Original Air Date: June 10, 1960
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Douglas Heyes
“Express elevator to the ninth floor of a department store, carrying Miss Marsha White on a most prosaic, ordinary, run-of-the-mill errand… Miss Marsha White on the ninth floor, specialties department, looking for a gold thimble. The odds are that she’ll find it—but there are even better odds that she’ll find something else, because this isn’t just a department store. This happens to be The Twilight Zone.”
Marsha White (played by Anne Francis) enters a department store looking for a golden thimble. When she cannot find a thimble she is ushered onto an elevator and taken to the ninth floor, though only eight floors are listed. She is left alone on a seemingly vacant ninth floor. She roams around until one sales woman appears and calls her by name: “Marsha.” A thimble is given to Marsha and she leaves, only slightly disturbed by the situation.
On the way back down in the elevator, Marsha notices the thimble is dented. She is directed to the complaints department of the store where she learns there is no ninth floor. In defiance, Marsha believes she spots the sales woman on the floor but it turns out to merely be a mannequin. Marsha has a panic attack and is allowed to rest in the manager’s office, but she is soon forgotten.
Somehow Marsha is accidentally locked inside the store after hours and she is surrounded by voices calling her name though there are no people in the store. She flees back to the elevator which returns her to the ninth floor. As it turns out the ninth floor is a lesser-known storage area for mannequins. While Marsha panics, the mannequins seem to come to life. They animate right before her eyes! Marsha is confronted and she is reminded that she herself is, in fact, a mannequin. Per the mannequin’s custom, each month a different mannequin comes to life and lives among the humans. Marsha became so ensconced in her human life that she complete forgot about her life as a mannequin.
The next day Marsha is found on the floor of the department store. The manager stops to look at her, remembering the prior day, but he then brushes it off. The episode ends with a close-up image of Marsha’s lifeless, mannequin face on the floor of the department store -the perfect bookend to another triumph for George T. Clemens’s cinematography.
“Marsha White, in her normal and natural state, a wooden lady with a painted face who, one month out of the year, takes on the characteristics of someone as normal and as flesh and blood as you and I. But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it, just how normal are we? Just who are the people we nod our hellos to as we pass on the street? A rather good question to ask… particularly in the Twilight Zone.”
Amusingly enough, I once had an idea to draft a comedy/horror story about mannequins in a mall that come to life (long before I ever watched this episode). This is an iconic episode in the series –a perfect blend of William Tuttle’s effects, George Clemens’s mood-setting cinematography, Douglas Heyes’s direction, and Rod Serling’s writing (and of course a top notch performance by Anne Francis).
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- The head of the mannequin double for Anne Francis was made from a cast of Francis’s face completed by noted make-up artist William J. Tuttle. Tuttle displayed the mannequin head in the 1968 MGM short film The King of the Duplicators.
- This episode was originally broadcast with the rare opening sequence of a woman’s eye closing.
- This episode was remade in 1986 in The Twilight Zone reboot series.
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