Thanks for hanging in there while I get this sorted out. It’s been a very busy last two weeks so a lot of things got shoved to the side. But, enough about that boring crap, I see a sign-post up ahead, it’s faded and worn but somehow catches the eye. It says: You are now entering the Twilight Zone, traveler. Take care, beyond this sign the impossible is possible.
Now, onto the Twilight Zone!
The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine
Starring: Ida Lupino as Barbara Trenton, Martin Balsam as Danny Weiss, Jerome Cowan as Jerry Hearndon, Ted de Corsia as Marty Sall, Alice Frost as Sally (and Dean Stockton, uncredited)
We pan down from the intro stars to what seems to be a romance set in a combination of World War 1 and…Robin Hood? I dunno, but the hat screams Robin Hood.
Surprise, it is a movie and the actress is sitting in a chair watching herself. Which seems a little vain to me. Vainception.
Picture of a woman looking at a picture. Movie great of another time, once brilliant star in a firmament, no longer part of the sky. Eclipsed by the movement of Earth and Time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose entire world is a projection room, whose dreams are made of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years. Lying on the unhappy pavement and trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame.
Fade out from Barbara in her projection room to see a maid bringing Barbara some coffee. Looks like Barbara has done alright for herself, the place looks pretty swanky. It looks like the maid has interrupted Barbara acting out the part on the screen . That would be pretty embarrassing to me but Barbara seems to take it in stride. Methinks she has pretend time with her movies a lot.
There’s a ring at the bell so Maid Sally opens it. On the steps is a man who appears to be an old friend of Barbara Trenton, a Mr. Danny Weiss. He seems up on Barbara’s predilection for watching herself. Maid Sally seems worried that Barbara is even worse than before. Can’t say I blame her. The woman shuts herself up in a dark room, smoking and drinking constantly. And role-playing. It does seem a trifle unhealthy.
Danny invites himself in. Eleven in the morning and the first thing she offers him is a drink. Danny gives us a rundown of the L.A. weather (nice, no smog and sunny, thanks Danny!)
He asks what movies she was watching and gets a trifle miffed when he says the year each of them came out. Something tells me she doesn’t like to be reminded that time has passed and the insinuation that she’s *gasp!* older now. Apparently she pours herself into the room and watches her movies everyday, non-stop. Gee, can’t imagine why he’d be worried about her. Also, the way she talks to him I can’t imagine why he’d hang out with her. She’s kind of snippy.
But she gets all happy-happy-joy-joy when he mentions an interview at a (sort-of) made up studio called International (there was an A.I.P. back in the day but I’m guessing they’re trying to leave it as Generic studio). And, I know the series is just beginning and the effects weren’t spectacular, but they really should have tried to make her look older. She doesn’t look that much older than in her old movies.
She’s also weirdly proud that the head of the studio called her “the most difficult star he’d ever worked with”. That isn’t a compliment lady.
She calls Danny a dear, sweet boy and that she’s in love with him. In her “own selfish, devious way”. All righty then. Danny, it’s pretty clear, adores her.
She’s getting all excited about it, hoping for a musical or a love story. Danny has the “how can I tell her they want her to play a mother” look on his face. I would say it’s a little cruel of him to not tell her but she’s vain and self-centered and pretty unappealing so I don’t really care whether or not she gets her poor little hopes dashed. Might as well let the guy she already doesn’t like tell her.
To give him credit he does risk incurring her wrath because he brings up her age again. He tells her to go get ready and meet him at the studio. She still looks a little pissy but agrees.
3:00 at the studio office – They’re meeting with the director? I guess and Danny weasels out of telling her about the part again. So you just know they want her to play a mother or grandmother or something equally sinister. Even though Danny knows her so well he still thinks this is a good idea.
They dance around a bit about the part before he finally drops the dreaded “M” word. She does do a good comeback though. He describes the mother as “forty-ish, vibrant and alive”. She comes back with: “As opposed to what? A corpse!”
She gets uppity about playing a mother in a small role. Considering she hasn’t acted in almost twenty years she really should look at the role at least. Danny tries to talk her into at least checking out the script but she is having absolutely none of that. If she isn’t the lead she wants nothing to do with it. She calls Saul tasteless and crude and Saul takes the gloves off, none too gently reminding her that she’s no longer at the top and that any parts she gets from that studio from then on will be nothing but charity.
Danny bitches Saul out for it but um, Danny? You’re the one who avoided telling her what the part was because you knew she wouldn’t even go there. And she was being a bitch to him first. Weirdly, I think we’re supposed to sympathize more with her and, to a certain extent, I do. It’s a pretty strong indictment against the movie industry, it’s obsession with youth and how women “Over a certain age” were viewed. On the other hand, the lead character is so unappealing and vain that it takes a lot of the sympathetic qualities away (for me, anyway).
