This Day in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the birthday of actor Dean Jagger ('Static')

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Nov 7, 2017

Today, November 7th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of actor Dean Jagger (1903-1991), who portrayed Ed Lindsay in "Static."

A curmudgeon in a rooming house, Ed only comes to life when he recovers his old-time console radio from the basement, brings it back to his room, and starts to listen to broadcasts from his distant past. At first, he thinks they're nostalgia shows, but he soon realizes that he's opened up a door to yesteryear. The only problem is that any time he wants to share those broadcasts with a fellow resident, all he gets is static.

Time travel, as we've come to discover, is a prime sub genre of TZ stories. The canvas can be as broad as a passenger jet returning to the Jurassic Period or an old-time radio that plays the tunes of the 1930s. In Ed Lindsay's case, he can't stand modern television and its annoying commercials. He retreats to a simpler era when he could use his imagination to picture a big band playing the Coconut Grove or a classic comedy routine.

Dean Jagger was an accomplished character actor who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1949 for the role of U.S. Army Air Force veteran Harvey Stovall in Twelve O'Clock High (beating out future TZ veteran James Whitmore, who was nominated in the same category for Battleground).

I wonder if Rod Serling, while casting the lead in "Static," remembered that Twelve O'Clock High begins with Jagger's Stovall character making a nostalgic pilgrimage to the Archbury base, where he served in World War II. He's wandering around the overgrown runway, hearing the soft strains of 1940s music, followed by the loud revving engines of B-17 Flying Fortresses. The weeds are blown back by the wind of those engine sounds, and once again Harvey is back in 1942 England.

It's not a time travel journey; we simply flash back to those days as the main story narrative, but there is a touch of nostalgia that reminds us of one of the characters of The Twilight Zone who longed for the past.

Former Army Air Force officer Harvey Stovall (Dean Jagger) returns to his base in England, long after the war, in Twelve O'Clock High