Today, December 30, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of actress Jeanette Nolan ("Jess-Belle"), born on this day in 1911.
This multidimensional character actress arrived in the Zone for two memorable episodes. In "The Hunt," she's Rachel Simpson, the loyal wife of backwoodsman Hyder Simpson (Arthur Hunnicutt), who one night goes off hunting with his dog and never returns.
However, it was her turn in the Season 4 one-hour episode "Jess-Belle" that proved to be the meatier role: deliciously diabolical witch Granny Hart. Visited by love-starved Jess-Belle Stone (Anne Francis), Granny offers her a potion that will turn Billy Ben Turner (James Best) into her lover. However, Granny Hart's potions come with a terrible price – a price that Jess-Belle agrees to pay.
Interestingly, on the night The Twilight Zone debuted in 1959, Nolan (1911-1998) co-starred in another debuting series – the western Hotel de Paree, which starred Earl Holliman ("Where Is Everybody?"). I always remember her as Nora Ericson, John Qualen's wife and fellow restaurateur in John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (she had a very credible Swedish accent).
So let’s raise a cup of witch's brew to Jeanette Nolan, and the fire and magic she brought to her Zone roles – and everything else she did – in a long career in Hollywood.