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 17, This Day in Twilight Zone History wishes happy birthday to beloved actor Roddy McDowall, who was born on this day in 1928. McDowall starred in the very cool episode “People Are Alike All Over,” playing Sam Conrad, a reluctant astronaut who arrives on Mars and receives a very unusual reception from the locals. McDowall, who passed away at 70 in 1998, was true Hollywood royalty, having started his career in childhood (so memorable in How Green Was My Valley and Lassie Come Home -- he eventually amassed 262 film and TV performances, according to IMDb).
He appeared in so many iconic roles – including the delightful part of Cornelius the chimpanzee archaeologist in the original Planet of the Apes (co-written, of course, by Rod Serling). To say that McDowall brought a touch of class to TZ would be a great understatement. I had the pleasure of working with him briefly on the sequel to Fright Night in 1987, and just standing on a set speaking with him was wonderful – he exuded classic Hollywood culture and refinement from his every pore. He was also an amazing photographer.
Here’s to Roddy, a cinema legend who brought his considerable skill set and classic Hollywood aura to the small-screen world of The Twilight Zone.