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January 28 in Twilight Zone History: Remembering character actor Burt Mustin ('Kick the Can')

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Jan 28, 2018

Today, January 28th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia remember actor Burt Mustin, who passed away on this day in 1977 at 92.

Mustin portrayed a homeless man who is helped by Santa Claus (Art Carney) on a magical Christmas Eve in "Night of the Meek." He returned to TZ as Mr. Carlson, one of the senior home residents in the whimsical "Kick the Can."

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 With his unique look and impish quality, Burt Mustin was a natural for Hollywood small screen and big screen roles. 

It's kind of hard to imagine so many senior actors working in Hollywood at that time. The studio system was still pretty much intact and many of them were under contract to MGM, which supplied a steady stream of actors of all ages to film and television. It seems that Hollywood has been focused on youth in the last thirty years. Once in a while we get a Going in Style or a Last Vegas, but back in the 1950s and early '60s, aging actors like Burt Mustin could find steady work.

Mustin (1884-1977) is well remembered by baby boomers as the kindly Gus the Fireman on 14 memorable episodes of Leave it to Beaver. Sitting in his equally aging firetruck, he always had some sage advice for little Theodore Cleaver (Jerry Mathers).

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Burt Mustin's Gus the Fireman character on Leave it to Beaver always provided good advice to Beaver (Jerry Mathers, center), seen here with his friend Larry Mondello (Robert "Rusty" Stevens). 

Surprisingly, Mustin made his film debut at the age of 67 in the Ronald Reagan/Rhonda Fleming western The Last Outpost (1951), the same year he made his television debut in The Adventures of Kit Carson.

So let's raise a high toast to Burt Mustin and all the wonderful senior actors who filled up the small screen and blazed a timeless trail to The Twilight Zone.