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 !
Rod Serling spoke different variations of those words in a matter-of-fact, yet haunting tone from 1959 to 1964 before each episode of the show he created, “The Twilight Zone.” The fantasy series showcased the anthology of imaginative scripts penned by Serling and other talented writers. The groundbreaking television show was considered one of the brightest in history. Viewers looked forward to the suspense and unexpected twists. Although reruns are often seen on the Syfy channel, Serling-who hailed from western New York-didn’t consider the program science fiction. He simply said, “It is a show about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations.”
Everyone has a favorite episode. In our house they are “Walking Distance,” in which Gig Young finds you can never go home-and “Little Girl Lost,” the episode that kept me awake at night for several days afterward, thinking I, too, might slip through the wall into another dimension. As an adult, I appreciate “Kick the Can,” where an old man discovers rejuvenating powers in a children’s game.
Although its ratings never went through the roof, “The Twilight Zone” stood the test of time. Since the cast changed weekly, there was plenty of opportunity for work. Actors appreciated the high-quality writing, but probably didn’t realize at the time that they were part of an iconic show in the making. Perhaps even as intriguing as the writing is the impressive-and lengthy-list of guest actors, many of whom became megastars. Even though there are too many to mention, these stars are notable.
Earl Holliman appeared on the show’s first episode, “Where Is Everybody?” A scared man finds himself completely alone in a small town. It is finally revealed as a test of his endurance.
Mickey Rooney in “The Last Night of a Jockey” thinks that all his problems in life will be solved if he is taller.
Robert Redford was in “Nothing in the Dark.” An old lady locks herself in a room in a deserted building, trying to avoid confronting Death.
Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery in “Two” are lone, scared survivors left to start the world anew after a nuclear holocaust. Montgomery went on to star in “Bewitched.” Many of her co-stars, including Dick York (Darrin), Agnes Moorehead (Endora), David White (Larry) and Alice Pearce (Gladys Kravitz) also appeared in episodes of “The Twilight Zone.”
In The Hitch-Hiker,” Inger Stevens is driving cross-country and keeps seeing the same ominous hitch-hiker on the road ahead.
Jack Klugman was one of the many actors who appeared in several “Twilight Zone” segments. Klugman can be seen in four different episodes.
William Shatner might have gotten some “Star Trek” training on “The Twilight Zone.” He appeared in “Nick of Time” and the popular “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” in which a newly-recovered mental patient can’t convince anyone there’s a gremlin destroying the plane’s wing. Among other notables are Lee Marvin, Dennis Hopper, James Coburn and Telly Savalas.
Child Actors such as Ronnie Howard, Veronica Carwright, Ann Jillian and Billy Mumy got in on the act as well. Shelley Fabares was a teenager and the object of an alien’s affection in “Black Leather Jackets.”
Many comedians displayed their dramatic talents on “The Twilight Zone.” Among them were Carol Burnett, Don Rickles, Buster Keaton, Art Carney, and Jonathan Winters, who returned from the grave to play pool with hustler Jack Klugman in “A Game of Pool.”
Even Rod Serling himself starred-as himself-in one episode, “A World of His Own.”
Source: Fantastic Television; Gary Gerani and Paul Schulman; Harmony Books, NY