"Walking Distance" is the fifth episode of the The Twilight Zone.
From the CBS Video Library cover:
"Advertising executive Martin Sloan (Gig Young), age thirty-six, is exhausted by the hectic pace of life in New York City. One day, while in an especially disgruntled mood, Martin goes for a drive in the country and winds up not far from his old home town. He stops, leaves his car at a gas station and sets off on foot to the town. Mysteriously, he arrives to find things exactly as they were when he was a child. Then reality sets in. His short walk has taken him a long, long way...much farther than he thought...all the way to The Twilight Zone."
- 1 Episode Details
- 2 Themes
- 3 Response and Analysis
- 4 Technical Information
- 5 Trivia
- 6 Notes and References
- 7 External Links
Martin Sloan, age thirty-six. Occupation: vice-president, ad agency, in charge of media. This is not just a Sunday drive for Martin Sloan. He perhaps doesn't know it at the time, but it's an exodus. Somewhere up the road he's looking for sanity. And somewhere up the road, he'll find something else.
A middle-aged man, Martin Sloan, is driving cross-country when he stops his car. He walks toward his hometown, which appears exactly as it was when he was a boy. He goes into a drugstore and has an ice cream soda while recalling his memories from the past. He says, "One of the greatest memories I have is Old Man Wilson, may God rest his soul, sleeping in his comfortable chair just like he did before he died." The cashier looks shocked but doesn't say anything and as Martin leaves the store, the cashier goes up to a room where Mr. Wilson is sleeping and says "We'll need more chocolate syrup, Mr. Wilson." He responds by saying "I'll order some more of it this afternoon."
A man can think a lot of thoughts and walk a lot of pavements between afternoon and night. And to a man like Martin Sloan, 'till memory has suddenly become reality, a resolve can come just as clearly and inexorably as stars in the summer night. Martin Sloane is now back in time. And his resolve is to put in a claim to the past.
Trying to convince his parents that he is their son from the future, he succeeds only in proving his insanity. Martin tries to warn his younger self to enjoy his childhood before it is too late, but his advances scare young Martin, who falls off the merry-go-round and injures his leg. Finally, his father confronts him. Having seen the papers in Martin's wallet and now believing him to be who he says he is, he tells him to return to his own time. Martin finds himself back in his own time, walking with a new limp.
Martin Sloan, age 36, vice president in charge of media. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives—trying to go home again. And also, like all men perhaps, there'll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he'll look up from what he's doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and places of his past. And perhaps, across his mind there'll flit a little errant wish that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he'll smile then, too, because he'll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man's mind that are a part of the Twilight Zone.
Preview for Next Week's Story
An excursion into fantasy on The Twilight Zone next week as two distinguished actors -- Mr. David Wayne and Mr. Thomas Gomez -- appear in "Escape Clause", the story of a strange contract between a mortal man and his most satanic majesty, a contract that ends most surprisingly. We hope you'll be around to see what that surprise is. Thank you and good night.
From the CBS Video Library:
"For Rod Serling, "Walking Distance" had an intensely personal meaning. He conceived the plot when he was out walking on an MGM set and became overwhelmed with nostalgia when he realized its similarity to the town of Binghamton, New York, where he grew up during the 1930s. It suddenly struck him that all of us have a deep longing to go back -not to our home as it is today, but as we remember it."
Similar themes are explored in "The Incredible World of Horace Ford" and, to a lesser extent, "Young Man's Fancy." The episode also deals with the relentless pressures of the business world, which also serve as the basis for "A Stop at Willoughby," "The Brain Center at Whipple's," and two Serling teleplays from before and after The Twilight Zone: "Patterns" and the Night Gallery episode "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar."
Response and Analysis
From the CBS Video Library:
"Walking Distance" is clearly a fantasy. That's why Serling and Stevens use a visual allusion to Through The Looking Glass, a mirror, for Martin's entrance to the past, instead of a time machine. Serling also shifted to a style of writing that is more wistful, nostalgic. Longing for the past is communicated more through the words than action. And it reaches its peak in Serling's closing narration, perhaps the most touching and beautifully lyrical of any episode.
