“Last Night” of a Legend: Mickey Rooney and Rod Serling

“I want to be big!” thunders Michael Grady in Rod Serling’s “The Last Night of a Jockey.”

An ironic line, as it turns out. Grady, a horse jockey who’s been blackballed for a variety of racing infractions, is a small man who, by the episode’s end, gets his wish in the most literal way. Hello, Twilight Zone.

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And goodbye, Mickey Rooney, the man who brought Grady to raw, sputtering life in a high-octane performance that few other actors would even attempt. He’d become big long before there was a Twilight Zone. Only five feet, two inches tall, Rooney stood considerably higher in the pantheon of golden-era film stars.

A legend? Let’s put it this way: News of Rooney’s death at 93 on April 6, 2014, prompted more than one shocked fan on Twitter to note that it somehow felt too soon. Read the rest of this entry

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “The Four of Us Are Dying”

Ever assume, when you first watched The Twilight Zone as a kid, that Rod Serling wrote every episode?

I’ve had a number of people tell me they thought that, and let’s face it: It is a logical assumption. He personally introduces each tale, and they all conclude with his distinctive voice wrapping up the proceedings with a memorably wry comment or two.

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But no, other fine writers contributed some terrific stories. Still, Serling wrote a staggering 92 of the 156 episodes, or nearly two out of every three. No wonder he admitted to feeling burned out as the series entered its home stretch.

Not every Serling script was an original, however. Sometimes he adapted the works of other writers. He’d pay for the rights to a story, then turn it into a Twilight Zone.

This might sound like relatively easy work, but it wasn’t. In many cases, he took the basic idea and turned it into a script that barely resembled its ancestor.

Such was the case when Serling turned George Clayton Johnson’s story “All of Us Are Dying” into “The Four of Us Are Dying” for Twilight Zone‘s first season. Read the rest of this entry

“The Masks”: 50 Years Later

Paul:

A perfect blend of recap and analysis from my Gal Friday, and right on the 50th anniversary of “The Masks.” Enjoy!

Originally posted on Seeker of Truth:

Next on Twilight Zone, we move into New Orleans for the Mardi Gras, and we do it with a vengeance. Robert Keith and Milton Selzer appear in a bizarre story of men, masquerades and masks. This is a small shocker to wind up a week, and if it doesn’t send you to a psychiatrist, it’ll send you at least to a mirror. On Twilight Zone next, “The Masks.

Masks Opening Title

Mr. Jason Foster, a tired ancient who on this particular Mardi Gras evening will leave the Earth. But before departing, he has some things to do, some services to perform, some debts to pay – and some justice to mete out. This is New Orleans, Mardi Gras time. It is also the Twilight Zone.

“The Masks”

Season 5, Episode 25

 Original air date: March 20, 1964

A wealthy old man is about to die. But he won’t die alone. He’ll be surrounded…

View original 1,966 more words

Matheson: Why I Named It “Spur of the Moment”

The title of a particular TV episode means almost nothing to the average TV viewer. An entertaining story is all we ask. Yet some writers do take care with their titles … and it can even affect how good the episode is.

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Case in point: “Spur of the Moment,” from Twilight Zone‘s fifth season. The highly imaginative Richard Matheson explains:

I love that title! She married on the “spur of the moment,” really. She married for emotion. And there was also the spurs of the person riding the horse … there were multiple and hidden meanings in that title, which is something I like to do. Titles are very important, and it’s really nice if you can get a good one. As a writer, I prefer to have the title occur to me instantly — even sometimes before I do the story. It colors how I approach the story, and I feel much more comfortable.

Having a catchy title must have helped. There’s a good reason I included “Spur of the Moment” on my list of the best Twilight Zone episodes to watch on Halloween. Read the rest of this entry

10 Little-Known Facts About The Twilight Zone

No television series challenged the very notion of reality quite as artfully as The Twilight Zone. You could easily find yourself trying to figure out where you were, when you were, or even who you were.

