear a good deal of weight, and the majority of the credit for the emotional intensity of the episode goes to Dan Duryea’s weary performance as Al Denton.
     Duryea enjoyed a fruitful film career throughout the late 1940's and the 1950's. 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 Criss Cross (1949) and Too Late for Tears (1949). Duryea had a villainous role in the western Winchester '73 (1950) and a 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 heroic role as well, such as that of a drunken songwriter out to prove his friend innocent of murder in the 1946 film Black Angel, an adaptation of 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 piece is not Duryea, of course, but rather versatile actor Martin Landau, making the first of two memorable appearances on the series (the other being Rod Serling's unusual 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 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 both gunfighters’ hands 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. It was also ill-advised to attempt levity with naming the magic man in the story Fate. Though Serling was clearly trying for the feeling of a tall tale, it feels like too mournful and melancholy of an episode to inject that sense of broad humor. 
     Whatever faults lie in “Mr. Denton on Doomsday,” it is a still an enjoyable episode and a viewer is not to be discouraged from watching it. There are far less enjoyable episodes than this one. The Old West setting is enjoyable and, despite the fact that it’s a somewhat overly sentimental episode, it 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.

*This may also account for the varying degree of quality in the source material chosen for the series. Consider the selection of justly famous works such as Lucille Fletcher's "The Hitch-Hiker" and Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life" (works which were famous before their adaptation on the series) juxtaposed with more obscure works such as Paul W. Fairman's "Brothers Beyond the Void." 

Grade: C

Grateful acknowledgement to:

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

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

Notes:
--Rod Serling originally pitched the idea for this episode on the promotional footage that accompanied the screening of “Where Is Everybody?” held for potential sponsors. At that time the episode was titled “Death, Destry, and Mr. Dingle.” Serling scrapped Mr. Dingle for Mr. Denton but later used the former character name 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 schoolteacher that daydreams of gun fighting and adventure only to be falsely rumored as a deadly gunslinger (he is, in truth, terrified of violence). Serling also previously used the character 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.”
--Director Allen Reisner also directed two episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, "The Nature of the Enemy" and "Brenda," the latter being scripted by Zone director Douglas Heyes under the pseudonym Matthew Howard, and based on the story by Margaret St. Clair. 
--Radio and television towers can be seen in the background as Henry J. Fate first rides into town on his covered wagon.
--"Mr. Denton on Doomsday" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Adam Baldwin.
--Martin Landau also appears in the fifth season episode "The Jeopardy Room."
--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

Cast: 
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

Crew: 
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.”

Summary:
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 happen...in the Twilight Zone.

Commentary:
"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

Notes:
--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

Cast:
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

Crew: 
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay) 
Director: Robert Stevens 
Producer: William Self
Director of Photography: Joseph La Shelle 
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.”

Summary:

             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 seemingly quiet, idyllic place to live, complete with a welcoming town square, drugstore, diner, and local movie theater.  It will become his nightmare. He has no memory of who he is and no destination.  The town he has found himself in shows all the normal indications of a functioning community except for the fact that there are no people to be found anywhere in it. Ferris wanders into a café where a jukebox plays to an empty room. A smoking cigar lies unattended in an ashtray in the middle of the local police station. A phone rings inside a phone booth though no one on the other end has placed a call.  As he wanders from place to place Ferris grows suspicious that he is being watched.  As night falls on the town, his paranoia and loneliness finally eat away at what is left of his rationality. With desperation clinging to him, he collapses against a stoplight, frantically pushing the ‘walk’ button and pleading for someone to come 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 of the isolation chamber that he has been strapped into for the past 400 some-odd hours.  Ferris is an Air Force astronaut aboard a simulated flight to the moon. Upon witnessing his fragile condition, the Air Force general in charge of the project decides to have Ferris removed from the chamber.  After a few moments he begins to regain his grasp on reality and inquires to 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 necessity for companionship and without it his 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.”

Commentary:

