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April 9 in Twilight Zone History: Happy Birthday to animal trainer Ralph Helfer ('A World of His Own,' 'The Jungle')

Contributed by
Apr 9, 2018

Today, April 9th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia wish Happy Birthday to renowned Hollywood animal trainer Ralph Helfer, who turns 87 today.

It was Helfer who supplied TZ producer Buck Houghton with the elephant he needed to appear in writer and Dictaphone conjurer Gregory West's (Keenan Wynn) entry in "A World of His Own" and the lion that was needed to materialize in engineer Alan Richard's (John Dehner) bed in "The Jungle." By the way, the lion's name was Zamba (named after the Zambezi River in Zambia).

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Victoria West (Phyllis Kirk) gets a rather rude awakening when she fails to believe that her writer husband Gregory (Keenan Wynn) can conjur anything with his dictaphone in "A World of His Own."

If you needed any kind of animal back in the 1950s and 1960s, Helfer was your man. In addition to being a trainer, he was also an animal behaviorist, author, and entrepreneur who currently makes his home in Kenya. Some of his more interesting animals included Altaira's tiger and antelope in Forbidden Planet; Gertrude the duck in the original Journey to the Center of the Earth; the ostrich and other animals in Swiss Family Robertson; the title character in A Tiger Walks; Anne Francis' celebrated ocelot in Honey West; and the huge menagerie in both Cowboy in Africa and Daktari.

So let's hoist one to another A-list element of the incredible crew that producer Buck Houghton assembled for the greatest television series of all time: The Twilight Zone.

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Honey West (Anne Francis) and her pet ocelot, Bruce, another one of Ralph Helfer's trained animals.