December 20 in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the 1963 premiere of 'Ninety Years Without Slumbering'

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Dec 20, 2017, 5:02 PM EST (Updated)

Today, December 20th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the 1963 premiere of "Ninety Years Without Slumbering." The remarkable Ed Wynn makes his second and final appearance in The Twilight Zone as Sam Forstmann, a septuagenarian obsessed with maintaining the family grandfather clock. Sam is convinced that if the clock stops, he will die... a belief that baffles his family and the psychiatrist he visits (William Sargent).


The maintenance of a grandfather's clock becomes a life and death obsession for Sam Forstmann (Ed Wynn) in "Ninety Years Without Slumbering."

There was a time when aging stars like Ed Wynn were given starring roles in prime time drama series – moments to shine and remind us why they were stars in their day. The Twilight Zone provided ample opportunities for actors like Wynn, Joseph Schildkraut ("The Trade-Ins"), Agnes Moorehead ("The Invaders"), Ernest Truex ("Kick the Can"), Gladys Cooper ("Nothing in the Dark"), Franchot Tone ("The Silence"), and others. Today, we rarely see those opportunities as ovies and television shows seem so focused on the young audience... and, consequently, younger players.


Aging Sam Forstmann (Ed Wynn, left) tries to make his granddaughter (Carolyn Kearney) understand his obsession in "Ninety Years Without Slumbering."

Whether it was a touch of eccentricity or a loss of mental faculties, Wynn brought a special touch of charm and class to his final performances. The Twilight Zone was lucky to have such a talent. Like the aging grandfather clock in "Ninety Years Without Slumbering," Wynn was winding down and we would lose him three years later.

So let's toast a giant of comedy who brought amazing dramatic skills to a show that crossed many dimensions of drama, all submitted for your approval in The Twilight Zone.