Twilight Zone Tuesday – Long Live Walter Jameson

Long Live Walter Jameson

Professor Walter Jameson/Tom Bowen/Major Hugh Skelton – Kevin McCarthy
Professor Sam Kittridge – Edgar Stahli
Susanna Kittridge – Dodie Heath
Laurette Bowen – Estelle Winwood

Trigger Warnings:

Spoiler Tidbit

We open on a bustling college scene. A very prestigious looking place, complete with ivy.

You’re looking at act one, scene one of a nightmare. One not restricted to witching hours and dark, rain swept nights. Professor Walter Jameson, popular beyond words, who talks of the past as if it were the present. Who conjures up the dead as though they were alive.

During Serling’s intro we get an overview of the class, mostly college kids and one older gentleman, presumably another professor.

Jameson is talking about the Civil War and the burning of Atlanta. He tells his class that the soldiers took no pleasure in doing so. Jameson says they were forced to by a man they hated more than they could ever hate any of the Confederacy. A man whom Jameson calls ugly, sullen and brutal – a man named William Tecumseh Sherman.

To illustrate his point he reads an excerpt from a diary about the ‘great hero’. A diary written by a Major Skelton. The date of the excerpt is 09/11/1864. We also get a very nice close-up of Jameson’s hand with a cameo on his pinky finger. I thought at first that the lined paper was wrong but a little research (well, two seconds on Bing anyway) tells me I’m wrong and lined paper did exist at that time. The hand writing and phrasing looks a little modern to me, though, as does the ink. But! I’m not an expert so don’t take my word for it. I’m just going by appearances.

Jameson says that Sherman lit the fires himself, even though there was no need to burn anything that couldn’t be used as a weapon against them but Sherman burnt it anyway. There’s also an interesting passage just before the portion that Jameson reads out loud. It says – “He cursed us for our cowardice and liked to say ‘The good die young. If you’re evil enough you’ll live forever.'”

The older gentleman looks very interested in what Jameson is saying.

In the view of this man, Professor Samuel Kittridge, Walter Jameson has access to knowledge that couldn’t come out of a volume of history but rather from a book on black magic. Which is to say that this nightmare begins at noon.

As Serling is talking we get an insane close-up on Jameson’s eyes. They are quite lovely.

Professor Sam approaches Jameson after the lecture and compliments him on it, telling him it was very vivid and he can see why they’re so popular. Jameson wants to know if that’s why Sam sat in on it. Sam says partly. He wants to know who Major Skelton was and Jameson shrugs it off as just a lawyer who enlisted. Sam wants to know what regiment and Jameson tells him the 123rd Illinois Infantry.

Professor Sam is impressed with the diary. As well he should be. It’s in excellent shape. Sam asks if he can borrow it but Jameson says he doesn’t lend things to absent-minded professors. They chuckle a bit over that. Jameson wants to know if anything’s wrong and Sam says no. A little too quickly. Then he asks Jameson over to dinner. Jameson wants to know who’s inviting him? Sam or Susanna? Sam says he is although if his daughter lives at home does it really matter? Jameson watches Sam walk away with a mildly disturbed expression

Later That Night:
Jameson is leaving to walk to Sam’s house, which is literally right across the street. Behind a tree in his yard lurks an older lady, watching him.

Over at Professor Sam’s a young lady is coming down the stairs, giving her hair one last pat. I’m guessing that this is Susanna and that she and Jameson are a bit more than acquaintances. She greets him with a “darling” and a hug. Better cover your eyes, kiddos, it’s getting racy now. Sam looks on from the kitchen and he does not look happy.

Jameson and Susanna chat a bit about her incipient Phd. She says she still needs to take her final exam but he brushes it off as a technicality. Anyways, “she’s going to be a housewife”. Daddy Sam steps forward and says to hell with that, she’s not wasting her brain just because she’s marrying him. Daddy Sam insists that she’s getting her Phd. even if “he has to spank her”. Ew, ew and double ew. What’s even creepier is that he’s obviously said it enough for Jameson to finish his sentence. Apparently Susanna has no opinion on any of this because she doesn’t say one word during this whole exchange.

Jameson asks Sam if he’s cooking and Sam gets all huffy and says yes, does he have a problem with that? Y’know, disregarding the spanking phrase (which is probably a joke, I hope) Sam seems to be a pretty progressive father. He cooks, rather than making his daughter do it. He wants her to get a degree rather than playing homemaker.

