Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, and over the course of its five-year run would churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that would follow -- from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things -- and beyond, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era. This Day in Twilight Zone History presents key commemorative facts about the greatest science fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia (arriving this October). Whether it’s a key performer’s birth or death, the date an episode debuted, or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, September 26th, This Day in Twilight Zone History honors the birth of two TZ actors who couldn’t be any different – Donna Douglas (1932-2015) and Patrick O’Neal (1927-1994). Donna, forever known as the darling Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, starred in the classic episode “Eye of the Beholder” as Janet Tyler, a woman who, in order to conform to the beauty standards of a totalitarian regime, has undergone surgery to radically change her appearance. Of all the episodes of The Twilight Zone, this is considered by many to be the most distinctive – for good reason. Douglas shared the role with actress Maxine Stuart, who played Tyler under bandages.
Patrick O’Neal starred in the terrific 5th season episode “A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain,” playing aging Harmon Gordon who, to save his marriage to saucy young Flora (Ruta Lee), decides to be the guinea pig for his brother’s youth serum experiment.
O’Neal had a long career playing a number of obnoxious, pompous and smarmy roles – Serling gave him the opportunity to play frail and sympathetic. Here’s to these ever-so-talented actors who brought their unique dimensions to a television series that stretched those dimensions to infinity and beyond.