ONE FOR THE ANGELS
Lou Bookman: Ed Wynn
Mr. Death: Murray Hamilton
Narrator: Rod Serling
From now on I’ll be including Trigger Warnings before I do the episode since some of them can have more intense scenes that readers might want to be warned about ahead of time. Since many of them are major plot points I will hide them under a spoiler tag. For instance, in this episode:
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 off this Twilight Zone episode with said Lou Bookman (who you might recognize from Mary Poppins), doing his thing and well, pitching, I guess. Mr. Death, who at the moment is being Mr. Stalker, is looking on and taking notes.
Lou takes a break to talk to some kids and show them his newest creations. He passes out some toy robots, or, ro-bits if you’re pronouncing it the Twilight Zone way. Lou invites them over later that night for his usual Lou Bookman Ice Cream and Social Hour. So, now we know that Lou’s a nice guy because he’s nice to kids (which is a pretty common theme in the Twilight Zone). And you can really tell these kids are from the Twilight Zone because they’re all polite and say thank you for the toys.
Lou goes into his apartment which is small and cluttered but homey looking. Mr. Death continues to be Mr. Stalker and pops into Lou’s apartment uninvited and asking questions. Including where his mother is from so yay! for a Detroit reference. I might be more excited about it than I should be but Michigan gets largely overlooked in newer shows. Ahem. Let’s carry on, shall we?
Little Moppet Maggie pops by to have Lou fix her toy and Lou is abnormally thick to the fact that Maggie can’t see Mr. Death. Mr. Death explains to Lou that only those who are about to accompany him (foreshadowing!) can see him. Lou doesn’t trust his visitor, calling him “devious and deceitful”, ironic in light of Lou’s later actions.
Lou does not get what Death is saying to him. Mr. Death practically has to draw him a picture (and kills a harmless little plant) before Lou gets it that he’s supposed to die at midnight. Lou, naturally, doesn’t want to go. Mr. Death starts going over a list of Extenuating Circumstances. The first is a no-go as he has nobody to depend on him, yeah, like Death ever cared about that. The next is also a strike as he’s not anybody Important like a statesman (hahahahahahahaha) or a scientist on the verge of a major discovery. The third might just be the one Lou’s looking for: Unfinished Business. Lou jumps at that one and starts listing things he’s never done before, like riding in a helicopter and traveling. Also, I guess Death is bored of where he’s sitting because he teleports across the room. For…reasons…I guess. The winning circumstance is Unfinished Business. Lou wants to make a really, really big pitch. One so big the skies will open up just to watch.
He wants it so that he would know that for once he’d been successful and make the kids proud of him. Sigh.
And now a brief word from our blogger: Ok, the kids seem to love him just the way he is and could probably care less if he makes a big pitch or not. The whole “I need to do something BIG with my life for it to mean anything” just annoys the hell out of me. Just because you’re not famous, popular, rich or anything like that does not mean you don’t count. Chances are, you’ve done something that somebody remembers. Remember that woman you held the door for? The one you helped get something down from a high shelf? That girl who looked pissed off but was really in pain and tired as hell and you said you liked her shirt? You might not even remember doing or saying it but that doesn’t mean it didn’t count. So, guy out there who liked my Mushroomhead shirt? Thank you.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
At first Death says no way, but apparently he’s a big softie and falls for Lou’s puppy-dog eyes. Death grants his request and says that Lou can live until he makes his pitch. Not too smart to not set a time limit there, Death. Lou of course is all over that and rushes Death out of the door. Death feels like 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 there, Lou. Plus, dick move when Death is trying to be nice.
Death keeps popping up in front of Lou to tell him that he’s being a shade ungrateful and, more importantly, there’ll be consequences. Lou ain’t hearing it though. Of course, Death doesn’t really explain what those consequences might be.
The consequences are swift in coming. Off screen there’s a screech of tires, a scream and excited voices chattering. Maggie has been hit by a car. Apparently nobody thought to call a doctor until Lou arrived to tell them to. He folds up his coat and puts it under her head. Which would be a very sweet gesture if she hadn’t just been hit by a freaking car!
Maggie can now see Death as well which sucks because now we know she’s the alternate. Lou freaks out and tells Death he’ll go now, right this second if he’ll leave Maggie alone. So, we know Lou really does have a good heart. Death says he doesn’t have a choice anymore, that he’ll be back at midnight for Maggie and leaves.
Maggie is in her bed now. No hospital? TV logic, I guess. Lou is waiting with everyone else to see how Maggie is. The doctor comes out and says, “She’s a very sick little girl but they’ll know soon. She should hit a crisis by midnight.” The hell? The only way I’ve ever heard ‘crisis’ used in that context is with an illness. After this little bit of non-logic exposition, Lou starts to plan.
Lou’s hanging around outside of Maggie’s house, waiting for Mr. Death. Death and Lou chat for a bit about what might happen if Death didn’t keep his appointment. Death says it’s unheard of. Why he’s there so early is anybody’s guess. Dedicated employee?
Lou starts to set up for a Pitch.
Death is a bit skeptical that Lou will find a buyer at that time of night. Lou points out that Death is there. Death looks on, a trifle amused, as Lou begins his pitch with ties. Ties made from the “finest imitation silk”, no less.
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. His hair is now mussed a bit, he’s bought several ties and is trying the tensile strength of a spool of thread. Just out of curiosity did people really pass these salesmen and think “Oh damn! I forgot my tie today!” or, “I’ve just got to have some thread!” ?
Lou is laying it on thick now. Something about birds smuggling in the thread and taking 800 trips just to make one spool. Okey dokey. I realize this was their thing and what pitchmen did but did people really believe it? Or did they just buy it because it was cheap, knowing full well the story was bull and just for entertainment? It doesn’t really matter because Death wants ALL the thread. To buy a little more time Lou offers himself to Death. All parts interchangeable and with a two year warranty.
Lou’s plan works and Death misses his appointment. The doctor comes out, telling the mother that Maggie will be fine as long as she gives Maggie sedatives every three hours. That…seems like a lot to me and maybe not quite the thing for possible broken bones but hey, he’s the doctor. I guess?
Death compliments Lou on his pitch and Lou says it’s his biggest ever. A pitch for the angels. Literally. He comes along willingly now, bringing along his pitch kit, in case someone needs something “up there”. They walk off into the city night together. It just struck me watching it this last time that it looks like the ending of Casablanca a bit.
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 really in my top ten but it’s up there. It’s kind of sad, kind of sweet with just a tiny bit of humour thrown in. By the way…am I the only one who thinks Mr. Death is pretty good-looking? Just me? Ok, then. Thank you for spending time in the Twilight Zone with me.
Next Week’s Twilight Zone Tuesday Episode: Mr. Denton on Doomsday
I also wanted to just leave this note down here. Twilight Zone is an older show, obviously, so religion does get brought up. Mr. Serling quotes from the bible occasionally and a few of the Twilight Zone episodes have a religious theme to them. One of the things I always liked about the Twilight Zone was that even when it is brought up, it’s usually with a very light touch. I do have my own opinions on religion (particularly organized religion) and I understand that it can be a touchy topic for some. I basically just wanted to give a heads up.