Original Air Date: June 19, 1964
Writer: Earl Hamner Jr.
Director: Joseph M. Newman
In this final episode of The Twilight Zone, Earl Hamner, Jr. offers a story that was heavily influenced by rising divorce rates and accompanying negative impacts on children. Marc Scott Zicree quotes Mr. Hamner as describing himself in somewhat “puritanical” terms as he was watching growing numbers of affluent people from the East Coast move westward and he also used the growing popularity of personal swimming pools
“A swimming pool not unlike any other pool, a structure built of tile and cement and money, a backyard toy for the affluent, wet entertainment for the well-to-do. But to Jeb and Sport Sharewood, this pool holds mysteries not dreamed of by the building contractor, not guaranteed in any sales brochure. For this pool has a secret exit that leads to a never-neverland, a place designed for junior citizens who need a long voyage away from reality, into the bottomless regions of the Twilight Zone.”
Sport Sharewood (played by Mary Badham who was nominated for an Academy Award as Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird) and her brother Jeb (Jeffrey Byron) are young children living with their parents at a vast palatial Southern California mansion. However, their pugilistic parents have decided to file for divorce, and in doing so ask which parent the children prefer to live with. Sport and Jeb hang their heads in disappointment and walk over to the pool where suddenly a young boy appears in the deep end named Whitt (Kim Hector). Whitt, a. straw-hat wearing farmboy, describes a fantastical paradise for children which is free from troublesome things like parental divorce.
“Introduction to a perfect setting: Colonial mansion, spacious grounds, heated swimming pool. All the luxuries money can buy. Introduction to two children: brother and sister, names Jeb and Sport. Healthy, happy, normal youngsters. Introduction to a mother: Gloria Sharewood by name, glamorous by nature. Introduction to a father: Gil Sharewood, handsome, prosperous, the picture of success. A man who has achieved every man’s ambition. Beautiful children, beautiful home, beautiful wife. Idyllic? Obviously. But don’t look too carefully, don’t peek behind the façade. The idyll may have feet of clay.”
As in Peter Pan, Sport and Jeb decide to swim to the bottom of the pool with Whitt and they surface on the other side in a mysterious pond at the edge of an unfamiliar Appalachian wood filled with happy children and a kindly old woman named Aunt T. (Georgia Simmons). However after spending some time here, Sport and Deb decide to return to their parents. When they resurface in the pool, Sport and Jeb’s parents demand to know where they have been. Now, the opening scene repeats and the Sharewoods announce their impending divorce amidst a string of sneers and bickering with one another. Not wanting to deal with this unpleasantness, Sport and Jeb jump back into the deep end and escape to live with Aunt T. forever.
“A brief epilogue for concerned parents. Of course, there isn’t any such place as the gingerbread house of Aunt T, and we grownups know there’s no door at the bottom of a swimming pool that leads to a secret place. But who can say how real the fantasy world of lonely children can become? For Jeb and Sport Sharewood, the need for love turned fantasy into reality; they found a secret place—in the Twilight Zone.”
“The Bewitchin’ Pool” is a somewhat sad and somber fable. It tackles uncomfortable themes involving children and their rather nasty parents who are divorcing. In this episode, there is a noticeable tension between Sport and Jeb’s parents who are unpleasant, wealthy, urbanites whereas Aunt T. is a kindly, warm, and innocent rural cabin-dweller. The latter being preferable to the former. At any rate, “The Bewitchin’ Pool” is a bit of a disappointing episode to conclude the series on –it was plagued by casting, editing, delays among other issues.
This post officially completes my review of The Twilight Zone!
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This was the final broadcast episode of The Twilight Zone, but not the last episode to be filmed. The last episode to be filmed was “Come Wander With Me” and the last episode to be edited was “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge.”
- This episode was originally set for release on March 20, 1964 but it was plagued by delays and backroom issues. In fact, “The Bewitchin Pool” was dogged by so many production problems that footage is repeated to pad out the runtime, and Mary Badham’s has her voice dubbed on some scenes by June Foray, the voice of the squirrel from Rocky and Bullwinkle as back-lot noise rendered much of the outdoor dialogue unusable and they were unable to afford the cost of a flight for Mary Badham to return to the studio for voice dubbing recording (she had already flown home to Alabama). The change in Sport’s voice is unfortunately starkly noticeable.
- Earl Hamner, Jr., developed the idea for “The Bewitchin’ Pool” while living in the San Fernando Valley region of California and witnessing rising divorce rates. Marc Scott Zicree notes that this episode was one of the first shows on television to address the problem of divorce in a unique escapist fable. Mr. Hamner expressed disappointment with the final product of this episode as did Producer William Froug who apparently blamed Director Joseph M. Newman for the episode’s shortcomings.
- No Twilight Zone episode was broadcast on June 5, 1964. Instead CBS played a program commemorating Dwight D. Eisenhower and the historic events of D-Day. On June 12 a repeat Twilight Zone episode (“Steel”) was played before “The Bewitchin’ Pool” finally aired the following week.
- The working title for this episode was called “The Marvelous Pool.”
- The pool set was a re-used MGM lot was also featured in the Season 5 episode “Queen of the Nile” and the Season 2 episode “The Trouble With Templeton.”
- The bickering parents were played by Dee Hartford and Tod Andrews.