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Here in our own dimension, matters tend to be a bit more concrete. Facts are facts. So here are 10 facts about Rod Serling’s brainchild that are familiar only to truly diehard fans (and perhaps regular readers of this blog and my Twitter page):

1) “There is a sixth dimension …” Wait, what? It’s true. When Serling first drafted his description of that elusive fifth dimension, he added an extra one … until the producer asked him to name the fifth.

2) Serling was not the first choice for narrator. They were setting their sights on such famous voices as Orson Welles, but in the end, they went with You Know Who. (You can hear how TZ almost sounded at this link.) Read the rest of this entry

After the Zone-a-thon II

Henry Bemis and his all-too-breakable eyeglasses? Check. Talky Tina? She was there. Agnes Moorehead, battling two tiny aliens who crash-land on her roof? Front and center. A gremlin on an airplane wing? He flew in just for the occasion.

Yes, the roster of fifth-dimension All-Stars was long at the Syfy channel’s annual two-day Twilight Zone marathon this New Year’s. From the tension-filled houses on Maple Street to the lush cornfields of Peaksville, Ohio, hardly anyone missed the festivities.

But although the schedule was packed with fan favorites, a few gems were conspicuously absent. We all would have been better served if replacements for clunkers such as “What’s in the Box” and “Caesar and Me” had been pulled from the following list:

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Season 1, Episode 21 – February 26, 1960

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Parallel planes. Disappearing doppelgängers. It’s a metaphysical mind-trip of the first order, one that definitely deserved a spot on Syfy’s schedule. I’m blaming Vera Miles’s wily twin for making this classic vanish from the marathon. Read the rest of this entry

Marathon Misgivings

There’s nothing like ringing in the new year with a party. And if you’re a fan of The Twilight Zone, you know the best one around is the one thrown by the Syfy channel.

"Nick of Time"

“Nick of Time”

I mean, two days in the fifth dimension, bingeing on your favorite episodes, and maybe discovering some “new” ones? Whether you go the distance, or dip in here and there for a few short excursions into the unknown, it’s hard to pass up.

A lot of fans consider the Dec. 31/Jan. 1 TZ marathon more essential than a glass of champagne and a list of resolutions. For many, it’s the only time they’ll watch the series all year.

And that’s kind of a shame. Not because they should watch it more often (though I wouldn’t discourage that, of course). Because they’re not seeing The Twilight Zone at its best. Read the rest of this entry

Tweeting the Twilight Zone

If there’s one thread that unites the many different characters that populate the fifth dimension, it’s the unexpected.

An ordinary drive? A typical day at work? Guess again. You suddenly veer down a very different path.

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I had that experience recently. Just as the New Year’s Eve marathon was getting underway, a serious family matter came up out of the blue. So after welcoming hundreds of new followers to my Twitter page, I tweeted for only one out of the following three days.

I certainly expected to throttle down after two days of high-intensity updates, but 48+ hours of radio silence wasn’t the plan. Read the rest of this entry

Counting Down to the New Year’s Eve TZ Marathon

Getting ready for a two-day Twilight Zone marathon takes planning. Even in the characters in the fifth dimension got in on the act this year.
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So my “Gal Friday,” and I decided to chronicle them throughout December, with our daily #TZMarathonCountdown tweets. I took the “odd” days, while Wendy took the “even” days. Here’s what we came up with:

Day 1: The “What You Need” guy is stocking up on popcorn, chips, and caffeine pills.

Day 2: Gregory West uses his dictation machine to program the marathon with all of Mary’s favourite episodes.

Day 3: Jason Foster orders the favors for his New Year’s Eve TZ Marathon party: TZ character masks for each guest. Read the rest of this entry

A “Christmas Present” For The World

Imagine spending Christmas Day at the hospital. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Unless you were Sam and Esther Serling, and you were there on December 25, 1924, to welcome a baby boy into the world. A boy who would someday welcome the rest of us … to the Twilight Zone.

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The Serlings already had one son, Robert, born in 1918. But a bout of yellow fever prior to that had almost killed Esther. Anne Serling, author of “As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling”, picks up the story:

After Bob is born, the doctor gives them the crushing news: this will be their only child. He says it is impossible for her to carry another, and true to his warning, a baby girl is stillborn a few years later. Seven years later, however, the doctor is proven wrong. Read the rest of this entry

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