Original Air Date: May 20, 1960
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Don Medford
“You take what you get and you live with it.”
“Joey Crown, musician with an odd, intense face, whose life is a quest for impossible things like flowers in concrete or like trying to pluck a note of music out of the air and put it under glass to treasure…Joey Crown, musician with an odd, intense face, who, in a moment, will try to leave the Earth and discover the middle ground – the place we call The Twilight Zone.”
In a noir-stylized scene we are introduced to Joey Crown (played by Jack Klugman), a down on his luck trumpet player who finds solace at the bottom of a bottle. He is forced to sell his beloved trumpet for cash and decides he would rather die than continue on without music, so he steps in front of an oncoming truck.
Suddenly, he awakens but no one else seems to notice him. Assuming he has died, Joey wanders back to his old music club where he meets another trumpet player (played by John Anderson). The man can miraculously see him. He tells Joey that he is not dead, but rather in “limbo” between life and death, and that he may choose whether to live or die. This is why he cannot see himself in any mirror. Realizing that life is still worth living despite all the misery, Joey chooses to return. As the other player leaves, Joey asks for the man’s name and he replies, “My name? Call me Gabe. Short for Gabriel” (i.e. the Angel Gabriel played by John Anderson who bore a strong resemblance to Abraham Lincoln).
Joey awakens on the street beside the truck driver who hands him a wad of cash to forget the whole accident. Much to Joey’s delight, It is enough money to buy back his trumpet. Later that evening he is practicing playing his trumpet when a girl named Nan (played by Mary Webster) shows up. She says she is new to the city and Joey decides to show her around. They stroll off casually together into the night.
“Joey Crown, who makes music, and who discovered something about life; that it can be rich and rewarding and full of beauty, just like the music he played, if a person would only pause to look and to listen. Joey Crown, who got his clue in the Twilight Zone.”
Joey Crown represents the classic character archetype used by Rod Serling, or what Marc Scott Zicree refers to in The Twilight Zone Companion as the “urban loser.” In this noir-esque world of bleak gangster violence a man experiences a brush with death. Despite the jaded view of ordinary urban life, this episode nevertheless offers a certain blend of Norman Rockwell or Frank Capra styled optimism.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- In his “limbo” state, Joey’s reflection is supposed to be absent from any mirrors, but his reflection is clearly seen twice.
- The Buch Houghton & Co. truck as seen in the episode is a tribute to producer Buck Houghton.
- This was the first of four appearances in The Twilight Zone by Jack Klugman.
- To give his character an added degree of realism Klugman trained with a classical trumpet player for two weeks before shooting this episode in order to have the finger positions down correctly even though in the final cut he was not actually playing.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.