A Game of Pool (1961)
|"A Game of Pool"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Buzz Kulik|
|Written by||George Clayton Johnson|
|Featured music||Stock and new music by Jerry Goldsmith (uncredited)|
|Original air date||October 13, 1961|
"A Game of Pool" is episode 70 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on October 13, 1961 on CBS. According to Rod Serling, it is "the story of the best pool player living and the best pool player dead."
|“||Jesse Cardiff, pool shark, the best on Randolph Street, who will soon learn that trying to be the best at anything carries its own special risks. In or out of the Twilight Zone.||”|
It is after hours at Lister's Pool Room in Chicago, and once more pool shark Jesse Cardiff (Jack Klugman) is alone, polishing his game. Jesse bitterly muses that he would be considered the greatest pool player of all time, if it were not for the memory of the late Fats Brown (Jonathan Winters) overshadowing him. He says he would give anything to play one game against Fats, prompting Fats himself to wearily rise from a pool table in the afterlife and trudge off. Jesse is then stunned to find Fats himself standing in the corner of the room. Even though Fats has been dead for 15 years, he has returned from the afterlife to grant Jesse's request and offer a bet. If Jesse wins, he will be acknowledged as the greatest pool player ever; if he loses, he forfeits his life.
Jesse accepts the bet and the two begin to play. Throughout the game, Fats laments that Jesse has done nothing with his life but play pool. Jesse ignores Fats, convinced that he is just trying to distract him. With one ball left on the table and both men needing to sink it in order to win, Fats misses his shot, leaving Jesse with an easy approach to the pocket. Fats warns Jesse that he may get more than he bargained for if he wins the game, but Jesse disregards this advice and sinks the ball. He revels in his victory, now secure in his status as the best pool player of all time. Fats thanks Jesse for beating him, leading Jesse to angrily call him a sore loser. Fats then suddenly disappears.
Some time later, long after his own death, Jesse is summoned from the afterlife to travel to Mason's Pool Hall in Sandusky, Ohio to play against a challenger. Now that he is the greatest player ever, he is obliged to wearily spend eternity traveling from one pool room to another and defending his title against an endless series of opponents.
|“||Mr. Jesse Cardiff, who became a legend by beating one, but who has found out after his funeral that being the best of anything carries with it a special obligation to keep on proving it. Mr. Fats Brown, on the other hand, having relinquished the champion's mantle, has gone fishing. These are the ground rules in the Twilight Zone.||”|
Remake with alternative ending
George Clayton Johnson's script originally featured an ending in which Jesse loses the game and yet finds himself still alive. Seeing this, Fats explains that he will die "as all second raters die: you'll be buried and forgotten without me touching you. If you'd beaten me, you'd have lived forever." With that, Fats disappears with Jesse vowing to keep practicing until he is good enough to face Fats once again.
The episode was remade in the 1980s version of The Twilight Zone. The remade version featured Esai Morales as Jesse Cardiff and Maury Chaykin as Fats Brown. This version used the original alternate ending that Johnson intended for the original 1961 version.
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0