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 23, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of actor Mickey Rooney (1920-2014), who starred in the great fifth-season episode, “The Last Night of a Jockey.” The Mick plays disgraced, dishonored, and disconnected Michael Grady, a jockey who was caught doping a horse. Now he seems to be imprisoned in a tiny rooming house apartment, waiting for a phone call that will give him one last, hopeful reprieve.
This was a rare one-man tour de force for Rooney. As I’ve been mentioning with these posts, actors on The Twilight Zone brought their various gifts to these wonderful small-screen roles. Sometimes it was just their face and mannerisms; sometimes it was what would become their big-screen star power; sometimes it was just something magical that elevated the story to another dimension. Mickey Rooney brought it all – just as he had done for decades. The former child star usually had an impish quality, but you won't find it here. Michael Grady is angry, bitter, and determined to find a way out of this huge mess. And, in typical Rod Serling manner, that result is hardly what anyone expected. Here’s to another giant thespian who relished the role that Rod Serling wrote for him, and gave it his all.