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February 9 in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the 1962 premiere of 'Kick the Can'

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Steve Rubin
Feb 9, 2018

Today, February 9th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate a true classic episode: 1962's "Kick the Can."

Written by the inimitable George Clayton Johnson, this poignant fable stars Ernest Truex as Charles Whitley, a kindly resident of the Sunnyvale Rest Home for the Aged (boy, would that name not work today – seniors don't rest, they're as active as hell). Unable to spend time with his son (Barry Truex, Ernest's real-life son), Charles instead discovers that the local children are playing a game of "kick the can" – which inspires him to involve his fellow seniors in a similar game that changes their lives forever. Russell Collins portrays grumpy fellow resident Ben Conroy who believes that recapturing one's youth is a pipe dream.

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With a burst of new-found energy, Charles Whitley (Ernest Truex, center) engages his fellow senior home residents in the idea of playing "Kick the Can."

With this episode, the show once again veered into the wonderful world of fantasy and whimsy, a favorite arena for writer Johnson. Steven Spielberg remade this episode in Twilight Zone: The Movie, with the marvelous Scatman Crothers playing the Ernest Truex role (morphing into Mr. Bloom).

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Scatman Crothers (far right) enlists his fellow senior home residents in a spirited game of "Kick the Can" in director Steven Spielberg's remake from Twilight Zone: The Movie.

In the original episode, look for John Marley as Sunnyvale's superintendant (a decade later, he found a horse head in his bed in The Godfather). And lovable Burt Mustin returns to TZ as one of Whitley's fellow residents, along with Hank Patterson (who later became comical Fred Ziffel, the owner of Arnold the pig on Green Acres).

 

So let's hoist some hot cocoa to the enduring youthful spirit of Charles Whitley, the magical game he played, and the soft spot he carved in a truly whimsical corner of The Twilight Zone.

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