             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 do not successfully fit this format. 
                An interesting aspect of "Where is Everybody?" that is not often discussed is how many symbols and motifs occur in the episode which would be repeated throughout the course of the series. There is the repeated 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," and "The Mirror." Mike Ferris also enjoys a drugstore sundae, seen again in "Walking Distance." 
             In terms of its approach to fantasy, however, “Where is Everybody?” is an atypical episode in that it is almost entirely devoid of any fantasy elements. For the pilot episode, Serling was not attempting to write a science fiction masterpiece; he was simply trying to sell his show to CBS, who had shot down his pitch for a fantasy program before when he submitted his time travel fantasy, "The Time Element." Serling's original pilot script, "The Happy Place," about a future in which citizens over the age of sixty are sent to idyllic rest homes in order to be euthanized, was also passed on by pilot producer William Self. Serling obviously understood what the executives did not want to see. They did not want a very far-out concept or a concept too far on the bleak side. Thus, in order to sell the show he deliberately toned down the fantasy aspect. Serling initially got the idea for the episode while walking around an empty backlot, which resembled a real town but was devoid of people. A similar experience inspired Earl Hamner to craft his very similar 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 whispering suggestion that anything supernatural is occurring, which helps cloak this part of the story in mystery. 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 a direction it was not anticipating. It takes them into an entirely new story with new characters, a new setting, and endows a new perspective on the protagonist. 
                 Serling would use this device in several other episodes. “King Nine Will Not Return” is an episode with a premise nearly identical to "Where is Everybody?" in which the pilot of a World War II bomber 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” might prove to be a superior 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 came to adapt the story for his 1960 volume, Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam), 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 all an hallucination and 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 several more.  The main element which fails to lend it verisimilitude is the fact that Ferris knows he is in an isolation chamber. He is aware that he is being monitored by people who are right there with him in the same room, and he also knows that the panic button is his get-out-of-jail-free-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 a complete mental collapse and is able to regain his senses enough to rationally answer the doctor’s questions, although this can be excused under the circumstances as due to a limitation of time.
“Where is Everybody?” is an episode that depends, almost entirely, on the performance of its lead actor. Earl Holliman is completely believable and effective 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. But there is never a moment when he loses the audience’s attention.  Holliman was born in 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 in an episode of 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. 
This episode also owes a great deal to director Robert Stevens, whose fluid camera movements bring Serling’s script to full mass.  In one of the more memorable shots from the first season, Stevens shoots Earl Holliman as he races down the stairs at the movie theater and runs straight into, and shatters, a full length mirror; it’s only here that the audience realizes Stevens was not actually shooting Holliman but was shooting Holliman’s reflection in the mirror. It makes for a very interesting effect.  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.
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

Notes:
--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.



--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 to television productions. Fortuitously, CBS acquired backlot and studio services at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, which gave the show much of its quality.
--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 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; a Skylark Illustrated Book) by Rod Serling, stories adapted by Horace J. Elias and illustrated by Carl Pfeufer. 

--Brian Durant and Jordan Prejean

Season 1



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

       The Twilight Zone seemed an odd creation for a writer like Rod Serling. Serling emerged out of the era of live television as a dramatist with deep humanistic concerns, writing scripts for prestige dramatic anthology programs such as Kraft Television Theatre and Playhouse 90.  By the time The Twilight Zone went on the air in October of 1959, Serling had been writing television scripts for nearly a decade and had received 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 risk his reputation by turning his efforts toward fantasy and science fiction, fields then, as now, in low regard by cultural critics, but especially by those of the 1950’s.

     In the world of dramatic television, Serling gained a reputation as a writer willing and able to tackle pressing social and political issues and as a writer vehemently opposed to censorship. After witnessing several of his more controversial scripts for Playhouse 90 being ripped apart, sanitized, and sewn back together again to appease the concerns of wary corporate sponsors, he began to contemplate creating a fantasy program in an effort to alleviate such restrictions. With fantasy, Serling correctly theorized, he could get away with Martians and robots saying the controversial things which ordinary characters could not. He essentially wanted to create a program where the writer was in control of the script. In response, he created his own production company, Cayuga Productions, which would oversee the production of The Twilight Zone.

     Immediately before the creation of Cayuga Productions, Serling wrote an hour-long script titled “The Time Element” and pitched it to CBS as a pilot episode of a fantasy anthology series. CBS bought the script but passed on developing it into a series, or even filming it at all, and shelved the script. Bert Granet, a producer at CBS on  The Westinghouse-Desilu Playhouse, and who would later join Rod Serling on the fourth season of Twilight Zone, got word that Serling sold a script to CBS but that the network shelved it. Eager to work with Serling, Granet took the script 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 to wide acclaim and enormous popularity among viewers of the series. 

       "The Time Element" is a time travel story starring William Bendix and Martin Balsam about a man who returns to the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor through a recurring dream. He is unable to get anyone to listen to his warnings and dies while lost in time. The fantasy story was something fresh on television and its popularity among viewers gained the attention of CBS, who backtracked and decided to allow Serling a shot at developing his own fantasy series. CBS executive William Self was assigned to film the pilot at Universal International and Serling set to work developing a script. The first script he developed was titled "The Happy Place" and was a dark, dystopian vision of the future in which citizens over the age of sixty are taken to idyllic retirement homes where they are euthanized. William Self thought the story powerful but hardly something to sell a series to a network. He urged Serling to try again with something different. In response, Serling sat down and wrote “Where is Everybody?” about 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 in preparation for space flight. The time 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 executives and potential corporate sponsors to take a shot on the series. After the episode finished shooting, Serling brought it to New York and screened it for network executives at CBS and for potential sponsors. They bought the series. 

