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 18th, This Day in Twilight Zone History wishes happy birthday to a true cleanup hitter in the TZ lineup and the cat’s meow of character actors: Jack Warden, born on this day in 1920. Warden starred in two popular episodes – in "The Lonely," he’s convict James A. Corey, imprisoned on a distant asteroid and about to go stir crazy when a sympathetic space jockey (John Dehner) brings him a very special gift. Warden is just wonderful in this iconic TZ role. And, once again, the inimitable Rod Serling fashions a terrific story twist.
Warden returned in the first season baseball episode "The Mighty Casey" – portraying manager Mouth McGarry, the man in charge of the woeful Hoboken Zephyrs, who, desperate to win a ball game, recruits a robot pitcher (Robert Sorrells) with a fireball arm. As many of you know, Warden was a last minute replacement for Paul Douglas, who filmed this episode while deathly ill and who died shortly thereafter. His footage was deemed unusable, thus Warden pinch hit – and perfectly conveyed the frustration, then elation of McGarry.
Warden, himself, passed at age 85 in 2006, after many film and TV performances. One of which I am particularly fond is the part of LA Rams football trainer Max Corkle in Warren Beatty’s delightful Heaven Can Wait, but he was also remarkable as Juror #7 – the man with the Yankee tickets burning a hole in his pocket - in 12 Angry Men. Let us toast the gifted Jack Warden - one of the superstars of The Twilight Zone.