"One For The Angels" is the second episode of The Twilight Zone.
From the CBS Video Library cover:
"Lew Bookman (Ed Wynn) is an unremarkable, sixtyish salesman who works the city streets. Life passes without incident, until one July afternoon when Mr. Death informs him that he is to die at midnight. Faced with the problem of finding a replacement for his elusive subject, Death arranges for little Maggie, a neighborhood child, to die in a traffic accident. Bookman, now determined to save the girl, has no choice but to confront Mr. Death and deliver the toughest sales pitch of his career."
This episode's title sequence again made use of the revised "fifth dimension" introduction:
"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Twilight Zone."
"Street scene: Summer. The present. Man on a sidewalk named Lew Bookman, age sixtyish. Occupation: Pitchman. Lew 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. In just a moment, Lew Bookman will have to concern himself with survival, because as of three o'clock this hot July afternoon he'll be stalked by Mr. Death."
A sidewalk pitchman, Lew Bookman, makes a living selling toys, notions, and trinkets. It's seen that all the children in the neighborhood enjoy this gentle, kindly man. One summer day Mr. Bookman is accosted by Death and told that he is to die at midnight. Lew argues that his life's work as a pitchman is not quite complete, and convinces Mr. Death to give him enough time to give one last, great sales pitch—"one for the angels" as Lew puts it. Once Mr. Death agrees, Bookman announces his intention to quit his profession and find another line of work.
Proud of having outsmarted Mr. Death and now virtually assured of immortality, Lew is informed by Mr. Death that other arrangements must now be made, that someone else will have to take his place. Because of this, Mr. Death chooses a little girl, one of Lew's good friends who lives in the same building. When she is hit by a truck Lew immediately offers to go with Mr. Death but is told it's too late.
Later that night, as the girl lies comatose, Death comes to claim her. Bookman pleads with Mr. Death to take him instead, despite their agreement. Mr. Death is adamant; a deal is a deal. He must be in the little girl's room at midnight to take her. As the appointed time nears, Bookman distracts Death by beginning a sales pitch. So well does Bookman describe the wonders of his wares that Mr. Death is enticed into purchasing everything: "Gimme all you have." So enthralled is Mr. Death with Lew's eloquence he forgets to claim the girl's life. The town clock tower tolls midnight before Death realizes that he's missed his appointment. The little girl will live.
In making this marvelous pitch, one so compelling that even Death himself was moved—"a pitch for the angels"—Bookman has willingly sacrificed his own life to save that of his friend, thus fulfilling his original agreement. Before leaving with Death, Bookman packs up his suitcase on legs containing his wares, hopefully remarking "You never know who might need something up there." He repeats, with a note of uncertainty, "Up there?" Mr. Death smiles, "Up there, Mr. Bookman. You made it."
"Lewis J. Bookman, age sixtyish. 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."
Preview for Next Week's Story
"Next week, we invite you to take a walk down a Western frontier street at the elbow of a doomed gunman, whose salvation lies in nothing less than a magic potion and...a Colt .45. Mr. Dan Duryea stars in "Mr. Denton on Doomsday", next week on The Twilight Zone. We hope you'll be able to be with us. Thank you and good night."
Preview for Another CBS Show
"Kimberly-Clark invites you to watch Steve McQueen in Wanted: Dead or Alive, Saturday nights over the most of these same stations!"
This episode deals heavily with the theme of death and its inevitability. This is assisted by having death personified in the character Mr. Death, depicted as a strict but not unpleasant bureaucrat who must complete his task or suffer the collapse of all reality. Also examined is the contrast between the age of children and the age of the elderly and the expectations from life that change from the passage on from the former to the latter.
It is a study of obligation and responsibility, in which Lewis Bookman and Mr. Death are forced to accept their roles, however reluctantly: Mr. Death feeling forced to claim an innocent child's life to maintain order and fulfill the commitments and obligations he has as the agent of death and Mr. Bookman having to accept his own death and take responsibility in order to avoid having its effects thrust upon someone else.
The episode also deals with themes of Morality, and the survival instinct humans live with when faced with death. Bookman is initially willing to cheat death in order to get more time on Earth, something that benefits him alone. But when he discovers a little girl will die in his place, he is forced to reconsider his initial attitude to the problem or deal with the fact that he caused the death of an innocent girl.
Death | Age | Responsibilty | Love | Morality | Sacrifice
Response and Analysis
- This tale is reminiscent of the 1957 film The Seventh Seal, by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. In the film, a medieval knight returning home from a crusade finds Death has come to claim him. He challenges Death to a game of chess, in order that he may be reunited with his wife after ten years apart. The grim figure accepts, with the knight's life depending upon the outcome of the game.
- A somewhat similar portrayal of death had been used in the 1934 film, Death Takes a Holiday, which would be remade in 1971 under the same name as the original and again in 1998's Meet Joe Black, starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.
Notes and Annotations
- The title refers to the lead character's dream of someday making a sales pitch that is big enough that the sky will open up; "a really big pitch, one for the angels."
- "Pitchman" defined:
- pitchman (plural pitchmen)
- 1. A salesman, especially, one who aggressively markets wares from a street stall, or a carnival or side show act.
