The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Twenty-Three “Queen of the Nile”

Original Air Date: March 6, 1964
Writer: Charles Beaumont/Jerry Sohl
Director: John Brahm

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how old I think she is…”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A popular newspaper columnist pulls up in his car to a vast Hollywood mansion. On the lawn sits an elaborate display of Egyptian artifacts. His name is Jordan Herrick (Lee Philips), a skeptical inquirer who is sent to interview a celebrated Hollywood actress Pamela Morris (Ann Blyth), a woman known for her eternal youth and vitality.

“Jordan Herrick, syndicated columnist, whose work appears in more than a hundred newspapers. By nature a cynic, a disbeliever, caught for the moment by a lovely vision. He knows the vision he’s seen is no dream; she is Pamela Morris, renowned movie star, whose name is a household word and whose face is known to millions. What Mr. Herrick does not know is that he has also just looked into the face—of the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

In the course of Jordan’s interview with Pamela, they discuss her true age (she claims to be 38 years old). He makes note of a painting on her wall which was created decades earlier –and she looks exactly the same! Pamela deflects his question by claiming the painting was made while she was a mere child as a projection of what she might look like one day. A flirtation ensues, Pamela flirts her way out of Jordan and Pamela agree to have dinner together that evening. However before Jordan leaves, an elderly Pamela’s mother Viola Draper (Celia Lovsky) warns Jordan not to come back. She privately reveals that Pamela has actually been alive for centuries, and that she is not Pamela’s mother, but rather her daughter.

Later on their date, Pamela spins a wild yarn about her mother is disturbed following a car crash ten years ago, and so she is not to be trusted. In the course of their conversation, Jordan mentions he is from Chicago and Pamela muses upon her time performing in Chicago at the Wells Theatre. After their date, Jordan conducts some research with his editor Mr. Krueger (Frank Ferguson) and he discovers that the Wells Theatre was shockingly torn down in the 1920s. He also learns that Pamela previously went by a different name while working as a silent film actress: Constance Taylor.

When Jordan returns to Pamela’s home to confront her, he is met by a shaking Ms. Draper who begs Jordan to leave. However, Pamela then dismisses her “mother” and offers Jordan some coffee which quickly causes him to pass out on the floor while Pamela admits that she truly was once a “Queen of the Nile” in ancient Egypt. She releases a scarab beetle onto Jordan which rapidly sucks the life out of him until he becomes nothing more than a pile of dust on the floor (in a mirror image of the earlier Season 1 Twilight Zone episode “Long Live Walter Jameson”). Pamela beckons the beetle back to herself as she absorbs the vitality of the late Jordan Herrick.

In an epilogue of sorts, another young and handsome journalist pulls up to Pamela’s house, ready to begin the cycle anew.

“Everyone knows Pamela Morris, the beautiful and eternally young movie star. Or does she have another name, even more famous, an Egyptian name from centuries past? It’s best not to be too curious, lest you wind up like Jordan Herrick, a pile of dust and old clothing discarded in the endless eternity of the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

While this episode is a bit of contrived re-working of the earlier Season 1 episode “Long Live Walter Jameson,” I still thought it was a terrific installment in The Twilight Zone. The idea that an eternally young Hollywood actress could secretly be a malicious succubus who absorbs the youth of journalists is an amusing and perhaps slightly fitting plot device.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • This episode was another example of Jerry Sohl developing a script idea on behalf of Charles Beaumont while his sudden ailment was rapidly progressing and preventing him from working. This was technically the final script credited to Charles Beaumont in the series.
  • Apparently, in the original first-draft of the script, a handsome young policeman turns up at the end of the story, asking Pamela Morris as to the whereabouts of the now missing Jordan Herrick. She begins to flatter and flirt with the cop, setting him up to start the cycle all over again.
  • As of the time of this writing, the lead actress in this episode Ann Blyth is still alive (born in 1923, she is now age 93). She is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Perhaps her most iconic role was as Veda in the 1945 Michael Curtiz film Mildred Pierce, for which Ms. Blyth was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She led a storied career and at one point a stalker was arrested outside her house. She has a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star located on Hollywood Boulevard, and though she appeared in many films and television shows, Ms. Blyth effectively retired in the ’50s to raise her five children. Politically, she was an old-school Eisenhower Republican at the time. I can only imagine the wonderful stories she carries in her memories, like echoes of a bygone era in old Hollywood.
  • Actor Lee Philips appeared in variety of television programs from Peyton Place to The Dick Van Dyke Show. He also appeared in the opening episode of The Outer Limits, and in two Twilight Zone episodes: Season 4’s “Passage on the Lady Anne” and Season 5’s “Queen of the Nile.”
  • Celia Lovsky, who played Pamela’s elderly mother/daughter, is best known for this appearance of The Twilight Zone as well as her appearance on Star Trek as the original T’Pau, the Vulcan leader who presides over Spock’s wedding in the Season 2 episode “Amok Time.”
  • While Jordan is on the phone with his Chicago editor Mr. Kreuger, Mr. Kreuger states that Constance Taylor was a “reigning beauty in the days of the Florodora Girls” –a reference to the chorus girls in a broadway musical at the turn of the century entitled “Florodora.”
  • The swimming pool used in this episode is the same pool featured in the final broadcast episode “The Bewitchin’ Pool” as well as the Season 2 episode “The Trouble With Templeton.”
  • According to the episode’s narrative, Viola Draper was born in 1893, while Pamela Morris claimed to have been born in 1925 though she has in fact been alive for centuries.
  • Marc Scott Zicree notes in The Twilight Companion n oddity: Ann Blyth speaks perfect English while her mother/daughter speaks with a strong Viennese accent.

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

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