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The Twilight Zone (Episode #119): “Passage on the Lady Anne” (airdate 5/9/63)
The Plot: A woman believes a cruise is the ticket to saving her marriage, but it’s doubtful that her heart will go on.
The Goods: Eillen Ransome (Joyce Van Patten, who most recently could be seen in Grown Ups and Marley & Me) is not having the best marriage. Her husband Allen (Lee Philips) seems to be sniping at her more and more, and she’s treating him the same way. After eight years, the magic seems to be gone.
Where better to find it than the open ocean? They board a cruiser from New York to Southampton, England, and the emotional states begin ebbing and flowing with the seas themselves. It’s funny, though. All the other passengers seem to be far, far older than the Ransomes.
The supernatural twist (not a difficult one to guess), is reminiscent of an old campfire story about a girl who thinks she’s late for church and winds up sitting in her pew way too early. She looks around, seeing neighbors and friends who died years before, and she runs all the way home. She’s in a place she doesn’t belong.
The Ransomes are in a place they don’t belong, too. Their marriage is not in the state of bliss that a lifelong partnership should inhabit. They’re figuratively at sea, so they decide to take their fighting literally (and litoral-ally) to the ocean. This was the last episode that Charles Beaumont actually wrote before his illness forced him to put down his pen – and it’s a fitting send off because it might be his most mature work. It’s a story about dying from a man who surely knew he was on his way out.
As such, while Van Patten and Philips are interesting (and definitely up for the acting challenge), the real joy is watching the British supporting cast. Specifically, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Gladys Cooper (who would co-star in My Fair Lady the following year as Colonel Pickering and Mrs. Higgins respectively). They both bring a charming nuance and sadness to roles that could have just as easily been over-flowery potpourri. In a way, it is really their story, even though it’s not their journey we’re most concerned with.
To that end, the twist is so plain that it seems clear Beaumont wanted it that way. Everything hints toward the ship being a supernatural voyage toward the other side of death (which means the travel agent who booked the room for the Ransomes really biffed it). Even the title – a play on the double meaning of the word “passage.” The poetic connections ebb and flow easily throughout the writing, and the story ultimately becomes one of what’s most important to us in our lives. Sometimes that becomes brightest right near the end.
What do you think?
The Trivia: Beaumont has been noted as not being particularly romantic, but it’s more the case that his romanticism isn’t the obvious kind. Episodes like Long Distance Call, The Fugitive, and Miniature all ring with a sweetness about them that’s genuine. Perhaps his non-horror work can be summed up in a line from Cooper’s character in Lady Anne:
“Love has its own particular point of view. It sees everything larger than life. Nothing is too ornate, too fanciful, too dramatic. Love demands the theatrical, and then transfigures it. It turns the grotesque into the lovely, as a child does. With it, we can see what we wish to see in other people. Without it, we can’t see anything at all. We can search forever, and never find.”
That’s love in The Twilight Zone.
On the Next Episode: A writer thinks he can steal directly from Shakespeare (who we’ve just learned from Roland Emmerich was a fake anyway).
Catch-Up: Episodes covered by Twitch / Episodes covered by FSR
We’re running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes over the next several weeks, and we won’t be doing it alone! Our friends at Twitch will be entering the Zone as well on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at Twitch and feel free to also follow along on our Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.