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  • Writer's pictureAugust Sorenson

Alumni in: 'The Twilight Zone'

Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” is an essential piece of media that defined a genre of television. Running for five seasons and starring high-profile actors—Academy graduates frequented the show—it received numerous awards and a major cult following that continues to this day. The series prompted numerous spoofs and spin-offs, cementing Serling’s legacy series about paranoia, fear, desire, greed, and love. Themes still relevant today.

Anne Francis (Class of 1950)

Season 1, Episode 34: The After Hours

In this episode of “The Twilight Zone,” Marsha White, played by Anne Francis (Class of 1950), is shopping in a department store when she is guided up to the mysterious ninth floor. The floor seems deserted, save a few employees and mannequins. She soon uncovers the truth behind the unsettling floor.

Trivia: The first revival of “The Twilight Zone,” in 1985, opened with an episode titled “The After Hours,” itself a remake of the iconic episode featuring Anne Francis.

Bob Cummings (Class of 1932)

Season 2, Episode 1: King Nine Will Not Return

Set during the Second World War, this episode follows Captain James Embry, played by Bob Cummings (Class of 1932). The sole survivor of an American bomber that crashed in the desert, Embry is stranded and with little hope of rescue. As he hallucinates visions of his fellow pilots, and what appear to be fighter jets flying overhead—something that would have been impossible for the time—Embry grapples with his psyche, and we learn an unsettling truth about what is really going on in this episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

Trivia: “King Nine Will Not Return” was the first episode to feature the iconic theme by Marius Constant.”

Fred Clark (Class of 1938)

Season 2, Episode 10: A Most Unusual Camera

Fred Clark (Class of 1938) plays Chester Diedrich, one half of a thieving couple. Diedrich and his wife, Paula (played by Jean Carson), have just stolen a strange camera that captures pictures of the future: five minute ahead, to be precise. Taking advantage of this supernatural ability, they take to fixing bets and winning a small fortune: until their greed gets the better of them.

Trivia: This episode is one of the most referenced works in television: the animated series “Futurama” spoofed it, the contemporary revival of “The Twilight Zone” referenced it, and R.L. Stine based a best-selling “Goosebumps” novel on it.

Agnes Moorehead (Class of 1929)

Season 2, Episode 15: The Invaders

In this episode of “The Twilight Zone” Agnes Moorehead (Class of 1929) plays a woman living alone in a farmhouse, leading a quiet life until her home is visited by a flying saucer. This episode contains almost no dialogue, and contains a twist at the end that reveals a conspiracy embedded in the United States government. After all, what is retro sci-fi without extra terrestrials?

Trivia: Being void of dialogue, Moorehead’s near-solo performance is visually driven, save the occasional cry of pain and terror.

Hayden Rorke (Class of 1932)

Season 2, Episode 16: A Penny For Your Thoughts

Airing one week after “The Invaders” starring Agnes Moorehead comes another starring role for an Academy graduate in “A Penny For Your Thoughts.” Hayden Rorke (Class of 1932) joins this episode as Mr. Sykes, a scheming businessman and shrewd entrepreneur trying to make a quick buck, until his plans are thwarted by a smalltime bankteller.

Trivia: One of two consecutive episodes to feature a future “Bewitched” star, Dick York, with “The Invaders” starring Agnes Moorehead sharing the honor.

Don Rickles (Class of 1948)

Season 2, Episode 19: Mr. Dingle, the Strong

Don Rickles (Class of 1948) stars as Bettor in “Mr. Dingle, the Strong,” an episode following Luther Dingle, a mild-mannered salesman who is selected by martians for an experiment in superhuman strength. Given the strength of 300 men, he is hailed as a 20th century Hercules before being stripped of his power. At the conclusion, a pair of Venusians give him the intellectual prowess of 500 men, which he uses to predict the outcomes of sporting events.

Trivia: The frequency of smoking in Hollywood pictures is prominent in this episode: in-part due to the culture of the time, and in-part at the behest of tobacco companies sponsoring the show.

Elizabeth Montgomery (Class of 1953)

Season 3, Episode 1: Two

Set in a small town that has been deserted since the end of an apocalyptic war five years earlier, “Two” stars Elizabeth Montgomery (Class of 1953) as a female soldier draped in a tattered uniform. She comes across a man (Charles Bronson) dressed in the uniform of her enemy, and the two skirmish until she is knocked unconscious. After seeing a picture of a woman, he wakes her up and the pair begin courting, while remaining conflicted by their own allegiances and sense of duty.

Trivia: Filmed in the backlot of Hal Roach Studios, the set needed little decoration due to the mismanagement and disrepair of the studio.

Robert Redford (Class of 1959)

Season 3, Episode 16: Nothing In The Dark

Robert Redford (Class of 1959) brings his acting chops to Season 3, Episode 16 of “The Twilight Zone.” Playing the role of wounded police officer Harold Beldon, Redford’s part brings up metaphors and raises questions about one’s own mortality to an elderly woman who is “afraid of Mr. Death.”

Trivia: Originally filmed for season 2 of the series, this episode, along with “The Grave,” were held over for the third season.

Anne Francis (Class of 1950)

Season 4, Episode 7: Jess-Belle

Class of 1950 graduate Anne Francis returns to the series in “Jess-Belle,” where she plays the titular character. Watching her ex-lover fall in love with another woman, she enlists the help of a local witch to cast a spell and prevent them from being together. Only everything isn’t as it seems, and Jess-Belle’s world is turned upside down.

Trivia: “Jess-Belle” comes in as the only episode of the series without a closing narration from Rod Serling.

Sterling Holloway (Class of 1923)

Season 5, Episode 24: What’s In The Box

Set in the midst of a troubled marriage, Sterling Holloway (Class of 1923) plays a TV Repairman who comes along and fixes their television, but sets it to only play “Channel 10.” The channel shows them their past and present, and also their future, revealing the tragic demise for their relationship.

Trivia: While Holloway repairs the television set, several voices are heard, one of which is creator Rod Serling.


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