Original Air Date: May 8, 1964
Writer: Mike Korologos/Rod Serling
Director: Ted Post
The year is 1890. The place is a little town called Happiness, Arizona. This episode opens with a wooden plaque at the far end of town which reads: “Happiness, Arizona. This plaque commemorates the 128 people killed during the course of its turbulent beginnings.” It is a peaceful old western town, though in the past Happiness has been known by various epithets like “Boothill Village” or “Deadman’s Junction” wherein people in town were always stepping over dead bodies. Shootings were common until the Sheriff eventually enforced the law and put the kibosh on firearms. One day, Mr. Jared Garrity (John Dehner) arrives in Happiness –he is a traveling salesman of sorts. He offers an unusual service: bringing the dead back to life.
“Introducing Mr. Jared Garrity, a gentleman of commerce, who in the latter half of the nineteenth century plied his trade in the wild and wooly hinterlands of the American West. And Mr. Garrity, if one can believe him, is a resurrecter of the dead – which, on the face of it, certainly sounds like the bull is off the nickel. But to the scoffers amongst you, and you ladies and gentlemen from Missouri, don’t laugh this one off entirely, at least until you’ve seen a sample of Mr. Garrity’s wares, and an example of his services. The place is Happiness, Arizona, the time around 1890. And you and I have just entered a saloon where the bar whiskey is brewed, bottled and delivered from the Twilight Zone.”
A yokel band of townsfolk interrogate Mr. Garrity about his supposed supernatural abilities, so he offers a demonstration by bringing a rogue dog named “Spot” back to life. The credulous townsfolk are shocked! Mr. Garrity claims that all the people buried in “Boothill Cemetery” at the far end of town (128 in total) will soon be resurrected from their graves. However, this begins to make people nervous –one man’s abusive wife lies buried there, as does a vindictive brother, and a town criminal. Mr. Garrity stages a scenario wherein one man’s gimpy brother suddenly appears in the middle of town but when Mr. Garrity is paid off with $750 the man disappears into the ghostly night (this miracle is never explained). The people all clamor to pay Mr. Garrity in order to prevent him from resurrecting their own vindictive relatives and neighbors.
In the next scene we see Mr. Garrity, along with his conman business partner (a former traveling actor), and his dog “Spot” (who was merely playing dead). They chuckle while counting the money they earned while passing “Boot Hill Cemetery” at the far end of town. Mr. Garrity tips his hat facetiously to the graveyard and they head off to Tucson where they plan to scam another town. However once Mr. Garrity departs, all the graves in the cemetery actually do open and the dead emerge ready to exact vengeance on the denizens of Happiness.
“Exit Mr. Garrity, a would-be charlatan, a make-believe con man and a sad misjudger of his own talents. Respectfully submitted from an empty cemetery on a dark hillside that is one of the slopes leading to the Twilight Zone.”
This episode begins in delightful fashion for a Western-themed Twilight Zone episode, however by the end its flaws become apparent. “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” is an amusing blend of comedy and folkloric horror, but it does not rank highly in my view.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- The story for this episode is apparently based on a true 1873 incident in Alta, Utah in which a stranger arrived in the old mining town and proclaimed his ability to raise the dead. Unsurprisingly it was later revealed to be a con job. Then in the 20th century, a regional sportswriter named Mike Korologos read about the incident in the American Guide Series, and then wrote about it for a 1963 article in The Salt Lake Tribune. The article was then reprinted in the Alta Ski Area where Serling read it while visiting the resort. It was apparently entitled “Alta — Boomtown to Boomtown.” In order to avoid a lawsuit, Mr. Korologos was paid $500 for the rights to the story, which he happily obliged seeing as how Mr. Korologos was a starving sportswriter making about $90 per week at the time. He was also invited to submit future scripts to the show, however The Twilight Zone did not continue after its fifth season.
- This was the only writing credit Mike Korologos ever received for The Twilight Zone. When the episode aired, he and his family eagerly gathered around their black and white television to watch his name appear in the credits (at the time they thought this would be only time they would see the episode). Mr. Korologos later described seeing this episode as a surreal experience. Interestingly enough, years later Thurl Bailey, a Utah Jazz star and huge Twilight Zone fanatic, eventually tracked down Mr. Korologos and brought him a recorded copy of the episode to keep. Mr. Korologos said he was extremely grateful to be in possession of the program.
- The original title for this episode was “Mr. Graniety and the Graves.”
- As Marc Scott Zicree notes in The Twilight Zone Companion, the strange disappearance of Mr. Garrity’s business partner while playing the role of a gimpy brother is never explained at all in this episode. It puts a hole in the story of their con job.
- Casting Director Larry Stewart made note of how impressive Rod Serling was when it came to cranking out scripts. He would arrive at 9am with a vague idea, and by noon he would have typed up a script.
- This was the penultimate episode in the series directed by Ted Post.
- Appropriately, lead actor John Dehner (1915-1992) was known for his many appearances in Westerns, particularly as a con man in both radio and television. He later became a celebrated Hollywood animator for Disney films like Fantasia and Bambi. In this episode of The Twilight Zone, he made note of the rapid shooting schedule and the fact that many scenes were actually shot at night with troubles for the technicians keeping the light generators running.
- A few notes on the background actors in this episode:
- J. Pat O’Malley (1904-1985) plays the role of Mr. Gooberman. He was an English character and voice actor perhaps best known for performances in the Broadway stage performance of Ten Little Indians (1944) and the Hitchcock film Dial M for Murder (1954).
- Stanley Adams (1915-1977) plays Jensen. He appeared in a variety of films including Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and Lilies of the Field (1963), as well as shows like Star Trek (“The Trouble with Tribbles”) and The Andy Griffith Show. In addition to this episode of The Twilight Zone, he also appeared as the time traveling scientist in the memorable Buster Keaton Season 3 episode “Once Upon a Time.” He appeared in the 1962 theatrical film adaptation of Rod Serling’s teleplay Requiem for a Heavyweight. Tragically, Mr. Adams committed suicide in 1977 following a back injury, leaving behind a wife and two children.
- John Mitchum (1919-2001) plays the role of Ace. He was a television who primarily performed in a many Westerns. Mr. Mitchum’s brother was the celebrated Hollywood actor, Robert Mitchum.
- Percy Helton (1894-1971) plays the role of Lapham. He was a vaudevillian and World War I veteran who became a recognized television actor.