Today, November 27th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the 1959 debut of "Perchance to Dream."
In this surreal first season episode, top Hollywood dramatic actor Richard Conte stars as exhausted draftsman Edward Hall, a man with a serious heart condition who dreams every night that he meets a devastatingly beautiful circus performer known as Maya the Cat Girl (Suzanne Lloyd).
As he explains to another sympathetic psychiatrist, in a long line of sympathetic TZ psychiatrists (John Larch), Maya dances, writhes, and cavorts, tantalizing Hall, a man whose heart should not be racing. In the world of the Zone, she is a she-demon, a creature who will not rest until she sends Hall over the edge.
One of the many interesting things about The Twilight Zone is that it allowed many dramatic performers to get their first taste of odd fantasy. Richard Conte was well-known throughout the 1940s and '50s as a go-to gangster, soldier, and mercenary. Boomers will later remember him as Don Barzini, a New York mafia chief who squares off against Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972).
Shortly before he did TZ, Conte played another weak-hearted character: 82nd Airborne veteran and ex-convict Tony Bergdorf in the original Ocean's Eleven. Curvaceous Suzanne Lloyd was perfectly cast as Maya, and she delighted in tormenting poor Hall.
Meanwhile, John Larch returned to TZ as Anthony Fremont's (Billy Mumy) father in "It's a Good Life" and he was the troubled sheriff in "Dust."
One final nod to director Robert Florey and cameraman George T. Clemens, who framed some unusual angles for this surreal journey into the Zone.
So! Let's raise a glass of she-demon rum to "Perchance to Dream" ... and to not letting our blood race the next time we watch it.