Today, January 4, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of actor Jesse White ("Cavender Is Coming"), who was born on this day in 1917.
Mr. White (1917-1997) had two memorable brushes with The Twilight Zone, both in Season 3. In "Once Upon a Time," he's the ornery owner of an electrical repair shop in Harmony, New York, who's visited by time traveler Woodrow Mulligan (Buster Keaton) and his broken time-travel helmet. He's a resourceful fixer; just don't touch his tools.
White and his classic brand of sarcasm return in "Cavender Is Coming," in which he plays cigar-chomping apprentice angel Harmon Cavender, who's given one last chance to win his wings. It seems that bumbling Agnes Grep (Carol Burnett) has just lost her job as a movie theater usher and needs a helping hand.
Jesse White is the type of classic character actor who has somewhat disappeared from modern film and TV. You didn't hire him for romantic leads or adventure films – he filled out your cast nicely when you needed unbridled sarcasm. White had that signature delivery and demeanor, and he was always just wonderful. Given his great bit in "Once Upon a Time," it's not surprising that he later carved quite a niche as the lonely Maytag repairman in countless television commercials. If you want to see him in fine form, check out Harvey in 1950, where he's terrific as an attendant in an insane asylum.
So let us toast a man who not only kept the cigar business going but brought his special kind of charm to the fifth dimension: Mr. Jesse White.