Today, May 16th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1918 birth of actor Barry Atwater ("The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street").
Barry played Les Goodman, a Maple Street resident who on a typical summer day suddenly hears strange noises accompanied by odd lights in the sky and a sudden power outage. While everyone tries to figure things out while standing in the street, Goodman's car motor suddenly turns on, then off, then back on again. Because young Tommy (Jan Handzlik) had just explained that they could be witnessing an alien invasion, everyone suddenly suspects Les Goodman.
In his brilliant teleplay, Rod Serling was making a comment on the recent blacklist scandal that had devastated Hollywood starting in the late 1940s. Atwater, along with Claude Akins and Jack Weston, does a terrific job of playing a wrongly accused neighbor caught up in a nightmare of back and forth accusations that builds and builds.
A Denver native, Atwater is perhaps best known as the seemingly unstoppable vampire Janos Skorzeny in the classic television film The Night Stalker, written by the Zone's own Richard Matheson. I always remember him as Gregory Peck's commanding officer Colonel Davis in the Korean War drama Pork Chop Hill. He later appeared as Surak, the Vulcan philosopher who invented the Vulcan obsession with logical thinking on the original Star Trek series, and co-starred in the pilot for Night Gallery.
So let's raise a glass of summer lemonade to Les Goodman and the other residents of Maple Street who woke up on what they thought was a typical Saturday morning and wandered into the most atypical destination spot in the universe: The Twilight Zone.