Original Air Date: February 21, 1963
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Director: Walter Grauman
In this classic installment of The Twilight Zone, legendary Hollywood actor Robert Duvall delivers a gentle, nuanced performance as Charley Parkes, a demure, awkward introvert who lives with his mother. He is single but his mother (Pert Kelton), sister Myra (Barbara Barrie), and his brother-in-law Buddy (Lennie Weinrib) all continually treat him like a child. During the day, Charley works a menial job, but in the evenings he visits a nearby museum where a miniature vintage dollhouse is put on display behind a glass casing. Each day, Charley is disrespected at work by his boss (Barney Phillips who appeared in other classic Twilight Zone episodes “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?” “The Purple Testament,” and “A Thing About Machines”) so he visits the museum to fantasize about a simpler life, until one day a tiny doll (played by Claire Griswold) who typically sits on display suddenly comes to life. She starts playing the piano (Andante Grazioso from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 11 in A minor, K331, published in 1784. The third movement contains Mozart’s famous “Rondo alla turca”). He frequently returns and talks to the doll which draws the suspicion of the museum security guard (John McLiam).
“To the average person, a museum is a place of knowledge, a place of beauty and truth and wonder. Some people come to study, others to contemplate, others to look for the sheer joy of looking. Charley Parkes has his own reasons. He comes to the museum to get away from the world. It isn’t really the sixty-cent cafeteria meal that has drawn him here every day, it’s the fact that here in these strange, cool halls he can be alone for a little while, really and truly alone. Anyway, that’s how it was before he got lost and wandered into the Twilight Zone.”
As time passes, Charley loses his job. Instead of searching for new employment, he spends all his time at the museum. His sister thinks he needs a girl in his life –but Charley fails at that too. Again he returns to the museum where he sees a miniature suitor (Richard Angarola) aggressively kidnap his beloved miniature doll. In a maddening scene, Charley attempts to break the glass in front of the dollhouse to rescue his beloved doll, but he is stopped by the museum security guard.
Charley is then taken to a psychiatric institution under the observance of Dr. Wallman (William Windom) who intends to rid him of his delusion. At first Charley refuses to accept that he is delusional, but as time passes he realizes the only way to escape the institution is to feign sanity. And when it comes time to return home Charley acts normally around his family until he is closed in his room at night. Charley locks the door and runs out the window in flight back to the museum. He hides inside a sarcophagus in order to find himself alone in the museum after hours with his beloved miniature living doll again. However, Charley’s family discover he is missing. They call the police and head straight for the museum but Charley is never found. The lone security guard spots a tiny figure who looks like Charley seated on a couch beside the young doll. He smiles knowing full-well no one would ever believe him.
“They never found Charley Parkes because the guard didn’t tell them what he saw in the glass case. He knew what they’d say and he knew they’d be right too because seeing is not always believing, especially if what you see happens to be an odd corner of the Twilight Zone.”
Latter-day psychoanalysts have attempted to analyze Charley’s particular disorder portrayed in this episode –perhaps he has Asperger Syndrome. Robert Duvall delivers one of the best performances in The Twilight Zone as this odd, social outsider who is nevertheless gentle and innocent in his desire for love and a simpler life. It leaves the audience with newfound compassion for people who are struggling to find a place in our often cold and unforgiving modern world. Other episodes of The Twilight Zone have explored what happens when inanimate figurines come to life, as in Season 1′ “The After Hours” or Season 5’s “Living Doll,” however few are as sentimental nor strangely alluring as in “Miniature.” This episode is another triumph for the series, a standout in the fourth season, and I would be remiss not acknowledge Fred Steiner’s remarkable score which weaves together elements of Mozart into a broader theme.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- Due to a pending copyright lawsuit by Clyde Ware over an a similar script he submitted script, this episode was not included in initial syndication for The Twilight Zone (there was an earlier lawsuit over “The After Hours” but both were found to be baseless). It was re-aired in 1984 as part of “The Twilight Zone Silver Anniversary Special.” For the latter showing, the dollhouse scenes were colorized in an early public demonstration of the then-innovative colorization process.
- This episode is one of the more critically praised in the fourth season.
- By this point, Charles Beaumont’s unfortunate debilitating disease had taken hold, with his memory beginning to fail, and it is likely this script may have been partly ghost-written by one of his friends, perhaps Jerry Sohl or William F. Nolan. Apparently Charles Beaumont was inspired to write the character Charley based on William F. Nolan and his shy demeanor coupled with his living situation with his mother. William F. Nolan called it Beaumont’s finest script.
- A life-size dollhouse was constructed as the set for this episode.
- By the close of the fourth and fifth seasons, the show had been releasing producing numerous stories about dolls, so when Richard Matheson submitted a script simply entitled “The Doll,” the show’s final producer William Froug rejected it outright. It later became an award-winning segment of Steven Spielberg’s anthology series Amazing Stories.
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I first saw Miniature during a Twilight Zone special with the doll house footage shown in colour. I was very impressed by Robert Duvall’s performance and I was a fan of him for THX 1138, To Kill A Mockingbird and The Great Santini. Thanks for your review.
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