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, September 1, This Day in Twilight Zone History remembers actor Murray Hamilton, who died on this day at age 63 in 1986. Hamilton put the S in smarmy in many of his film roles (he’s unforgettable as the insensitive Mayor in Jaws). On The Twilight Zone, he brought his considerable talent to “One for the Angels,” the second episode ever aired, portraying the tight-lipped Angel of Death, on Earth to take sympathetic street peddler Lou Bookman (Ed Wynn). It’s a seemingly standard operation that turns into a dramatic struggle for one man’s soul and a young girl’s life. Hamilton was another TZ actor who brought tremendous depth and dimension to his roles.
In addition to Jaws, he was terrific in The Hustler, trying to out-hustle Paul Newman at a game of billiards. Just the way he says “billiards” is worth the price of admission. He’s also perfectly cast as Irving, the U.S. Air Force ROTC recruit who torments poor Will Stockdale (Andy Griffith) in No Time for Sergeants.
And who can forget him as Anne Bancroft’s boozy husband in The Graduate, always comfortable with a drink in his hand. Hamilton reflected the fact that Rod Serling had a deep bench of character players – always available to sock their roles right out of the park into small-screen immortality.