An Important Footnote From Science Fiction History

On March 18, 1960, Rod Serling narrated Long Live Walter Jameson , a first season episode of The Twilight Zone that starred Kevin McCarthy who played the title role of a history teacher lecturing on the Civil War. As the professor quotes from the diary of a man named Major Skeleton about the burning of Atlanta, Serling, in his prologue, suggests to the audience the scenario of a man who teaches history so well that it seems likely he was actually there. The entry Jameson (McCarthy) reads to the class is dated Sept 11, 1864. How strange that this turned out to be the same day the actor would die 146 years later.

McCarthy who passed away on September 11, 2010 from natural causes at the age of 96 was a respected character actor known to science fiction fans for his starring role in the first cinematic adaptation of The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956). The film was based on the 1955 novel, The Body Snatchers and written by Jack Finney. It was originally published as a three part serial in Colliers magazine. The production was directed by Don Siegel and shot in black and white in nineteen days, exploring fears about communist infiltration, conversion and assimilation as one by one people change into an alien species. It was not popular at the time, but over the years has become one of the most significant and influential cult films of its genre. It was McCarthy who first uttered the words,“They’re here already.”

Portraying Dr. Miles Bennell, McCarthy, along with Becky Driscoll played by Dana Wynter, a young divorcee with a past, slowly uncover a horrifying mystery while trying to escape being turned into pod people. Apparently, the transformation took place when one sleeps, turning everyone in a fictional town in California into emotionless prototype duplicates. The only way to prevent the change was to consume large amounts of amphetamines and stay awake.

Trained as a stage actor, the long time thespian had a distinguished career of seven decades and over 200 performances on stage, screen and television. He was born in Seattle Washington and raised in Minneapolis. He earned an Oscar nomination for his supporting performance in the 1951 film, Death Of A Salesman, but he will always be remembered for his horrified expression in the cave scene at the end of The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers when he kisses Becky and then realizes that she has become one of them.