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February 27 in Twilight Zone History: Remembering Franchot Tone and William Demarest on the anniversary of their birth

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Feb 27, 2018

Today, February 27, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia remember the birthdays of two one-of-a-kind TZ actors: Franchot Tone (1905-1968) and William Demarest (1892-1983).

Franchot Tone starred in "The Silence" as an uppity ex-Army colonel so determined to stop a motor-mouth (Liam Sullivan) from disrupting his club experience that he bets the man $500,000 that he can't keep quiet for an entire year. This was the first Zone episode I ever watched, and it freaked me out. I was 8, and the thought of keeping my mouth shut for 12 months was just plain horrifying.

Tone was Hollywood royalty, his career dating back to the 1930s and roles in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer and Mutiny on the Bounty.

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The squabbling Britts (William Demarest, Joan Blondell) are hardly a loving couple in "What's in the Box."

William Demarest, the crotchety, gravel-voiced sidekick in hundreds of films and television shows, starred in "What's in the Box" as a crotchety, gravel-voiced cab driver whose daily verbal jousts with his wife (Joan Blondell) inexplicably end up on television.

Most baby boomers discovered Demarest as lovable Uncle Charley O'Casey on My Three Sons (he did 215 episodes). Earlier in his career, he was a favorite of legendary director Preston Sturges, who cast him in three seminal comedies: Sullivan's Travels, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, and Hail the Conquering Hero.

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Decades before reality TV, cab driver Joe Britt (William Demarest) discovers a frightening facsimile in "What's in the Box."

So let's celebrate two memorable Hollywood thespians who brought their special brand of drama and comedy to the far reaches of the universe we call The Twilight Zone.