Starring: Ed Wynn as Lou Bookman and Murray Hamilton as Mr. Death
One for the Angels
Serling: Street scene, summer, the present. Man on the sidewalk named Lou Bookman. Age: 60ish, Occupation: Pitchman. Lou Bookman, a fixture of the summer. A rather minor component to a hot July. A nondescript, commonplace little man whose life is a treadmill built out of sidewalks, and, in just a moment, Lou Bookman will have to concern himself with survival. Because, as of 3:00 this hot July afternoon, he’ll be stalked by Mr. Death.
We start the show with Lou Bookman doing his thing and, well, pitching, I guess. What with licenses and whatnot I’m thinking that’s a profession that ain’t around anymore. Mr. Death, who is being Mr. Stalker at the moment because he’s staring at Lou and taking notes, looks on.
Lou takes a break to talk to a bunch of kids and give them some toy robots, or robits, if you’re pronouncing it the Twilight Zone way. Anyway, he invites them for his usual Lou Bookman Ice Cream Social Hour. And yes, this was back when guys could hang out with kids on TV without people automatically thinking PEDO ALERT.So, basically, nice guy who gives out toys and ice cream to the neighborhood kiddies with no ulterior motives. These kids really are from the Twilight Zone because they actually say “Thank you” for the toys.
Lou goes to his apartment, which is small, cluttered with stuff but homey looking. Mr. Death is still being Mr. Stalker by popping up in Lou’s apartment uninvited and starts asking him a bunch of questions. And yay! Detroit! You know, back when it used to be known for more than being broke. But, yay anyway for a Michigan reference. I may be getting more excited than I should be but Michigan largely gets ignored in newer shows. Ahem, anyways. Let’s carry on.
If Lou sounds familiar to anyone else he is also the voice of The Mad Hatter on Disney’s Alice in Wonderland cartoon. Cute Little Moppet Maggie pops by to have Lou fix her toy and Lou is abnormally thick that Maggie can’t see Mr. Death. He says that only those about to ACCOMPANY HIM (foreshadowing!) can see him. Lou doesn’t trust his visitor because he finds him devious and deceitful, ironic in light of later events. Mr. Death basically has to spell out (and kill a harmless little plant) that Lou is supposed to die at midnight that night. Lou shows very little appreciation for being forewarned and dying in his sleep. I guess nothing pleases some people.
Lou doesn’t want to go so they start going over a list of Extenuating Circumstances. The first two are strikes as he has no family and is not anybody Important, like a statesman (hahahaha) or a scientist on the verge of a major discovery. The third category sounds like a winner though: Unfinished Business. Lou leaps at that and starts listing things he’s never done, like flown in a helicopter, but Death shoots that down quick. He’s also apparently bored of his seat and teleports across the room. For, reasons, I guess. He also has never seen a Zulu war dance but travel plans aren’t good enough either. The winner is a pitch. A pitch so big the skies would open up. That’d be one hell of a sale I guess. No pun intended. He wants it so that he wold know that for one moment he would have been successful and the kids would be proud of him. Sigh. Ok, the kids seem to love him just fine and probably could care less if he made a huge pitch but, whatever. Also, the whole “I need to do something BIG for my life to mean anything” always annoys me. Just because you’re not a star, or even popular does not mean that you have made no difference to anybody. You know that girl that you told her that her shirt was cool? Maybe she was having a bad day and that made it better. That might seem oddly specific but point is, you just don’t know. So quit with the whole “I’m not popular with tons of people around me so I made no difference” crap. You might have and just don’t know it. Of course, if you’re a total douche-guzzler who has never, ever done anything nice or even just reasonably polite for anybody then you’re probably right. But for the resst of humanity that aren’t psychopaths, then chances are you’ve done at least one nice thing that someone will remember. So guy out there who liked my Mushroomhead shirt? Thanks.
Ok, lecture done, moving on.
Lou’s always had a fondness for children (get it out of the gutter). At first Death says no way but he’s a big softie and the puppy dog eyes do the trick. death grants him his request and says that Lou can live until he’s made his pitch. Not too smart not to set a time limit but, whatever. Lou, of course, jumps all over that and hurries Death on out the door. Death begins to be suspicious and says he’s getting the feeling that he’s being taken advantage of. Lou basically says, “Yeeah, about that pitch? Not doing it. BYE! and slams the door in Death’s face. Not too smart. Plus, dick move when Death was nice enough to bend the rules for him.
Death pops back inside to tell him that this isn’t the end of their conversation. So Lou tries to jet and Death keeps popping up to warn him that he’s being a shade ungrateful and, more importantly, that there’ll be consequences.
