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 30th, This Day in Twilight Zone History remembers Hollywood acting icon Charles Bronson who died on this day at age 81 in 2003. Bronson starred in “Two,” the unique, relatively dialogue-free episode about two war-weary soldiers of different post-apocalyptic armies who meet in the ruins of what appears to be New York City – with Bronson’s American matched against Elizabeth Montgomery’s Soviet officer. Long before he became the go-to action star in the 1960s and 1970s (a moniker engineered by, among others, director John Sturges, who cast him in three Steve McQueen films – Never So Few (as Danforth, the Navajo code talker), The Magnificent Seven (as Bernardo O’Reilly) and The Great Escape, where he truly shined as Danny the determined Polish tunneler), Bronson was a working character actor in both films and television.
Weariness was actually a character trait that Bronson brought to many roles beyond The Twilight Zone. Not a handsome leading-man type by any means, he possessed a working man’s aura, and a brooding, gritty nature that endeared him to action audiences – particularly in his later Death Wish revenge thrillers. In many scenes, Bronson didn’t have to open his mouth; his face spoke volumes. How appropriate it was for him to play a silent survivor in “Two.”
It could be said that part of the reason many episodes of The Twilight Zone have a timeless quality was due to actors, like Bronson, who brought their big screen auras, personas and idiosyncrasies to these small screen classics.