After dinner Jameson compliments Sam on his cooking then takes Susanna’s arm to walk her into the living room. They’re actually doing a nice, subtle job of showing that Jameson is…a bit old-fashioned. He wants his wife to be a homemaker and in previous years men would take a lady’s arm to escort her from the room.

Susanna starts to sit down with them but Daddy Sam sends her to her room to study, even though I doubt one night of not studying will make that big of a difference. But Daddy Sam wants to talk to Jameson privately so like a good little girl, off she goes. Jameson watches her up the stairs.

Jameson says Sam ought to be ashamed ordering his daughter around like that when she’s almost thirty. Sam agrees and says that he himself is almost seventy. Sam and Jameson sit down to a game of chess that looks like it’s been going on for awhile. Maybe we don’t take it seriously enough and think every move out because our chess games don’t usually last for days.

The action’s really taking off now! Two guys playing chess. Sam stares at Jameson intently while Jameson stares at the board and sucks on a pipe (a smoking pipe, get it out of the gutter you guys). Jameson reaches out his hand to move a piece and Sam grabs Jameson’s hand, comparing it to his own. Jameson (quite reasonably) wants to know what he’s doing.

Sam points out how different they look. Odd when they looked so similar just twelve years ago. Jameson plays it casual and says that time marches on. Sam, in his turn, wants to know exactly how old Jameson is. Jameson says that he’s forty four. Sam thinks that’s odd because when Jameson came to work for the university he said he was thirty nine. Oops. Jameson kind of sucks at lying and covering his tracks. Jameson says fine, I’m fifty one. He wants to know if that’s what Sam’s problem is, he thinks Jameson is too old for his daughter. Older men with comparatively younger women seems to be a big thing on the Twilight Zone. I’m not sure if it’s the time period, Hollywood’s notion that only “young is pretty” (blech) or the effects of World War II.

Sam partly agrees to that but I have a feeling that Sam means more than a twenty year age difference. Sam takes a quick peek upstairs to see if Susanna’s still being a good little girl and staying upstairs. Sam points out that in 1947 he was fifty eight years and in twelve short years he’s got wrinkles, less hair and less teeth but Jameson hasn’t changed at all. Which doesn’t really make too much sense. Sam just said he was pretty dashing still at fifty eight and Jameson is younger than fifty eight. So, shouldn’t Jameson still be pretty young looking? And sometimes people don’t change that much between thirty nine and fifty.

Sam also says that he’s spoken to some of Jameson’s students and they’ve told him that Jameson makes it feel as though he’s been there. Jameson says he tries to make it interesting for them. How horrible for a teacher! Sam asks if Jameson fakes it and Jameson agrees. Sam disagrees however. He doesn’t think a precise man like Jameson would fake it.

Sam pulls out a book of pictures taken during the Civil war and a magnifying glass. The picture he’s looking at looks a lot like Walter Jameson. Jameson, who can’t see the picture, wants to know what’s wrong. Sam asks if Jameson had a grandfather in the Civil War. Jameson says no. Damn, dude. You suck at lying! Sam says he was interested in the Major Skelton that Jameson talked about earlier so he looked him up, not really expecting to find anything but he found this very interesting picture, identified as Major Hugh Skelton. And, surprise! It looks just like Jameson. Sam says he shouldn’t have kept the ring, it gives him away. Jameson says Sam must be joking. It’s a picture that looks slightly like him. Sam points out that they even have the same mole.

Sam wants Jameson to tell him the truth. Is he really the guy in the picture? Jameson says yes, he is. Sam says he’s suspected for a long time but didn’t want to believe it because it seemed impossible. Sam wants to know how old Jameson really is. Jameson asks back if Sam really wants to know and Sam says yes. Jameson doesn’t give an exact age but he says he’s old enough to have known Plato personally. Sam says that’s over two thousand years old. Jameson says he knew Sam wouldn’t believe him. Sam says he believes him but…how?! Sam wants to know what the secret is and practically begs Jameson to tell him. Jameson says he can’t tell him because he doesn’t know himself.

