Original Air Date: May 22, 1964
Writer: Anthony Wilson
Director: Richard Donner
“Come Wander With Me” is a bit of a bewildering episode. It concerns Floyd Burney, or the “The Rock-A-Billy-Kid” (Gary Crosby), a flannel-wearing folk-rock musician a la Bob Dylan. He is in search of authentic folk music which has brought him to a rural backwoods community.
“Mr. Floyd Burney, a gentleman songster in search of song, is about to answer the age-old question of whether a man can be in two places at the same time. As far as his folk song is concerned, we can assure Mr. Burney he’ll find everything he’s looking for, although the lyrics may not be all to his liking. But that’s sometimes the case – when the words and music are recorded in the Twilight Zone.”
Burney enters a nearby store and interrogates an old man when he suddenly hears an entrancing song –it is a sad yet haunting ballad. Burney wanders through the woods right past a grave stone bearing his own name (which he fails to notice) until he comes upon a young woman named Mary Rachel (Bonnie Beecher). They play the song together on a guitar and they also play the tune on a strange tape recorder Mary Rachel carries, all the while they are falling in love, even though the song “Come Wander With Me” is apparently forbidden to sing by a local family known as the Rayfords.
Suddenly, Mary Rachel’s betrothed Billy Rayford appears carrying a rifle. Burney and Rayford get into a scuffle until Burney clobbers Rayford with his guitar, killing him. However, Mary Rachel is now dressed in mourning garb and her tape recorder plays the song with new lyrics about Burney being killed! He rushes back to the old man’s shop but he is too late. The Rayfords show up to kill him and the episode closes with a shot of Burney’s grave stone.
“In retrospect, it may be said of Mr. Floyd Burney that he achieved that final dream of the performer: eternal top-name billing, not on the fleeting billboards of the entertainment world, but forever recorded among the folk songs of the Twilight Zone.”
While I think there are some wonderful Appalachian folkloric ghost story elements infused in this episode, the plot is unfortunately mostly incoherent. It simply has too many vague or incomplete ideas –the circular nature of time, the true identity of Mary Rachel, why she seems to know Burney and that he will die (again), the location and purpose of this strange purgatory, an explanation of why the song is forbidden, and so on. Later, producer William Froug admitted this episode was “too soft” and “just didn’t work” and I have to agree.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- Apparently, Liza Minnelli auditioned for the role of Mary Rachel, but was so nervous during the audition she was rejected. episode director Richard Donner stated he thought Bonnie Beecher “was going to become a very important actress” and asserted that he (not producer Bill Froug) selected Beecher over Minnelli for the role because he thought she was “incredible.”
- The song “Come Wander With Me” was composed by Jeff Alexander and Anthony Wilson.
- Writer Anthony Wilson was the creator of Land of the Giants and The Invaders, and he adapted Planet of the Apes for television.
- Although this was the third-to-last episode broadcast, this was the last episode in the series to be filmed.
- Director Richard Donner had just seen Sunday in Seville and wanted to emulate a heavy smoke-filled atmosphere in this episode.
- The grave marker bearing Floyd Burney’s name was re-used from “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” (his name was actually written on the back of the grave marker in “Mr. Garrity and the Graves”).
- A bridge and several prop guitars in. this episode were also featured in The Outer Limits.
- This episode marked Bonnie Beecher’s television debut (1941-Present), as of the time of this writing she is still alive. In the 1960s, Ms. Beecher dated Bob Dylan –her voice can be heard on some of his demos and bootlegs, and speculation abounds as to whether or not Bob Dylan wrote the song “Girl From The North County” about Ms. Beecher. She also appeared in an episode of Star Trek –“Spectre of the Gun”– in which she played Chekhov’s love interest. Shortly thereafter, she got married and retired from acting while adopting the name Juana Romney. She and her husband have run a summer camp for children in the performing arts near Mendocino, CA for decades.
- Gary Crosby (1933-1995) was the son of Bing Crosby. He appeared in a variety of television programs and later wrote a highly critical biography of his father.