Long Distance Call
|"Long Distance Call"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Directed by||James Sheldon|
|Written by||Charles Beaumont and William Idelson|
|Original air date||March 31, 1961|
"Long Distance Call" is episode 58 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on March 31, 1961 on CBS. In the episode, 5-year-old boy named Billy communicates with his grandmother using a toy telephone that she gave him on his birthday, just before she died.
The narration begins a few minutes into the episode:
|“||As must be obvious, this is a house hovered over by Mr. Death, an omnipresent player to the third and final act of every life. And it's been said, and probably rightfully so, that what follows this life is one of the unfathomable mysteries, an area of darkness which we, the living, reserve for the dead—or so it is said. For in a moment, a child will try to cross that bridge which separates light and shadow, and, of course, he must take the only known route, that indistinct highway through the region we call The Twilight Zone.||”|
Billy's beloved grandmother visits for his 5th birthday party, despite being deathly frail. She gives the boy a toy telephone, telling him that he can always talk to her on it. She then becomes gravely weak and delusional; she doesn't recognize her son Chris and imagines that Billy is her son, who was "taken" from her. Grandma then dies.
Billy's parents, especially his mother Sylvia, become concerned when he spends all his time on the toy telephone talking to his grandmother. He says that she tells him she is lonely and misses her. While the parents are at her funeral, Billy runs out in front of a car. The driver, who barely manages to swerve out of the way, reports that Billy said someone told him to do it. When asked, Billy denies it. Billy's father tries to explain that Grandma has died, and asks that he not use the toy phone in front of his mother. He explains to Sylvia that his mother had two children before him, both of whom died, which is why she was so attached to Billy, who reminded her of them.
That night, Sylvia is awoken by the sound of Billy talking and laughing. Going to his room, she grabs the phone out of his hands, but is shocked when she hears Grandma on it. Billy runs out of the room. Chris and Sylvia look for him, and are horrified to find him submerged in their garden pool, apparently drowning himself to be with Grandma.
An ambulance attendant informs the parents that Billy's chances are not very good. Chris goes upstairs to Billy's room, picks up the toy phone, and begs his mother to give Billy back and allow him to experience life. He pleads that if she really loves him, she will let him live. Downstairs, the attendants' efforts to revive Billy succeed, and when Chris joins them, he and Sylvia embrace, relieved.
|“||A toy telephone, an act of faith, a set of improbable circumstances, all combine to probe a mystery, to fathom a depth, to send a facet of light into a dark after-region, to be believed or disbelieved, depending on your frame of reference. A fact or a fantasy, a substance or a shadow—but all of it very much a part of The Twilight Zone.||”|
- Philip Abbott as Chris Bayles
- Lili Darvas as Grandma Bayles
- Patricia Smith as Sylvia Bayles
- Bill Mumy as Billy Bayles
- Jenny Maxwell as Shirley
- Reid Hammond as Mr. Peterson
- Henry Hunter as Dr. Unger
- Lew Brown as Fireman
- Arch Johnson as Fireman
Five weeks into The Twilight Zone's second season, the show's budget was showing a deficit. The total number of new episodes was projected at twenty-nine, more than half of which (sixteen) had already been filmed by November 1960. CBS strongly suggested that in order to trim the production's $65,000-per-episode budget, six episodes should be produced and telecast in the cheaper videotape format, eventually transferred to 16-millimeter film for future syndicated rebroadcasts. The studios of the network's Television City, normally used for the production of variety shows and live drama, would serve as the venue. There would be fewer camera movements and no exteriors, making the episodes more akin to soap operas (and the network's Playhouse 90 anthology), with the videotaped image effectively narrowing and flattening perspective. Even with these artistic sacrifices, the eventual total savings amounted to only $30,000, far less than the cost of a single episode. The experiment was thus deemed a failure and never attempted again.
Even though the six shows were taped in a row, through November and into mid-December, their broadcast dates were out of order and varied widely, with this, the final one, shown on March 31, 1961 as episode 22. The first, "The Lateness of the Hour", was seen on December 2, 1960 as episode 8; the second, "Static", appeared on March 10, 1961 as episode 20; the third, "The Whole Truth" was broadcast on January 20, 1961 as episode 14; the fourth was the Christmas entry, "The Night of the Meek", shown as the 11th episode on December 23, 1960 and the fifth, "Twenty Two" was seen on February 10, 1961 as episode 17.
This was also the final episode sponsored by General Foods (Sanka, S.O.S Soap Pads), which ended its two-year primary sponsorship of the series. Beginning with the March 14th episode, the series' new alternate sponsor was Liggett & Myers, for Oasis cigarettes.
- 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