Category Archives: The Twilight Zone

Witness Mr. Burgess Meredith, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers.

“I was born a character actor. I was never really a leading man type.” -Burgess Meredith

Burgess Meredith

Oliver Burgess Meredith

WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON 2014

what-a-character-2014-02

It’s here again! The most fabulous blogathon honoring those unsung stars that add that certain singular glimmer to either the cinematic sphere or the small screen sky–The character actors we’ve grown to love and follow adoringly. Thanks so much to Aurora at Once Upon A Screen, Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club  for hosting such a marvelous tribute once again!

This post’s title comes from the opening narrative for Rod Serling’s favorite Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough At Last.”  ‘Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers’ From Season 1 episode 8 which aired on November 20th 1959.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE “TIME ENOUGH AT LAST”

Directed by John Brahm, “Time Enough At Last” tells the story of a little bespectacled bibliophile bank teller named Henry Bemis ,a bookworm, a slave to the iron fisted hand of time and all it’s dreary inescapable obligatory scars and yearnings.

Burgess Meredith Twilight Zone still

Browbeaten by his wife, boss and even the public at large who see him as an outcast because of his ravenous appetite to read books! Henry can’t even sneak away to read a newspaper during work hours. He’s forced to resort to studying the labels on condiment bottles. She won’t even let him read the ketchup. His harpy of a wife Helen ( Jacqueline deWit) even blackens in the lines of his books at home, calling it “doggerel“– One day as fate would have it, he steals away to the basement vault of the bank to catch up on his beloved preoccupation, when –as many Twilight Zone episodes had been infused with a dose of Rod Serling’s nihilism (as much as there is his hopeful message), the feared 50’s bomb annihilates our vision of the world that was swarming just a few moments before. Suddenly poor Henry seems to be the last man on earth. But wait… perhaps not poor Henry.

Henry Bemis still

As he stumbles through the debris and carefully placed set pieces– the remnants of man’s destructive force, Henry comes upon the city’s public library filled with BOOKS!!! Glorious books…

While he must struggle against the approaching loneliness of the bleak future ahead, he begins to see the possibility of a new world where he could dream, and wander through so many scrawled worlds. Already an outsider he could finally live a life free to be as his boss rebuked him, a “reader.’

Henry starts to amass various piles of selected readings. There was time now. Time enough at last to read every word on the written page without interruption, interference or judgement.

Yet…fate once again waves her fickle finger via The Twilight Zone and leaves bewildered Henry without his much needed glasses, now they have fallen on the great stone steps, crushed by Henry’s own feet. As with every role Meredith brings to life the character of Henry Bemis with so much mirth and pathos.

He’s always just a bit peculiar, idiosyncratic, eccentric, lyrical, salty, sometimes irascible, but always captivating and distinctive, His voice, his persona, his look, his style… Burgess Meredith could always play the Henry Bemises of the world and grab our hearts because he has that rare quality of being so damn genuine.

twilight-zone-time-enough-burgess-meredith-

Let’s face it even when the prolific Burgess Meredith is playing a cackling penguin– nemesis to the caped crusader Batman or the devil himself (alias the dapper and eccentric Charles Chazen with Mortimer the canary and his black and white cat Jezebel in tow) in The Sentinel 1977 based on the novel by Jeffrey Konvitz and directed by Michael Winner–he’s lovable!

Burgess as Charles Chazin

He always manages to just light me up. Ebullient, mischievous  and intellectually charming, a little impish, a dash of irresolute cynicism wavering between lyrical sentimentalism. He’s got this way of reaching in and grabbing the thinking person’s heart by the head and spinning it around in dazzling circles with his marvelously characteristic voice. A mellifluous tone which was used often to narrate throughout his career. (I smile even at the simplest nostalgic memory like his work on television commercials , as a kid growing up in the 60s and early 70s I fondly remember his voice for Skippy Peanut Butter. Meredith has a solicitous tone and whimsical, mirthful manner. Here’s a clip from a precious vintage commercial showcasing Meredith’s delightfully fleecy voice.

And his puckish demeanor hasn’t been missed considering he’s actually played Old Nick at least three times as I have counted. In The Sentinel 1977, The Twilight Zone and Torture Garden! While in Freddie Francis’ production he is the more carnivalesque Dr. Diabolo–a facsimile of the devil given the severely theatrical make-up, goatee and surrounding flames… he is far more menacing in Michael Winner’s 70s gem as the spiffy Charles Chazin.

Torture Garden 1967

Burgess Meredith as Dr. Diabolo in Torture Garden 1967

And while I resist even the notion of redoing Ira Levin/William Castle and Roman Polanski’s masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby if, and I’m only saying if… I could envision anyone else playing along side Ruth Gordon as the quirky and roguish Roman Castevet it could only be Burgess Meredith who could pull that off!

burgess & ruth

Also being a HUGE fan of Peter Falk’s inimitable Columbo- I ask why why WHY?! was Burgess Meredith never cast as a sympathetic murderer for that relentless and lovable detective in the rumpled rain coat to pursue! Could you imagine the chemistry between these two marvelous actors!

columbo & burgess

Burgess Meredith all of 5′ 5″ tall was born in Cleveland Ohio in 1907. His father was a doctor, his mother a Methodist revivalist. We lost him in 1997 at the age of 89. That’s when he took his “dirt nap…” the line and that memorable scene from Grumpier Old Men 1993 that still makes me burst out laughing from the outlandish joy of it all!… because as Grandpa Gustafson (Meredith) tells John Gustafson (Jack Lemmon) about how he’s managed to live so long eating bacon, smoking and drinking his dinner–what’s the point…? “I just like that story!”

