Today, April 3rd, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia remember actor Warren Oates, who passed away on this day in 1982 at the age of 53.
Oates (1928-1982) co-starred as wisecracking National Guard corporal Richard Langsford in "The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms." Langsford, Sergeant Connors (Ron Foster) and Private McCluskey (Randy Boone) are tankers on maneuvers in modern day Montana who enter a time warp and find themselves caught up in the events surrounding the Battle of the Little Bighorn. While Connors and McCluskey are fascinated by history, disbelieving Langsford thinks they're just plain crazy: until he spots a Sioux Village that shouldn't be there.
Warren Oates made a career of playing grouchy and grumpy characters, many of them in the Old West. Two of his more memorable oaters were for maverick director Sam Peckinpah: Major Dundee (as Confederate deserter O. W. Hadley) and The Wild Bunch (as mercenary Lyle Gorch). He was also comfortable in comedy, as demonstrated opposite Bill Murray in Stripes and as Colonel Madman Maddox, defending Barstow against imaginary Japanese invaders in Steven Spielberg's wild and wacky 1941. And he could take the lead and run with it as he did in director John Milius' Dillinger.
So let's raise a large glass of tequila to an actor we lost way too soon but who will always be a treasured part of the constellation of performers we celebrate in The Twilight Zone.