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November 14 in Twilight Zone History: Remembering actor Russell Collins ('Kick the Can')

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Nov 14, 2017

Today, November 14th, This Day in Twilight Zone History remembers character actor Russell Collins ("Kick the Can"), who passed away on this day in 1965 at 68.

Collins (1897-1965) was another actor who supported dozens of films and TV shows; someone who was recognizable but relatively anonymous to the public at large. In "Kick the Can," he's Ben Conroy, the grump in the senior home who refuses to play along with Charles Whitley's (Ernest Truex) gang of seniors who have not lost their youthfulness.

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Russell Collins was an able part of the supporting cast of many films in the 1950s.  Audiences may remember him as the ship's doctor opposite Robert Mitchum and David Hedison in the World War II destroyer versus submarine film "The Enemy Below."

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there were literally hundreds, if not thousands, of senior actors who were getting regular work in movies and TV shows, many of them under contract to the studios. This was in the heyday of drama: a genre of films, in particular, that has quietly been replaced on the studio slate by superhero films, science fiction epics, animated features and raunchy comedies. Yes, occasionally, we get a Last Vegas or a Cocoon, but they are exceptions. 

Speaking of Cocoon (1985), that iconic Ron Howard-directed film starring Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Gwen Verdon, Jessica Tandy and Maureen Stapleton, owes more than a nod to "Kick the Can." In that film, Jack Gilford played grumpy Bernie Lefkowitz – who, in essence, was another Ben Conroy.

Let's hoist a shot of Jack to Russell Collins... and all the senior actors who added an immeasurable shot of their own to the libation we call The Twilight Zone.