     Although Serling urged pilot producer William Self to stay on-board as regular producer of the series, Self declined and elected to continue his executive role within the network. Upon Self's recommendation, CBS hired producer Buck Houghton because, as Houghton said, "they wanted Rod to be working in tandem with somebody that they knew, instead of somebody that he knew."* Houghton never held a particular affinity for fantasy or science fiction but had a great eye for talent and great 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 such a vision was represented in everything done for the series. He and Serling hit it off immediately, on both a personal and, more importantly to the series, a professional level. Houghton was the steady balance to Serling's manic energy and the combination worked brilliantly for three seasons. Together, they began the arduous task of acquiring material for the first season. After 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. Whatever the motivation, the call for story ideas yielded zero usable material and was quickly shut down. Would-be writers would continue to send in unsolicited story material for the series duration, however, often resulting in endless calls of plagiarism against Serling and the series. Serling decided instead to approach a small group of professional science fiction writers, allowing the writers to read samples from Serling's projected 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 spearheaded by 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 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 fame and influence, was the first professional science fiction writer that Rod Serling consulted upon beginning the journey to bring The Twilight Zone to the small screen. The two decorated writers met during a Writer's Guild award banquet in 1959 whereupon Serling informed Bradbury of his intention to develop a fantasy television series. Bradbury invited Serling over to his home where he would introduce Serling to many of the writers that would come to contribute to the series. Although Bradbury contributed only a single original teleplay to the series, the third season's rather disastrous production of "I Sing the Body Electric," the series as a whole owes much to Bradbury's work.*** Though Bradbury submitted two additional scripts to Serling and producer Buck Houghton, one of which was purchased but never green lit for production, the scripts were deemed economically unfeasible. Marc Scott Zicree, author of the indispensable The Twilight Zone Companion, gives additional details about Bradbury's involvement with the show and the alleged feud between Bradbury and Rod Serling in this video.

     Two of the writers Serling subsequently consulted upon Bradbury's recommendation were Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, both Bradbury proteges. Both writers were well established in print and were quickly emerging in the film and television industries. The two writers were suitably excited about the new market for their work and were impressed by Serling's unwavering 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.**** These three writers and a small core of others who arrived later (George Clayton Johnson, Montgomery Pittman, Earl Hamner, Jr., Jerry Sohl) would contribute the vast majority of material for the series. It was this tight-knit group of writers that gave the series its unique style and exceptional balance of content. For a revealing look at the production of the first season of The Twilight Zone from one of its principle writers, see Charles Beaumont's essay, "The Seeing I," in the December, 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Mercury Press, Robert P. Mills, ed.), reprinted in Filmfax #75/76.  

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 
    
Notes:




- The opening title for episodes in the first season alternated between two different animated sequences, each with a score by Bernard Hermann. 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 only a handful of episodes, is darker in tone and opens with a strange image of a woman’s eye which fades into a picture of a setting sun. Serling’s dialogue here is a 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 Serling and producers decided to replace Hermann’s scores with Marius Constant’s famous opening theme.

- Once the series was picked up by CBS, William Self, who produced the pilot episode, left the show for an executive position at the network. On Self’s recommendation, Serling asked Buck Houghton, who had been Serling’s script editor on Playhouse 90, to take over as producer.

- Serling did not appear as on-screen host during an episode until the second season.  During the first season he appeared on screen only in the preview trailers 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 imaginary creations. His opening narration is also noticebly different in the first season, particularly the first dozen or so episodes. Not sure of the exact tone the show should take, he recites his monologues with 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)
***Two episodes in particular strongly echo the work of Ray Bradbury, both written by writers who developed professional careers under his guidance. Charles Beaumont's first season episode, "Elegy," based on his previously published short story, one written under Bradbury's tutelage, strongly echoes Bradbury's famous 1948 story, "Mars is Heaven!" Likewise, George Clayton Johnson's third season episode, "Nothing in the Dark," is a virtual reworking of Bradbury's 1960 short story, "Death and the Maiden." 
*****Perhaps owing to the continued freelance relationship between Beaumont and Matheson to the show, as early as 1960, Beaumont was attempting to sell an anthology series titled Out There to networks using original material written for the proposal by Beaumont, Matheson, Clayton Johnson, Jerry Sohl, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Bloch, and Ray Russell. Some years later, Matheson, Johnson, Sohl, and Sturgeon would come together again in an attempt to sell an anthology series titled A Touch of Strange to ABC executive Micheal Eisner, who turned it down. 

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 (from: 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)

--Brian Durant and Jordan Prejean