Original Air Date: April 18, 1963
Writer: Reginald Rose
Director: Abner Biberman
“We remember what was good, and we black out what was bad.
Maybe because we couldn’t live if we didn’t.”
Mr. Horace Ford (Pat Hingle) is a stocky, glasses-wearing homunculus who works by day as a designer of toys, but lately he has become obsessed with a flood of fond childhood memories. His face lights up at the thought of roaming his old neighborhood on Randolph Street. The all-consuming nature of his memories begins to negatively affect his job performance as well as his household with his wife Laura (Nan Martin) and 61 year old mother (Ruth White). Weighed down by the drudgery of adult life, Horace longs to return to those golden days of his youth (though Horace’s mother certainly doesn’t remember them quite fondly).
“Mr. Horace Ford, who has a preoccupation with another time, a time of childhood, a time of growing up, a time of street games, stickball and hide-‘n-go-seek. He has a reluctance to check out a mirror and see the nature of his image: proof positive that the time he dwells in has already passed him by. But in a moment or two he’ll discover that mechanical toys and memories and daydreaming and wishful thinking and all manner of odd and special events can lead one into a special province, uncharted and unmapped, a country of both shadow and substance known as the Twilight Zone.”
Incapable of handling the responsibilities of being an adult, Horace prefers to daydream and remember songs and games he used to play as a kid. One evening, Horace decides to wander over to Randolph Street where he grew up and he witnesses something amazing. The street has not changed a bit in 28 years time –the old hotdog man still peddles the street, a young couple playfully passes by, an older woman shouts out a window for her son Dave, and an older man bumps into Horace. A group of boys run past Horace and he drops his watch just as one of the boys turns and Horace shockingly recognizes him. They are Horace’s old school chums: Hermy Brandt, Harvey Bender, George Langbert, and Cy Wright. Only they are somehow still ten years old.
Later that evening, the doorbell to Horace’s home rings and Hermy Brandt delivers the watch to Laura. This scene repeats itself exactly as it did the first night, while Horace’s employment begins to fall apart culminating when Horace’s boss Mr. Judson (Vaughn Taylor) fires him. A surprise birthday party is planned for Horace but he wanders back to Randolph Street instead where the same scene replays itself, only this time Horace follows the boys into an alleyway. He tries to speak to them while they lament not being invited to a birthday party. Suddenly, Horace appears to be ten years old again. He realizes his role in this difficult memory and he tries to apologize to the boys for not inviting them to his party, but they pounce and beat up little Horace Ford.
Later, the surprise is patiently awaiting the arrival of Horace when a young Hermy Brandt arrives to deliver Horace’s watch, only this time it is his Mickey Mouse watch he once owned as a boy. In a panic, Laura rushes over to Randolph Street where she finds the body of a ten year old Horace. She turns to the wall and cries in shock, but when she turns back he has transformed back into his adult self. Laura and Horace embrace, acknowledging that we often remember the past through rose colored glasses, deliberately forgetting the difficult times we once faced. As they walk away, Hermy Brandt can be spotted sitting atop the streetlamp on Randolph Street.
“Exit Mr. and Mrs. Horace Ford, who have lived through a bizarre moment not to be calibrated on normal clocks or watches. Time has passed, to be sure, but it’s the special time in the special place known as the Twilight Zone.”
In keeping with themes introduced in prior Twilight Zone episodes such as “Walking Distance,” “A Stop at Willoughby,” “The Trouble with Templeton,” and “Young Man’s Fancy,” “The Incredible World of Horace Ford” addresses false memories and the problem of nostalgia. Horace Ford is an innocent man caught up in a boyhood daydream, but his recollections have overlooked what a truly difficult childhood he once endured. A common theme found in The Twilight Zone concerns escapism from modernity in all its forms –employment, technology, noise, machinery, bureaucracy and so on. Yet this escapism is often met with a lesson about how fleeting and protean romantic fantasies about the past can be. Horace Ford is granted the rare chance to revisit Randolph Street, but it is not the carefree place he remembers it to be.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This episode is based on an earlier teleplay entitled “The Incredible World of Horace Ford” written by Reginald Rose for a 1955 episode of Westinghouse Studio One. Since the original ending was somewhat melancholic, Twilight Zone producer Herbert Hirschman asked Rose to create a slightly happier ending. According to Marc Scott Zicree in The Twilight Zone Companion, Reginald Rose preferred his original ending in which Horace simply transforms into a child and there is no conclusive reconciliation between him and Laura.
- The original Westinghouse Studio One episode was directed by Franklin Schaffner, a frequent director on the series of episodes like Reginald Rose’s “Twelve Angry Men.” Mr. Schaffner is perhaps best remembered for directing feature films like Planet of the Apes (1968), Patton (1970), Papillon (1973), and The Boys from Brazil (1978).
- The blueprints of Harold’s new toy are actually those of Robbie the Robot, a toy which has already featured prominently in earlier Twilight Zone episodes.
- Prior to this episodes release, Rod Serling and Reginald Rose had gotten into a public and spirited debate about preserving the integrity of television writers. Apparently, the two men eventually reconciled.
- Producer Herbert Hirschman led the production behind this episode –he purchased the script from Reginald Rose and hired Abner Biberman as director.