Back story time! Jameson says he used to be obsessed with death and immortality. He thought if only a man could live forever then there’d actually be a point to living. He talked to priests, philosophers and then one day he met an alchemist. He paid an alchemist and let him run experiments on him. When he woke up the alchemist had disappeared and Jameson thought the experiments had failed. Then he realized that everyone around him was growing old and dying around him. He asks Sam if he would really want that. Sam says an emphatic yes! But Jameson, speaking from experience says that no, he wouldn’t. Personally I’d only do it if I could do it to everyone else. I wouldn’t want to do it on my own. Jameson says it’s death that gives life meaning. That we do things more and feel more deeply because our time is limited. I am paraphrasing a bit here but you get the gist.

Sam says it’s better than being old and scared but Jameson disagrees. He tells Sam that he wants to die but he’s a coward. Jameson says he has a revolver and every night he takes it out, wanting the courage to use it. Sam is amazed that Jameson has been living for two thousand years and hasn’t gotten injured once? Jameson says that some people are lucky like that. He says he’s been close to death but not close enough. Sam says thank you. Jameson is a little confused and asks what for? Sam thought if a person lived long enough then they’d become wiser but that’s obviously not true. Jameson agrees.

Sam wants to know if Jameson’s been married before and asks how long he stays with each woman. Jameson gets it now. He tells Sam that he tried retiring when he knew Susanna was falling in love with him He didn’t want it to end the same way it always does. Jameson says he tried to discourage it. Sam says Jameson should have told her the truth and Jameson argues back that she would have thought he was mad. Well, that would be one way of discouraging her, wouldn’t it? Sam wants to know why Jameson didn’t just leave. Jameson said that by then it was too late, he was in love with Susanna. Jameson says he needs her. Everything is against it working but he can’t walk away.

Sam says yes there is. He’s not going to let Jameson marry Susanna. Let her? She’s almost thirty! Which is what Susanna wants to know. Jameson says that Sam thinks he’s too old for her. Sam’s eyes get huge. Like you expected him to tell her the truth? You’re right, Sam. Wisdom doesn’t come with age. Besides. Sam just sounds bitchy because Jameson couldn’t tell him the secret recipe. Jameson proposes getting married tonight. She’s all for it. She goes upstairs to pack a few pretties. Sam says he’ll tell on Jameson. Jameson says she won’t believe him. Nobody will and just let it drop. By morning even Sam will be convinced that Sam is wrong.

Jameson heads back home. Back at his house Jameson pulls a piece of paper out of his desk, along with his revolver. He seems to consider suicide for a moment but then pushes the gun away from himself. As he starts to write a note he hears a voice from the shadows say: “Hello, Tommy.”

He whips the lamp over and it’s the Lurking Granny from earlier. He wants to know who she is. she asks him if he recognizes her but he doesn’t. I’m assuming it’s one of the Mrs. Jameson’s. She calls him Tommy and he insists his name is Walter Jameson. She disagrees and says that his name is Tom Bowen. Her husband. She saw his picture in a newspaper announcement for his engagement. She had to see if it was true. She doesn’t know how it happened but it’s true. She’s aged while he hasn’t. And now he’s going to marry another woman and eventually leave her. But she can’t let him do that because he belongs to her. She picks up the revolver that he put down and says that he can’t go on hurting people.

Sam hears the gunshot from across the street. Sam sees Laurette leaving and asks what happened but she just jets. Sam runs into the house to see what happened. He finds Jameson alone, in the dark, in his study. Jameson tells Sam that he’ll be rid of him one way or the other. He wants Sam to tell Susanna…something. He starts to fall over. Sam tries to help him but Jameson tells him to get back. What? He doesn’t want to splash immortality on Sam? They’re not vampires. Sam turns on a light and tries to call a doctor but Jameson stops him. Jameson starts to crumble.

Susanna runs over and wants to see if Walter is all right because she heard the shot. There’s nothing left of Walter but dust. He shoos Susanna out and tells her it’s only dust. Yes, with a Walter suit on top of it. Weird, huh? But Susanna doesn’t seem to think it’s that strange.

Last stop on a long journey as yet another human being returns to the vast nothingness that is the beginning, and into the dust that is always the end.

I really like this one. I like the acting and the effects on Walter Jameson’s disintegration are really well done.

Join us next week for another tale from the Twilight Zone: People Are Alike All Over which is a great one with Roddy McDowall