Meredith, Burgess Street of Chance 1942

Leading man material… Street of Chance 1942

Burgess Meredith said himself, that he wasn’t born to be a leading man, yet somehow he always managed to create a magnetic draw toward any performance of his. As if where ever his presence in the story was, it had the same effect as looking in a side view mirror of the car “Objects are closer than they appear”–What I mean by that is how I relate his contribution becoming larger than the part might have been, had it been a different actor. Like the illusion of the mirrored reflection , he always grew larger in significance within the story–because his charisma can’t help but consume the space.

He took over the landscape and planted himself there like a little metaphysical essence, animating the narrative to a higher level of reality.

penguin_04-1

Meredith started out working with the wonderful Eva Le Gallienne joining her stage company in New York City in 1933. His first film role was that of Mio Romagna in playwright Maxwell Anderson’s Winterset 1936 where Meredith plays the son of an immigrant wrongfully executed for a crime he did not commit. He also joined the ranks of those in Hollywood who were named as “unfriendly witnesses’ by the House Un-American Activities Committee finding no work, being blacklisted in the 1950s.  

During the 1960s Meredith found his way back in various television roles that gave us all a chance to see and hear his incredible spectrum of performances. One of my personal favorites, dramatically potent and vigorously absorbing was his portrayal of Duncan Kleist in  Naked City television series episode directed by Walter Grauman (Lady in A Cage 1964Hold For Gloria Christmas

The groundbreaking crime and human interest series THE NAKED CITY- cast Meredith as a 60s beat poet & derelict who is literally dying to leave the legacy of his words to a kindred spirit.

A powerful performance told through flashback sequences that recollect his murder as he storms through the gritty streets and alley ways of New York City  a volatile alcoholic Greenwich Village poet trying to get back his precious manuscript of poems that were stolen as he bartered them away bit by bit for booze -he has bequeathed his work to the anonymous Gloria Christmas. The chemistry between Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart who plays his estranged wife is magnificent. Heckart is another character actor who deserves a spotlight.

 

BURNT OFFERINGS 1976-Dan Curtis’ priceless treasure of creepy camp featuring Karen Black, Oliver Reed and once again uniting the incredible Eileen Heckart with our beloved Burgess Meredith as the ominous Roz and Arnold Allardyce.

Eileen Heckart and Burgess in Burnt Offerings-Dan Curtis

Roz & Arnold… charming… creepy!

Another memorable role for me, is his spirited performance as Charles Chazin alias The Devil in one of my all time favorite horror classics The Sentinel. “Friendships often blossom into bliss.” – Charles Chazin. Ooh that line still gives me chills…

Many people will probably love him for his iconic character study of a crusty cantankerous washed up boxing trainer named Mickey in the Rocky series of films. Or perhaps, for his colorful cackling or should I say quacking villain in the television series Batman -his iconic malefactor — The Penguin!

IMDb fact-His character, the Penguin, was so popular as a villain on the television series Batman (1966), the producers always had a Penguin script ready in case Meredith wanted to appear as a guest star.

Burgess Meredith will always remain one of the greatest, most versatile & prolific actors, character in fact… beloved and eternal…

BURGESS MEREDITH TELEVISION & FILMOGRAPHY ON IMBD HERE

BURGESS MEREDITH

 

“Like the seasons of the year, life changes frequently and drastically. You enjoy it or endure it as it comes and goes, as it ebbs and flows.”- Burgess Meredith

“I’ll just take amusement at being a paradox.”- Burgess Meredith

[on his childhood] “All my life, to this day, the memory of my childhood remains grim and incoherent. If I close my eyes and think back, I see little except violence and fear. In those early years, I somehow came to understand I would have to draw from within myself whatever emotional resources I needed to go wherever I was headed. As a result, for years, I became a boy who lived almost totally within himself.”- Burgess Meredith

 

Continue reading


What A Character Blogathon!… is back 2013- The unique Jeanette Nolan!

What A Character Blogathon 2013!

wac-banner-2013-green

Hosted by Once Upon A Screen- Outspoken & Freckled & Paula’s Cinema Club

As these fabulous bloggers say -“They are eccentric. They are unusual.  AND they are BACK!”

Character actors are the grease that spins the wheels of cinematic & television memories. I am so thrilled to be participating in this blogathon, because there are a lot of unsung actors that deserve recognition. Though it was a tough decision, I decided to focus on the inimitable Jeanette Nolan!