The consequences are very swift in coming. Offscreen there’s the screech of tires, a scream and excited vices chattering. Lou dashes out to see what’s wrong. Oh dear. Little Moppet Maggie got hit by a car. Apparently they were all waiting for Lou to get there because nobody has gone for a doctor yet. Lou folds up his coat and puts it under her head which would be sweet gesture if she hadn’t just been hit by a car! She actually looks pretty ok, but still. If she has an injured spine or neck then lifting her head might not be such a hot idea. For someone who just got hit by a car she’s remarkably alert. And can move her head. Guess the lucked out on her not actually being injured. And *Gasp* *Surprise* she can now see Mr. Death. Mr. Bookman freaks out and offers to go with Death right now, this very second, if he’ll leave Maggie alone. Which is actually very sweet. Death ain’t hanging around to listen and jets.
After the NetBreak we see Maggie lying in bed. No hospital? Umm, ok. TV Logic, I guess. Seems everybody loves Maggie because there’s a crowd waiting to find out how she’s going to be. Lou’s waiting at the bottom of the steps and the doctor tells him “She’s a very sick little girl but they’ll know soon. She should hit a crisis by midnight”. WTF? So. now she’s not injured but sick? The only context I’ve heard ‘a crisis’ in, in that way, was with illness. Did the car knock her into a bad case of pneumonia? Or the flu? After this little exposition of non-logic logic, Lou figures that Mr. Death will be showing up at midnight for Maggie. He devises a plan to stop Death. On a side note I think I remember reading in the book The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories she does get sick instead of being hit by a car. But I’m not positive, it’s been a while since I’ve read the originals.
There’s some tension filled waiting going on with a clock ticking and Lou fidgeting. how can they not know that the guy is Death when things get dark and dramatic music cues every time he shows up? Lou and Death chat a bit. Death says he has an “appointment” with Maggie in 15 minutes. Why he showed up so early is anybody’s guess. He’s a very committed employee. Lou again offers himself but because he refused earlier the arrangement with the girl is pretty much set. Lou asks, not very subtly, what exactly would happen if he didn’t get in there at midnight. Basically everything would be all screwed up and it’s unheard of if he didn’t get in there precisely at midnight.
Lou starts setting up for a Pitch. death is a tad skeptical that he’ll find any buyers that late at night but Lou points out that Mr. Death is there. Death looks on, a trifle amused, as Lou begins his pitch with ties. Ties spun from the finest imitation silk, no less. Y’know. Death is kind of cute with a really cute smile.
As the spiel goes on Death becomes more and more interested in the pitch. We get a non-verbal montage of Lou doing his pitch, Maggie tossing and turning in bed, and Death becoming increasingly enthralled by Lou’s pitch. His hair is now mussed a bit, he’s bought several ties and is trying the tensile strength of a spool of thread. Ok, just out of curiosity did people really pass these salesmen and think oh, damn! I forgot my tie this morning! Or, I’ve just got to have that spool of thread.
The pitch goes on and Lou is very good at laying it on thick. Something about birds smuggling in the thread and it takes 800 or so trips to make one spool of thread. That he can sell for 25 cents. Okey dokey. I realize that this is kind of their thing and what pitchmen did but did people actually believe that? Or did they buy it because it was cheap, knowing full well that the story was bull? Just curious. Death wants all the thread. Which kind of makes me wonder what in the hell he’s using for money? But I guess it doesn’t really matter because Lou doesn’t really care about actually selling anything. He’s just trying to buy some time (see what I did there? Ahem, moving on).
As his final pitch he pitches…himself. All parts interchangeable. And with a warranty. Cool. Doesn’t really matter because he stalls Death long enough to miss his appointment. The doctor comes out, telling the mother to give the little girl a sedative every 3 hours and she’ll be fine. if she doesn’t die of an overdose that is.
Death compliments Lou on his pitch and Lou says it was his biggest ever. A pitch truly for the angels. Literally. He comes along willingly now, bringing along his pitch kit, in case someone needs something “up there”. Proving that you can take it with you.
Louis J. Bookman, Age: 60ish, Occupation: Pitchman. Formerly a fixture of the summer, formerly a rather minor component to a hot July. But throughout his life, a man beloved by the children and therefore a most important man. Couldn’t happen you say? Probably not in most places. But it did happen in “The Twilight Zone”.
I’ve always liked this one. It’s not my absolute favorite but it’s up there. It’s kind of sad, kind of sweet, with a bit of a sad-happy ending. And the moral doesn’t beat you over the head as some of the Zone tales can tend to do.
That’s all for tonight. Come back next Tuesday for episode 3 of season 1. Also, I’ll hopefully be getting a couple of reviews up that I’ve been meaning to for quite some time. and an update on the Horror Reading challenge.
As always please feel free to drop me a line. If you like this episode and have some more thoughts on it let me know! If you have any ideas or suggestions I’m always open to ways I can improve the blog for my readers. Thanks for stopping in and spending some time in The Twilight Zone.