Back at The House Where Time Stands Still: Danny tries to soothe her ego by agreeing that Marty Saul is a jerk. Barbara has decided to close the drapes and say to hell with the world and crappy movies (i.e. movies where she’s not the star and they play *gasp!* rock ‘n’ roll). She’s decided to just pretend it doesn’t exist and she can live in her own little bubble where she’s always young and always the star. She’s also decided that in her house it’s always 1930 and wants to give a party for all of her friends. All three of them. Except, oops! one of them has been dead for five years, one moved away and one of them is nowhere to be found. Danny has finally had enough and leaves in a huff.
After the Not-Commercial Break we see Barbara is happily downing some whiskey and (surprise) watching her older movies again. It’s apparently been awhile since she’s been out of the room because her maid is worried about her. She thinks that it’s crazy but she sometimes sees Barbara up on the screen. Which, if Barbara’s only watching her own movies, wouldn’t that be normal?
She tells this to Danny who has popped by again. He must be a masochist or sadist, I’m not sure which. He hates seeing her depressed (and a tad delusional) but can’t help but to remind her of her age all the time.
This time he’s brought a special treat: Jerry Herndon, Barbara’s former leading man in most of her pictures. He thinks it will cheer her up. I’m guessing this is a bad idea all around because Jerry will be older and she’s not going to like that at all.
They mean-banter a bit (well, mean on her side, concerned on his). She is about to lock herself away again when he tells her Jerry Herndon is coming to see her today. She gets all excited and rushes off to shower and pretty up.
She comes down all excited but DRAMATIC MUSIC! He’s old. Apparently she was expecting young, movie Jerry. Danny, because he’s apparently none too bright, obviously didn’t mention her aging issues because the first words out of his mouth are, “Been a long time, Barbara Ann. A lot of water over the dam.” Which really isn’t too cruel but since Barbara is playing pretend it’s like a slap in the face to her.
She at least does admit that she expected to find him as he was in the movies and even confesses to the crazy notion of doing another picture together again. I actually do like her here. She’s sadly vulnerable but trying to keep up the hostess charade. He says he’s not acting anymore, that it got nixed with his youth. She wants to know what he does if he’s not acting. And, horror of horrors, it turns out he runs a chain of supermarkets.
She seems pretty flummoxed with that news. Yet another blow to her carefully built up fantasy. And the pang of sympathy I had for her is gone now because she’s telling him that she didn’t want Jerry Herndon the person to come and see her. She wanted his characters to show up. She kicks them out because they’re yet another reminder that she’s old. That her glory days are gone and she can’t let go of them. To give Jerry credit he doesn’t leave in an offended huff. He tries to gently touch her shoulders and tell her “Goodbye, my dear”. Which is sweet. She, however, shrugs away from his touch like he’s got cooties. She might catch ‘Old’ from him, I guess. Danny is disappointed but all I can do is stare at the weird pineapple design on the back of her dress. And the front. Were they really such a fashionable fruit?
After they leave she decides that since she’s all dressed up, might as well watch some movies. Because those are the only people that matter to her. Characters on the screen and screw the real people in her life who care about her .
Aaaand now she’s trying to wish herself into the movie and young. And some Twilight Zone shit is going down because the screen is getting all blurry.
Sometime later her maid brings her some coffee but doesn’t see Barbara. She, however, sees something on the screen which makes her lose her shit completely. Sally calls Danny after a thorough house search. Barbara is nowhere to be found.
Danny runs the projector. On-screen there’s a party going on in what looks like Barbara’s foyer. People from her movies come traipsing through the front door and gather at the foot of the stairs, waiting for Barbara to come down. She does, and announces that they’re all having dinner by the pool.
She’s just about to go outside on Robin Hood/Jerry Herndon’s arm when Danny begs her to come back. She just gives him a little smile and tosses him a kiss and a scarf. Wow, now that’s a kiss-off. Then she leaves to go hang out with her real/fake friends. Poor Danny.
He leaves the room, looking a bit heart-broken and finds the scarf on the floor of the foyer exactly where she dropped it. He picks it up and I guess is happy for her that her wish came true.
Serling: To the wishes that come true, to the strange mystic strength of the human animal. Who can take a wish and give it a dimension of it’s own. To Barbara Jean Trenton, Movie Queen of another era, who has changed the blank tomb of an empty projection screen into a private world. It can happen, in the Twilight Zone.
Well, at least she got to be happy. Even though it was a vain, selfish happiness. If I’ve sounded a wee bit judgmental through this one you’re probably right. She was mean to the people that actually cared about her but her vanity and ego super-ceded all of that.
Well, that wraps up another Twilight Zone Tuesday. Next week’s episode is ‘Walking Distance’
As always, feel free to leave a comment about the episode or start a discussion about it. I’m always willing to answer questions or take suggestions.
And, as always, you can connect with me via Twitter through areyouscaredyet@GracieKat13 . You’re welcome to drop by because there’s always some random weirdness to be found.
Goodnight and nighty nightmares to all!