November 8, 2010

My Five: Favorite Twilight Zone Actors

We can all name off our favorite actors in film and television, but I'll bet anyone who is a fan of "The Twilight Zone" can name their favorite actors to appear on that show. If you go back and look at the list of performers to appear on that show, it's a who's who of Hollywood's great actors of the day.

Some only starred in a single episode, while others made recurring appearances. The ones who came back again and again are the one I've listed here--at least the five whose performances I've enjoyed the most. After completing this list though, I realized it was absent of a single actress--and "The Twilight Zone" had its share of fantastic female characters. I think I'll have to create another list for today. For now, here are my five favorite male actors to appear on the show:

#5 Jack Klugman ("A Passage for Trumpet", "A Game of Pool", "Death Ship", "In Praise of Pip"): Before The Twilight Zone, I only knew Klugman from Quincy reruns. I was not a fan. Seeing his performances as a struggling pool player, distraught astronaut, and a haunted musician won me over, though. Of the four episodes, I think my favorite performance is from "A Game of Pool". It reminded me a little bit of that Steve McQueen movie about a hustler on his last legs--I liked that movie, and I liked that episode.

#4 Lee Marvin ("The Grave" and "Steel"): The first time I saw Lee Marvin was when I was a little kid and my dad and I watched Cat Baloo (sp.) together--Dad loved that movie. If you haven't seen it, you should. And if you want a sample of his on screen presence, then The Twilight Zone is a great place to start. In "The Graven", he's a gunslinger scared to death at the prospect of revisiting a man he killed, and "Steel" shows him as a boxer who gets in the ring in lieu of his robotic protege (if you ever saw that Simpsons episode where Homer pretends to be Bart's robot gladliator, you'll get the jist). Mediocre roles given some shine by Marvin's acting.

#3 William Shatner ("Nick of Time" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"): C'mon, I had to put Captain Kirk on the list, didn't I? While "Nightmare" is the iconic episode, I actually think he does a better job in "Nick of Time". That's probably because the character isn't so manic and crazed like the one in "Nightmare". This is another example of an actor making the rather mundane roles stand out thanks to an indelible acting style. It's hard to believe a dashing leading man like Shatner has turned into such a portly egotist--he's like Marlon Brando without the cred. Forget @#$% My Dad Says and watch these classic TZ episodes instead.

#2 John Dehner ("The Lonely", "The Jungle", and "Mr. Garrity and the Graves"): If anyone on this list exemplifies my monochrome vision of the late 50s and early 60s, it's Dehner. The man exudes a nostalgic dignity that borders on arrogance that suits the time even better than John Hamm from Mad Men. Oddly enough, his role as Mr. Garrity is probably the most memorable for me because it's a departure from the usual starched-shirt roles he played. There's an impish humor to the role that makes it stand out for me, and makes me appreciate him as an actor even more.

#1 Burgess Meredith ("Time Enough at Last", Mr. Dingle, the Strong", "The Obsolete Man", "Printer's Devil"): Hands down, when I think of The Twilight Zone, Meredith is the guy I attach to it as easily as I do Rod Serling. "Time Enough at Last" is my favorite all-time episode, but the other three in which Meredith starred are all very entertaining as well. "Printer's Devil" is a particular treat because he plays the Devil working for a small town newspaper, and you can see he's enjoying every second of it. God damn, that guy was just fun to watch no matter what.

As a matter of fact, just writing out this list I have a hankering for some Meredith goodness. Maybe Rocky is on somewhere, or I could search YouTube for a clip of him as the Penguin.

What do you think? Does he deserve the top spot on the list or do you think someone else belongs there?


  1. I know this is just the men, but I would have to put Agnes Moorehead on that list. Brilliant performance.

  2. Look for the post on my five fave TZ actresses next Monday. :)