- pitchman (plural pitchmen)
- Cheating Death is also a common theme in folklore:
- In Greek mythology, Zeus once ordered Thanatos (a Greek psychopomp) to chain Sisyphus in Tartarus. Sisyphus slyly asked Thanatos to show how the chains were supposed to fit by trying them on. When Thanatos did so, Sisyphus secured them, trapping Death so that no one would be able to die. Eventually, an annoyed Ares, robbed of glorious deaths in battle, freed Thanatos and Sisyphus was finally sent to Tartarus.
- In a Venetian story, the ingenious Beppo captures Death in a bag and keeps him there for eighteen months; there is general rejoicing; nobody dies, and the doctors are in high feather.
- In a Sicilian story an innkeeper corks up Death in a bottle; so nobody dies for years, and the long white beards are a sight to see. In a similar story, a monk keeps Death in his pouch for forty years (T. F. Crane, Italian Popular Tales, 1885).
- The German parallel is Gambling Hansel, who kept Death up a tree for seven years, during which no one died (Grimm, Household Tales).
- In Norse folklore is the tale of the Master Smith (G. W. Dasent, Popular Tales from the Norse).
- Louis Bookman (1890 – 1943) was a Lithuanian footballer and cricketer who left his native country for Ireland in the 1890s because of anti-Semitism. He represented his adopted country, Ireland, in both sports. Although Mr. Serling did address the subject of anti-Semitism in several episodes of the series, it is unknown if the name is more than coincidence.
- Rod Serling as Narrator (voice only); uncredited
- Ed Wynn as Lewis "Lew" Bookman
- Murray Hamilton as Mr Death
- Dana Dillaway as Maggie
- Jay Overholts as Doctor
- Merritt Bohn as Truck Driver
- Mickey Maga as Ricky; uncredited
- Rod Serling (writer; executive producer: Cayuga Productions)
- Buck Houghton (producer)
- George T. Clemens (director of photography)
- Lyle Boyer (film editor)
- Millie Gusse (casting; credited: Mildred Gusse)
- George W. Davis (art director)
- William Ferrari (art director)
- Rudy Butler (set decorator)
- Henry Grace (set decorator)
- Ralph W. Nelson (production manager)
- Edward O. Denault (assistant director (credited: Edward Denault)
- Franklin Milton (sound; credited: Frank Milton)
- Jean G. Valentino (sound; credited: Jean Valentino)
- Van Allen James (sound effects editor; uncredited)
- Cayuga Productions
- Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (in association with)
- Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1959) (USA) (TV) (original airing)
- Corporation, The (2008) (France) (DVD)
- United Productions of America (UPA) : animated title
- Westrex Recording System : recording system
Home media release
- The toy Robby The Robot featured in this episode is the Nomura 1957 Robby Mechanized Robot (aka the Kitahara #1). Someone in the prop department applied a sticker of a blood shot human eye onto its dome to give it a distinctive, different look.
- "Ed Wynn was a sweetheart," recalls Dana Dillaway. "He gave me a box of European chocolates after the filming was finished. I remember saying his character's name, 'Lou', about a million times during rehearsals. The scene where I was hit by the car was kind of morbid… I remember they kept spritzing the actor who was driving the car with a water spray bottle, who came around to see if I was okay while laying in the street... there is a publicity shot of me laying there and it's kind of morbid!"
- In consideration of Ed Wynn's advanced age, the night-time scenes were filmed during the day, with tarpaulins pulled over the set to give the illusion of night.
- This episode takes place from July 19 to July 20, 1960.
- Murray Hamilton is probably better remembered for his role playing a different "mister," appearing as Mr. Robinson in the 1967 film The Graduate.
- The character of Mr. Death appears again in a later episode of the series, Season 3's "Nothing In The Dark", this time portrayed by Robert Redford.
- Ed Wynn would later appear in Season 5's "Ninety Years Without Slumbering" and previously appeared in Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling's teleplay, Requiem for a Heavyweight.
- Jay Overholts appeared in a total of eight episodes of The Twilight Zone, the others being Season 1's "Where is Everybody?", Season 2's "A Thing About Machines", "Twenty Two", "The Odyssey of Flight 33", and "Static", and Season 3's "The Jungle" and "Showdown with Rance McGrew".
- A Robby The Robot action figure can be seen as one of the toys that Bookman is selling on the street. The robot would later appear in two more The Twilight Zone episodes, Season 5's "Uncle Simon" and "The Brain Center at Whipple's". He also was a cast member of the science fiction film classic, Forbidden Planet.
- "I just never will understand you people. You get this idiotic notion that life goes on forever, and of course it doesn't. Everyone has to go sometime."
- "Mr. Bookman, I have a very odd feeling that you're taking advantage of us."
- "Mr. Bookman, it won't just end here, you understand. There'll be consequences, you see!"
Notes and References
- CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #0307 "Invaders/One For The Angels/Eye of the Beholder/The Lonely," Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)
- CrazyAboutTV.com: The Twilight Zone TV Show (1959)
- Wikipedia: One For The Angels
- "Sisyphus". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
- Wikipedia: Louis Bookman
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