Jeanette Nolan

cookees

Jeanette Nolan as the tightly wound housekeeper Mrs Peck in one of my all time favorite Columbo episodes Double Shock-“Yes, thank you I’m extremely fond of health cookies”-Columbo

Jeanette Nolan just kept popping up for me in film and television episodes until I couldn’t resist her often irascible charms, and quirky yet dignified demeanor. Okay okay, she’s played a truly bona fide hag at times. No one cackles and frets quite like a Jeanette Nolan crone.

La Strega Jeanette Nolan

Jeanette Nolan in Boris Karloff’s 60s television show Thriller episode -La Strega

But, don’t let that fool you into thinking that she didn’t have an incredible depth and range of characterizations filled with heart and a sharply honed instinct for creating an atmosphere that drew you into it’s orbit, even when she was on the periphery of the plot and the main stars in the story.

I adore this woman and I’m so glad I get to share more than just a few of the memorable moments in Jeanette Nolan’s long career.

Jeanette Nolan was born in 1911 in Los Angeles California, She began her acting career in the Pasadena Community Playhouse.She made her film debut as Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ 1948 film version of Macbeth.

Jeanette Nolan Lady Macbeth

Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ production of Macbeth

Jeanette Nolan The Secret of Convict Lake Harriet

Jeanette Nolan as Harriet Purcell in The Secret of Convict Lake 1951

Nora Ericson The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Jeanette Nolan as Nora Ericson in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962

CapturFiles_2

Jeanette Nolan as Mrs. Ewing Perryman in Chamber of Horrors 1966

Before her death at age 86 due to a stroke on June 5th, 1998 her career encompassed so many varied roles. Her last performance was in Robert Redford’s film The Horse Whisperer, where she plays Tom Booker’s mother “Ellen.” She played Bertha Duncan in The Big Heat 1953 and Nora Ericson in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962

If you can imagine she brought to life some of the most interesting characters in over more than 300 television shows. From Perry Mason, Doctor Kildare, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, Medical Center, The Twilight Zone, Naked City, I Spy, The Mother’s In-Law,  Ironside, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, The Fugitive & Columbo and even played Rose Nyland’s (Bette White) mother Alma Lindstrom on The Golden Girls  just to name a few. Jeanette Nolan earned four Emmy nominations.

Nolan was married to actor John McIntire who died in 1991. And… Nolan actually provided the screams for Norman’s “mother” in Psycho (1960) Husband John played Sheriff Chambers.

Here’s Jeanette Nolan in one of Columbo’s memorable episodes ‘Double Shock’ as Mrs Peck who keeps a very tidy house.

As the oddball Annie in Dr. Kildare’s The Hand that Hurts, The Hand that Heals 1964

Jeanette as Bernadine Spalding in Emergency! Weird Wednesday 1972

As Dirty Sally Fergus on Gunsmoke

As Mary Fitzgibbons in ‘Triumph’ The Alfred Hitchcock Hour 1964

As Edith Beggs in Coming Home Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1961

As Hallie in The Secret- Medical Center 1972

As Mrs Fleming in The Reluctant Astronaut 1967

Jeanette Nolan as Miss Havergill The Invaders

As Mrs Grimes in The Right Kind of House- Alfred Hitchcock Presents

As Naomi Kellin in ‘Ill Wind’ The Fugitive

Jeanette Nolan in Wagon Train- “The Janet Hale Story”

As Granny Harrad in Boris Karloff’s television anthology series Thriller- “Parasite Mansion’

Jeanette Nolan as Mrs Downey in Say Goodbye Maggie Cole Tv Movie 1972

As Bertha Duncan in 1953 film noir classic The Big Heat

As Granny Hart in Twilight Zone’s ‘Jess-Belle

As Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ Macbeth

As Mrs Tibbit in Marcus Welby MD “Epidemic”

As Mrs Waddle in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery episode “The Housekeeper”

As Mrs Fitzgibbons in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour “Triumph’

Jeanette Nolan in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery “Since Aunt Ada Came To Stay”

As Judge Millie Cox in The Streets of San Fransisco “The Runaways”

Jeanette Nolan as Granny Harrad in Boris Karloff’s Thriller ‘Parasite Mansion’

Jeanette Nolan as Emma ‘Martha’ Benson in Perry Mason’s The Case of the Nine Dolls

Jeanette Nolas as Mrs Trotter in Alfred Hitchcock Presents “The Morning After”

As Edna Brackett in Quincy M.E. with husband John McIntire

Here’s to the inimitable character- Jeanette Nolan!!! Love Joey


MonsterGirl’s Sunday Nite Snack: We’re Having a Heat Wave! so here’s-The Twilight Zone’s ‘The Midnight Sun’

THE MIDNIGHT SUN

Release date -Nov. 17, 1961 Episode directed by Anton Leader, written by Rod Serling and starring Lois Nettleton as Norma and Betty Garde as Mrs. Bronson.

When the Earth falls out of orbit, two women try to cope with increasingly oppressive heat in a nearly abandoned city.

“STOP PAINTING THE SUN!!!!”

Stay cool! – MonsterGirl


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 643 other followers

%d bloggers like this: