Exploring The Twilight Zone, Episode #133: "Ring-a-Ding Girl"
Maggie McNamara (THE MOON IS BLUE) stars in an episode that left me in tears. How can I explain? I shall try.
The Twilight Zone, Episode #133: "Ring-a-Ding Girl" (original air date Dec. 27, 1963)
The Plot: Bunny Blake (Maggie McNamara) is a star. She happens to be a movie actress, but she'd be a star in whatever field of entertainment she pursued. She has the looks and the ebullient personality. As she acknowledges, she's not the world's great actress, yet her determination to seek the top of her profession has propelled her into a magical career.
She appears to be self-centered and flighty, with all of the stereotypical characteristics we'd expect from a big movie star. Just as she's about to fly to Rome to start work on a new movie, however, she receives a gift from her hometown fan club: a ring. And when she places the ring on her finger, the milky surface dissolves into an image of her sister, pleading: 'Bunny, we need you, come home.'
On the spur of the moment, she decides to fly to her small home town of Howardville. Her sister Hildy (Mary Mundahy) is overjoyed to see her -- Bunny has been away for five years -- but disappointed when she learns that Bunny can only spend one day. Bunny's ears perk up when she hears that she's arrived on Founder's Day, just in time to attend an elaborate picnic that the entire town usually attends. She got her start by winning a beauty contest at a past Founder's Day picnic; could that be why she's needed at home?
The Goods: The way the story develops hit me like a ton of bricks, so I won't spoil it if you've never seen the episode.
Even as I write this up, I can feel tears welling up in my eyes, and I think it's because the episode, written by Earl Hammer, Jr., touches on themes of family and sacrifice, themes that are appreciated best by adults, especially if you've ever felt estranged from a family member, or a friend who has been as close to you as a brother or sister.
Lacking that personal context, I still believe that Hammer created at least two believable characters and set them up in a situation that is remarkable for its subtlety and restraint. So, for me, it's a gem.
The Trivia: Maggie McNamara was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress for her performance in Otto Preminger's The Moon is Blue in 1953. (Audrey Hepburn won for Roman Holiday.) It was her debut film role.
She went on to appear in Three Coins in a Fountain (where she goes to Rome), but her film career never took off, and there was an eight-year gap before she made her short-lived comeback in Preminger's The Cardinal. followed by a handful of television appearances over the next year. And then she disappeared from public view.
Tragically, McNamara died, at the age of 48 in 1978. Reportedly, she committed suicide.
On the Next Episode: A distracted businessman hits a boy on a bicycle and then flees the scene, only to have his car become his guilty conscience.
We're running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes, and we're not doing it alone! Our friends at Film School Rejects have entered the Zone as well, only on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at FSR and feel free to also follow along on Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.