Today, December 26th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of character actor Vladimir Sokoloff, born on this day in 1889.
Sokoloff, another elder statesman of Hollywood, had three resonate brushes with the Zone. In "Dust," he's the desperate Mexican townsman trying to save his condemned son from a neck-tie party; in "The Mirror," he's Father Tomas, a proud clergyman trying to placate a tyrannical Castro-like rebel leader (Peter Falk); and in his final appearance in "The Gift," he's the straight-talking blind guitarist in a south-of-the-border village that has witnessed a close encounter of the third kind.
Sokoloff, who was actually Russian, was the perfect fit for any number of ethnic roles. I first remember him as the wise village elder who not only tells three frustrated villagers to fight or die but later welcomes Yul Brynner and the rest of The Magnificent Seven in that iconic western. Brynner must have enjoyed working with him, as he joined the elderly actor in Taras Bulba two years later, where Sokoloff briefly portrayed "the oldest Cossack." Brynner and Sokoloff worked together one last time in the entertaining middle eastern action flick Escape from Zahrain, in which he played an Arab elder.
So let us toast a truly glorious actor who brought us three memorable characterizations – a trifecta of acting prowess – in The Twilight Zone.