December 21 in Twilight Zone History: Wishing Happy Birthday to actor Joe Mantell ('Steel')

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Dec 21, 2017

Today, December 21, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of actor Joe Mantell, who was born on this day in 1915.

Mantell (1915-2010) starred in two TZ episodes. In his tour de force performance in "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room," he's small-time crook Jackie Rhodes, a minor figure in a big-city crime organization who's been given a nightmarish assignment by his boss.

Small time hood Jackie Rhodes (Joe Mantell) comes unglued as he contemplates his limited future in "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room."

In "Steel," the futuristic boxing episode which also starred Lee Marvin, Mantell is Pole, the sarcastic co-owner of an obsolete robot boxer named Battling Maxo. Pole continually explains to his partner, Sam "Steel" Kelly (Marvin) that Maxo can't box in his current decrepit condition, but Steel doesn't listen – until the robot's parts come flying off.

Trying to make plans for Saturday night, Marty (Ernest Borgnine, left) and Angie (Joe Mantell, right) seem to be stuck in an endless loop of "What do you want to do tonight?" in Marty, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1955. 

Mantell enjoyed a long career in Hollywood, and he got the chance to utter two of the most memorable lines of dialogue in movie history. In the film adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky's classic teleplay Marty, Mantell played Marty Paletti's (Ernest Borgnine) best friend, Angie. Their typical Saturday night conversation: Angie: "What do you want to do tonight, Marty?" to which Marty would respond: "I don't know, Ange, what do you want to do tonight?"

Two decades later, Mantell returned as Jack Nicholson’s partner in Chinatown, getting a chance to utter the film’s final line: "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."

So let's hoist one to the memorable Mantell and the timeless performances he gave in the equally timeless world of The Twilight Zone.