September 24 in Twilight Zone History: Happy Birthday to actor Larry Gates ('The Shelter')

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Sep 24, 2017

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 24, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of character actor Larry Gates (1915-1996), who starred in “The Shelter.” Gates could play decent guys and heavies (see the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers).


Larry Gates portrayed Dr. Bill Stockton, family man and bomb shelter builder, who soon pays a heavy penalty for his foresightedness.

In this episode, he’s the decidedly decent Dr. Bill Stockton – a family man, and the only one in his suburban N.Y. neighborhood to construct a functional bomb shelter. Everyone pooh-poohs him until an alert is sounded and an imminent nuclear attack is forecast. Then all hell breaks loose, and guess where everybody wants to be?


Jack Albertson (left) confronts Larry Gates in "The Shelter," a very timely episode. 

We have a habit of referring to the timeless quality of The Twilight Zone. But here we are in 2017 and, thanks to the situation in North Korea, the conversation about building bomb shelters has renewed – making this terrific episode timely again. In one of his many interviews, Serling was quoted as saying that he probably wouldn’t build a shelter, because he didn’t want his family to face the aftermath of a nuclear war.

What would you do?

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