Original air date – 10/9/59
Written by Rod Serling | Directed by Robert Parrish
Starring Ed Wynn, Murray Hamilton
I was looking at the first blog (001 – Where is Everybody?) to copy the order that I intro each blog to keep the style consistent and I found out that I followed the convention of listing the director before the writer. With due respect to all television directors out there, you’ve got to admit that The Twilight Zone is a writer show. So I’m going to have to list the writer credit before the director, not that the few of you who stumble onto this site would care.
The second week of The Twilight Zone presented to its audience the subject of death, one of the recurrent themes throughout the series. In One for The Angels, Ed Wynn and Murray Hamilton (The Graduate‘s Mr. Robinson!) played a duo who took part in death negotiation.
The episode opens with a 69-year-old salesman named Lou Bookman (Wynn) peddling his products while he being observed by a suited man played by Hamilton. After a day of work, Lou is seen walking home with his suitcase of products where, upon the sight of him, neighborhood kids lovingly form a circle around him. One of the girls in the crowd is Maggie.
Upon entering his apartment, Lou is surprised to see the same suited man waiting inside. The man is Death and he is there to give Lou a heads up that at midnight his time on earth will be up.
Lou negotiates his way out of what he thinks will be his untimely demise by telling Death that he has yet to make one great sales pitch. Death agrees but tells Lou that in order to do that, he will have to take an alternate soul.
Lou is at first nonchalant until we hear a loud screech from the street outside. The neighborhood girl, Maggie, is hit by a car. Lou realizes now that Death is about to take Maggie as his alternative. But the deal is a the deal. There is nothing they can do now to revert the situation.
That night at 15 minutes before midnight, as Lou is sitting in front of Maggie’s apartment, Death saunters up the steps to take Maggie. Lou proceeds to open his suitcase and pitch his products to Death. He is so persuasive that Death buys out everything.
Just about a minute before midnight, Lou offers his piece de resistance – “one live human manservant – a willing, capable, worldly, highly sophisticated, wonderfully loyal right-hand man to use in any capacity you see fit.” The clock strikes midnight. The doctor emerges from the apartment and pronounces Maggie in safe condition. And Death realizes he has just missed the deadline.
Lou is happy he has made his last great sales pitch to save Maggie’s life. Before he is to leave with Death, Lou, packing up his suitcase to bring with him, says hopefully, “You never know who might need something up there. Up there?” Death replies, “Up There, Mr. Bookman. You made it.”
Oftentimes, death is an uncomfortable topic but in this episode death and the living mingle and it’s light-hearted. Like Death Takes a Holiday, Meet Joe Black or Wings of Desire, Death (who looks sort of like a middle-aged Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is just doing his job. With a notebook and pen in his hands, Death preps Lou, running down the day like a secretary. Faced with Lou’s resistance, Death sighs, “I just never will understand you people. You get the idiotic notion that life goes on forever.” Yes, we do. I do not know of one person who hasn’t had an existential crisis at least once in his/her life. Mine was when I was 12 from watching a stupid 70s Taiwanese romance rerun on TV while living in Bangkok. The notion of my impending death at the ripe old age of 12 incapacitated me for a week. Nothing would cheer me up. Nothing. From my friends to my brother whom I always trusted dispensing his words of wisdom to watching Charo guest-starring for the one hundredth time on another episode of The Love Boat, etc. After a week of my family concocting every reasonings – no matter how ridiculous they would sound – to snap me out of it, my dad gave up and muttered, “It would be so tiring to live forever…” Until this day, I never thought that sentence was anything profound but strangely, on that night, it did the trick.