Today, January 31st, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1963 premiere of "Mute."
A very young Ann Jillian stars as Ilse Nielsen, the only survivor of a terrible fire that killed her parents. We soon learn that Ilse is the product of a telepathy experiment conducted by a group of families in postwar Germany. Completely mute – and completely telepathic - Ilse comes to live temporarily with Sheriff Harry Wheeler (Frank Overton) and his wife, Cora (Barbara Baxley). They send her to school, but it's a humiliating experience for young Ilse until she's taken under the wing of a terrific teacher (Irene Dailey).
Meanwhile, Sheriff Wheeler attempts to reach Ilse's German relatives, but his wife his trying to stonewall that. She wants to adopt Ilse because their own daughter was killed in a terrible accident.
Ann Jillian makes a strong impression as Ilse in this Season 4 hour-long episode. Of Lithuanian descent, her birth name was Ann Jura Nauseda – not exactly a Hollywood actress name. After making her feature debut in Babes in Toyland, it was Walt Disney who suggested to her mother that they change her name. You can find out how that came about by reading the "Jillian, Ann" entry in The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia.
Frank Overton was making his second TZ visit after making such a strong impression in "Walking Distance" as Gig Young's dad. And Oscar Beregi, Jr. – so evil in "Deaths-Head Revisited" – returns to the Zone as one of the original telepaths who comes to claim Ilse.
So let's raise a cold glass of lemonade to Ilse and her quest to become a normal American girl, smart and well-adjusted in The Twilight Zone.