The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Five “The Last Night Of A Jockey”

Original Air Date: October 25, 1963
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Joseph W. Newman

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“The name is Grady, five feet short in stockings and boots, a slightly distorted offshoot of a good breed of humans who race horses. He happens to be one of the rotten apples, bruised and yellowed by dealing in dirt, a short man with a short memory who’s forgotten that he’s worked for the sport of kings and helped turn it into a cesspool, used and misused by the two-legged animals who’ve hung around sporting events since the days of the Coliseum. So this is Grady, on his last night as a jockey. Behind him are Hialeah, Hollywood Park and Saratoga. Rounding the far turn and coming up fast on the rail—is the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

In this uniquely simple episode, Mickey Rooney plays a former jockey named Grady who has been barred from the track for cheating by horse doping. Throughout the entire episode he melts down in his old, run-down room while disputing with his alter ego. The one wish he has is to become bigger. When he awakens from a nap, Grady suddenly he realizes he has been stretched to a new height of over eight feet tall. He is elated! That is, until the phone rings offering him a second chance as a jockey, however he can no longer race because of his increased height.

“The name is Grady, ten feet tall, a slightly distorted offshoot of a good breed of humans who race horses. Unfortunately for Mr. Grady, he learned too late that you don’t measure size with a ruler, you don’t figure height with a yardstick, and you never judge a man by how tall he looks in a mirror. The giant is as he does. You can make a parimutuel bet on this, win, place, or show, in or out of the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

This is another example of Rod Serling presenting a story focused on a struggling, lower class schemer with questionable moral convictions –perhaps an unusual selection for a protagonist. Nevertheless, when The Twilight Zone portrays such characters they are not condescended to, nor are they scorned as irredeemably evil. Instead they are simply shown to be flawed yet sympathetic people. To become a bigger man is to do things with honesty and integrity. Hence why The Twilight Zone has room to appeal to all manner of viewers.

Another fruitful angle in which to consider this episode is the frequent Twilight Zone theme of an isolated person brought to his wits end as in “Where Is Everybody?” “The Lonely” “King Nine Will Not Return” or “Nervous Man In A Four Dollar Room.” While I would not rank this episode among the best in the series, Mickey Rooney delivers a powerful, tormented performance as a man in the midst of a break-down. Also, I would be remiss not to acknowledge George T. Clemens and his extraordinary cinematography in this episode.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • This is the third episode produced by William Froug.
  • This was Mickey Rooney’s sole appearance on The Twilight Zone.
  • Mickey Rooney had earlier appeared in two productions written by Rod Serling: “The Comedian” a live 1957 episode of the anthology series Playhouse 90, as well as the theatrical feature Requiem for a Heavyweight, a 1962 remake of the same-titled episode featured on Playhouse 90. Mickey Rooney also co-starred in one additional Rod Serling teleplay “Rare Objects” as featured in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.
  • Mickey Rooney previously appeared in an Emmy Award-winning episode entitled “Eddie” on the Alcoa-Goodyear Theater which was also produced by William Froug
  • Stock music was used for this episode from two Season 1 episodes: “The Big Tall Wish” –music by Jerry Goldsmith– and “The Lonely” –music by Bernard Herrmann.
  • CBS’s “Program Practices” department criticized this episode for use of the word “dwarf” instead of “half-pint”, “runt” or “shrimp” or other terms.
  • On the telephone in this episode Grady calls someone “Mr. Newman,” a reference to director Joseph Newman.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

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