Jess-Belle

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"Jess-Belle"
The Twilight Zone episode
James Best Laura Devon Anne Francis Twilight Zone Jess Belle.JPG
Scene from "Jess-Belle"
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 7
Directed by Buzz Kulik
Written by Earl Hamner, Jr.
Featured music Nathan Van Cleave
Production code 4855
Original air date February 14, 1963
Guest appearance(s)

Anne Francis: Jess-Belle
James Best: Billy-Ben Turner
Laura Devon: Ellwyn Glover
Jeanette Nolan: Granny Hart
Virginia Gregg: Ossie
Jon Lormer: Minister
George Mitchell: Luther Glover
Helen Kleeb: Mattie Glover
Jim Boles: Obed Miller

Episode chronology
← Previous
"Death Ship"
Next →
"Miniature"
List of season 4 episodes
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"Jess-Belle" is an episode of the American television science fiction & fantasy anthology series The Twilight Zone. In this episode, a young woman spurned by the man she loves becomes a witch in order to make him love her.

Opening narration[edit]

Plot[edit]

Jess-Belle, determined that ex-boyfriend Billy-Ben Turner and his fiancee Ellwyn Glover not marry, enlists the aid of local witch Granny Hart. Granny casts a spell that makes Billy-Ben forget Ellwyn and fall madly in love with Jess-Belle. There is a price for the spell: Jess-Belle will transform into a leopard from midnight until dawn. Jess-Belle feels herself growing colder and more heartless with each transformation. The witch explains that her soul has been extinguished, and she has been transformed into a witch herself.

Horrified by her waning humanity, Jess-Belle considers running away from Billy-Ben. His devotion to her remains unwavering, and she finds herself unable to give up her selfish desire. They arrange to be married. A hunting party including Billy-Ben finds the leopard and shoots it, and it disappears in a cloud of smoke. Billy-Ben finds Jess-Belle's ring on the ground where the leopard had stood.

A year later, Billy-Ben marries Ellwyn. Jess-Belle reappears in various threatening forms. Billy-Ben learns from Granny that to kill Jess-Belle he must make a figure of her using clothing she has worn, and stab it through the heart with silver. He returns home to find Ellwyn has been possessed by Jess-Belle. Jess-Belle then asks Billy-Ben to "dance in the moonlight," which means she wants to kill him. He runs into the house and locks the door. He puts one of Jess-Belle's dresses on a mannequin and stabs it with one of Jess-Belle's own silver hairpins. Jess-Belle appears in the dress, her eyes roll back, and she disappears. After this, Ellwyn does not remember anything that happened since the wedding, but claims, upon seeing a falling star that "it means a witch has died."

Production[edit]

This story, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, was penned by Earl Hamner, Jr., who also wrote Spencer's Mountain and was the creator and narrator of The Waltons. He also wrote the Twilight Zone episode entitled "the Hunt" in season 2.

Hammer told Twilight Zone historian Marc Zicree that this was his personal favourite of the eight Twilight Zone episodes he wrote. It was written at very short notice (at the request of producer Herbert Hirschmann) after another script scheduled for production fell through. After being approached by Hirschmann on a Friday, Hamner developed the story over the weekend and pitched it the following Monday. It was accepted, and Hamner then wrote an act each day, delivering the finished script on the following Friday. Hamner also recalled that there was no time for any revision because the episode had to be shot right away.

Hamner stated that Jess-Belle's original animal incarnation in the script was a tiger, but Herbert Hirschmann told him at the time that the tigers provided by animals trainers were too hard to work with - Hamner recalled Hirschmann phoning him and complaining, "I'm up to my ass in tigers and none of them can act!" - so it was changed to a leopard. The original intention was to have a black leopard (to match Jess-Belle's black hair) but none were available so Hirschmann had to settle on a spotted leopard. Director Buzz Kulik (who also nominated this as one of his two favourite Twilight Zone episodes) recalled that the leopard also proved very difficult (partly because it had been drugged) and that despite the extensive precautions taken - including the construction of a camera cage - it proved extremely hard to get the leopard to do anything at all, and that it tended to fall asleep during shooting.

The episode also features both Virginia Gregg, who featured in Spencer's Mountain, and Helen Kleeb, who played the role of Miss Mamie Baldwin in The Waltons.

This is the only episode of the original series with no closing voiceover from Rod Serling, although he does provide an introduction as usual.

As with many other Twilight Zone episodes there is a link to MGM's Forbidden Planet - in this case it is the presence of the film's co-star Anne Francis.

References[edit]

  • 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

External links[edit]