November 12 in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the births of directors Jacques Tourneur ('Night Call') and James Sheldon ('It's a Good Life')

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Nov 12, 2017

Today, November 12, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of two terrific TZ directors: Jacques Tourneur ("Night Call") and James Sheldon ("It's a Good Life").

In addition to "It's a Good Life," Sheldon (1920-2016) directed five other episodes: "The Whole Truth," "A Penny for Your Thoughts," "Long Distance Call," "Still Valley," and "I Sing the Body Electric." 

Tourneur (1904-1977) had a celebrated feature career before he joined the TZ ranks. Working in the horror and thriller genre, he helmed classic films such as Cat People (1942), I Walked With a Zombie (1943), Out of the Past (1947), and, just before TZ, Curse of the Demon (1957). Like Hitchcock, Tourneur eschewed on-screen horror. He preferred to build atmosphere and fear using the viewer's imagination – which made him a perfect candidate to direct "Night Call," about an elderly woman (Gladys Cooper) who keeps getting increasingly unsettling phone calls from a mysterious voice.

 Slick used car salesman Harvey Hunnicut (Jack Carson, right) buys an old car from an elderly man (George Chandler, left) and is suddenly forced to tell the truth, "The Whole Truth."

Meanwhile, Sheldon was a prolific TV pro who worked easily between comedy and dramatic shows. This range is apparent in his TZ work, going from the comedy of "The Whole Truth," about a used car salesman (Jack Carson) who purchases a haunted Model T that acts like a truth serum, to the dramatic Civil War episode "Still Valley," which blends black magic with a war story setting. 

Actor Gary Merrill (right) portrays Confederate Sergeant Paradine, a rebel who finds himself caught in the middle of black magic in "Still Valley."

Here's to the talented directors who stepped into Rod Serling's fifth dimension and added a creative dimension of their own.