"It's been three decades since he made that journey but the experience still tingles the flesh and waters the eye. This was "Walking Distance,” Episode Five of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. Originally aired on October 30, 1959, it was the most personal story Serling ever wrote, and easily the most sensitive dramatic fantasy in the history of television. The yearning to recapture one's youth is an inescapable part of the human condition, and to discover, in the end, that the past is irrevocably behind you can be heartbreaking and sobering. With mesmerizing performances by Gig Young and Frank Overton, Serling played out this theme of ice cream and irony, of band concerts and broken dreams, and allowed us to take a better look at ourselves in the process. Devoid of the gimmickry that pervaded other episodes, "Walking Distance" stands alone in its simplicity and maturity. It captured the essence of Serling's poignant pen. Moreover, it's a fine example of how inventive cinematography and inspired direction could propel a half-hour teleplay forward—a rarity in the "golden days" of harried, grind-'em-out production schedules." —Paul Mandell, an excerpt from "'Walking Distance' from The Twilight Zone", first published in the June 1988 of the American Cinematographer magazine.
Notes and Annotations
- The park in the episode is said to be inspired by Recreation Park in Rod Serling's hometown of Binghamton, New York. Like the park in "Walking Distance," Binghamton's Recreation Park has a carousel, fully restored and operational from 1925, and a bandstand. Today, there is a bronze plaque in the floor of the Recreation Park bandstand commemorating Rod Serling.
- Rod Serling as Narrator (voice only); uncredited
- Gig Young as Martin Sloan
- Frank Overton as Robert Sloan
- Irene Tedrow as Mother
- Michael Montgomery as Marty (Martin as a young Boy)
- Ron Howard as The Wilcox Boy [Credited as Ronnie Howard]
- Byron Foulger as Charlie
- Sheridan Comerate as Gas Station Attendant
- Joseph Corey as Soda Jerk
- Buzz Martin as Teenager
- Nan Peterson as Woman in Park
- Pat O'Malley as Mr. Wilson
- Bill Erwin as Wilcox; uncredited
- Robert Stevens (director)
- Buck Houghton (producer)
- Rod Serling (executive producer: Cayuga Productions)
- Bernard Herrmann (composer)
- George T. Clemens (director of photography)
- Joseph Gluck (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)
- Bernard Herrmann (conductor)
- United Productions of America (UPA) animated title
- The sets were built by MGM for the movie Meet Me In St. Louis and the detailed carousel was rented for the occasion.
- Bernard Herrmann's soothing and evocative score was composed specifically for this episode.
- Frank Overton would later appear in the Season 4 episode, "Mute," also appearing as a father figure.
- Irene Tedrow guest-starred in Season 2's "The Lateness of the Hour."
- Nan Peterson appeared in a total of three roles in the Twilight Zone, the others being Season 2's "The Whole Truth" and "From Agnes-With Love."
- Pat O'Malley likewise was featured in two other episodes, Season 2's "Back There" and "Static."
- Bill Erwin made a total of four appearances in the Twilight Zone, the others being in Season 1's "Mr. Denton On Doomsday," Season 2's "Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?" and Season 4's "Mute."
- At the time, Gig Young was married to actress Elizabeth Montgomery, who would also become a veteran of The Twilight Zone (original series) in Season 3's "Two." The two were divorced in January 1963.
- Another marriage connection for this episode is present in the couple Byron Foulger and Dorothy Adams, the latter appearing in Season 2's "Dust."
- This was one of Ron Howard's first roles on television, coming a year before he assumed his famous role as Opie in The Andy Griffith Show.
- Main article: List of memorable quotes from the first series
Notes and References
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)*DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090
- Internet Movie Database. "Walking Distance." Retrieved: 2009-04-30.
- Walking Distance at IMDB.com
- Wikipedia: Walking Distance
- Walking Distance Review at The Twilight Zone Project
- Watch the Episode at CBS.com
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