Original Air Date: April 10, 1964
Writer: Adele T. Strassfield
Director: Robert Butler
Jonathan West (Jackie Cooper) is a working-class Irishman struggling to find work as a ventriloquist. We first meet him trying to sell his parents’ valuables to Goldstein’s pawn shop in order to make rent. Meanwhile, his secretly-talking dummy “Caesar” starts planting dangerous ideas in Jonathan’s mind.
“Jonathan West, ventriloquist, a master of voice manipulation. A man, late of Ireland, with a talent for putting words into other peoples’ mouths. In this case, the other person is a dummy, aptly named Caesar, a small splinter with large ideas, a wooden tyrant with a mind and a voice of his own, who is about to talk Jonathan West – into the Twilight Zone.”
Caesar berates Jonathan for yet another failed audition and so, at Caesar’s insistence, Jonathan begins robbing businesses to pay his own rent. A neighboring girl named Susan (played by Morgan Brittany known for role on Dallas) suspects some foul play. She reports Jonathan to the police when news breaks that a local nightclub has been robbed. When the police arrive for Jonathan, he turns to Caesar claiming they were supposed to be a team and that Caesar promised to take the fall. The police believe they are watching a crazy man unravel. Jonathan is then slowly led away while Susan remains behind with Caesar who reveals to her that he can speak. He promises to work together as a team by helping her poison her aunt and run away from home to New York City. Susan coyly smiles at the idea.
“A little girl and a wooden doll. A lethal dummy in the shape of a man. But everybody knows dummies can’t talk – unless, of course, they learn their vocabulary in the Twilight Zone.”
By the time the fifth season had rolled around, The Twilight Zone unfortunately turned to re-hashing some old ideas. In this case, “Caesar and Me” is something of a hybrid of Season 3’s “The Dummy” (which also features a secretly talking dummy) and Season 5’s “Living Doll” (which features an evil doll). “Caesar and Me” is still good fun but it is not among the Zone’s best.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- The writer of the episode, Adele T. Strassfield, was the William Froug’s secretary. Mr. Froug was the producer of the second half of the final season of The Twilight Zone. According Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, Mr. Froug worked out this episode together with Ms. Strassfield. She is the only woman credited with writing an original teleplay for The Twilight Zone (original series) though several women were credited for stories that were adapted for the show. Ms. Strassfield also wrote a first-season episode of Gilligan’s Island with executive producer Froug’s assistance again.
- Abner Biberman also directed Season 5’s “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You”.
- Jackie Cooper played both the role of the ventriloquist as well as the voice of the dummy. He employed a unique old Irish accent for this role.
- The same dummy in this episode was used one year earlier in Season 3’s “The Dummy.” It was originally created in the 1940s by puppet maker Revello Petee. A figure of this puppet can apparently be spotted at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the dark corner of a barred-off exhibit to the side of one of the elevator exits of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.
I saw Caeser & Me long before seeing The Dummy and I must say, personally, that it made the better impression on me on how a man’s worst enemy would manifest via a ventriloquist’s dummy. Jackie Cooper was superb and his last scene where he breaks down in front of everyone after being finally abandoned by Caeser is quite heartbreaking. He was also superb as the voice of Caeser. Thanks for your review.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I thought Marc Scott Zicree was a little harsh when he dubbed this episode “pointless” in The Twilight Zone Companion. Thanks for your comment, Mike. The ending to “Caesar and Me” is indeed powerful knowing that we pity this poor man.
LikeLiked by 1 person
You’re welcome. Sometimes the point for a story can most personally be up to us an an audience. The point on how we find it in our hearts to feel for characters like Jonathan West is indeed a most valid one for me.
LikeLiked by 2 people