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December 17 in Twilight Zone History: Wishing Happy Birthday to actor Richard Long ('Person or Persons Unknown')

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Steve Rubin
Dec 17, 2017

Today, December 17th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of actor Richard Long, born on this day in 1927.

Blessed with matinee idol good looks, Long (1927-1974) starred in the tense Season 3 episode "Person or Persons Unknown," playing the increasingly desperate David Andrew Gurney, a man who wakes up one morning to find that no one recognizes him, including his wife. In his workplace, in the bar he frequents, he's a stranger.

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Befuddled David Gurney (Richard Long) interrogates a woman he claims is his wife in "Person or Persons Unknown."

Long before the threat of identity theft became omnipresent in our 21st century world, writer Charles Beaumont was already dealing with the terrifying concept – only in this case, someone hasn't stolen David’s identity, they've completely erased him from existence.

In a way, Beaumont was influenced by Rod Serling's favorite film: Frank Capra's Christmas perennial It's a Wonderful Life, in which George Bailey (James Stewart), thanks to the trickery of Clarence the apprentice angel (Henry Travers), erases Bailey's identity. Of course, The Twilight Zone feasted on this story angle, dealing with identity erasure or theft in such classic episodes as "Where is Everybody?", "And When the Sky Was Opened," "Mirror Image," and "The Parallel."

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Among the many characters Richard Long played in "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" is Uncle Rick, here trying to comfort stubborn Marilyn Cuberle (Collin Wilcox), a young woman uncomfortable with changing her looks to conform to her futuristic society's demands. 

Long returned as multiple characters, including a psychologist named Sigmund Friend, in the futuristic fifth season episode "Number 12 Looks Just Like You."

So let's toast a fine leading man and the multiple personalities he brought to a show with multiple thrills and chills, The Twilight Zone.

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