If you’re a Twilight Zone fan today, it’s hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t viewed as … well, as a work of art, really. As something that would go on to be enjoyed by generations of viewers.
But in 1959, there was no reason to think that.
Not because people didn’t expect much from Rod Serling. Not at all. The man who had won three Emmys at that point for writing some of the live-TV era’s most celebrated teleplays was widely praised. It’s just that TV worked a bit differently back then.
Okay, a LOT differently.
I touched on that in my last post, which concerned my surprise that the man brought onboard to produce Twilight Zone in its fifth season greenlit “Caesar and Me” without realizing that the series had aired an episode about a ventriloquist dummy, back in its third season. How strange, I thought. How could he be unaware of any of TZ’s previous episodes? Read the rest of this entry
I’ve written about Twilight Zone’s writers. I’ve written about its directors. So how about TZ’s only writer-director?
I’m referring to Montgomery Pittman. Don’t know him? I can guarantee you know his work. That is, if you’ve heard of a TZ episode called “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”
No, Pittman didn’t write that one. Everyone’s favorite extra-terrestrial whodunit was penned by the incomparable Rod Serling, of course. Pittman also directed one other TZ ep scripted by a writer other than himself (Charles Beaumont’s “Dead Man’s Shoes”).
But the other three episodes he helmed were his own stories — memorable tales that many TZ fans list among their all-time favorites:
Season 3, Episode 1 – September 15, 1961
At a time when TV scripts tended to be pretty talky (many early TV writers, after all, had gotten their start in radio, Serling included), this near-silent look at the aftermath of what appears to have been an all-out nuclear war shows the power of pictures. An American male soldier and a female Russian one somehow manage to put aside their suspicions and find peace amid the rubble.
For anyone who thinks of Charles Bronson only as a violent vigilante in “Death Wish”, or of Elizabeth Montgomery as a button-cute witch in “Bewitched”, this episode is an eye-opener. Pittman showed they were capable of much more.
James Best is best known for playing Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard. But he’d much rather be remembered for the three episodes he did for The Twilight Zone — “The Grave,” “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” and “Jess-Belle.”
“The Twilight Zone was probably one of the best showcases for future stars. It was terribly enjoyable to me because generally they had good sets, which they used from major feature pictures. I was a big fan of the show. I think I enjoy The Twilight Zone as much if not more than anyone.
“I did The Dukes of Hazzard series for seven years and we had a chain of writers over there — there was so much nepotism they wouldn’t have allowed any good writers to come in other than their own, which is unfortunate. So consequently, I worked seven years for writers who had the imagination of a banana. The material was so hackneyed we did the same show for seven years.
“Now on Twilight Zone, it was really a pleasure working on something that had the quality and the marvelous writers. I was very fortunate that I got to work on The Twilight Zone three times.
“I am going to go to my grave with ‘Rosco P. Coltrane’ on the headstone. I’d much rather go to my demise with ‘He’s in The Twilight Zone‘!”
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