Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, and over the course of its five-year run would churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that would follow -- from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things -- and beyond, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era. This Day in Twilight Zone History presents key commemorative facts about the greatest science fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia (arriving this October). Whether it’s a key performer’s birth or death, the date an episode debuted, or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, August 28th, This Day in Twilight Zone History wishes a happy birthday to actors Simon Oakland (born in 1915), and Nancy Kulp (born in 1921). Always a commanding presence – he was Steve McQueen’s boss in Bullitt - Oakland (who passed away in 1983, at the age of 68) starred in two episodes. In “The Rip Van Winkle Caper,” he’s part of a gang of thieves who participate in a gold train robbery, then go into hyper sleep for a hundred years, figuring that when they wake up, the heat will be off. The things people do! He also portrayed the U.S. destroyer skipper on patrol near modern day Guadalcanal who starts to pick up clanging sounds from a sunken U.S. submarine in “The Thirty-Fathom Grave.”
Nancy Kulp (who passed in 1991 at age 69) co-starred in “The Fugitive” as wicked Aunt Agnes Gann, who treats her disabled niece Jenny (Susan Gordon) like a fugitive from Cinderella (actually “The Fugitive” in this story is kindly Old Ben - J. Pat O’Malley - who just so happens to be from outer space). It was quite another side of Kulp, who will forever be remembered as Miss Jane Hathaway, the befuddled bank associate in The Beverly Hillbillies.
The idea of getting actors to play against type was another hallmark of The Twilight Zone, a show that allowed some of America’s finest thespians to stretch their bounds to, indeed, another dimension.