The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross

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"The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 5
Episode 16
Directed by Don Siegel
Written by Jerry McNeely (based on the story by Henry Slesar)
Featured music Stock
Production code 2612
Original air date January 17, 1964
Guest appearance(s)

Don Gordon: Salvadore Ross
Gail Kobe: Leah Maitland
Vaughn Taylor: Mr. Maitland
J. Pat O'Malley: Old Man
Douglass Dumbrille: Mr. Halpert
Douglas Lambert: Albert Grow
Seymour Cassel: Jerry (uncredited)
Ted Jacques: Bartender (uncredited)
Kathleen O'Malley: Nurse (uncredited)

Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Long Morrow"
Next →
"Number 12 Looks Just Like You"
List of season 5 episodes
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.


Salvadore Ross is a brash, insensitive, ambitious 26-year-old man who craves a lovely young social worker named Leah Maitland. Leah is attracted to Ross, but could never marry a man so lacking in compassion. Telling him that the relationship is finished, Leah slams her door in his face, and Ross slams his fist into the door, breaking his hand and necessitating a trip to the hospital. Ross' roommate is an elderly man with a respiratory infection. Ross sarcastically suggests that he'd like to trade ailments with the old man, who jokingly accepts the trade. The next morning, as if by magic, the old man has a broken hand, while Ross has a cold.

Ross comes to realize that he has a supernatural power to make magical trades with other people. In exchange for a large amount of cash and a penthouse apartment, Ross sells his youth to an elderly millionaire. As a result, Ross is now very rich but old. He finds an easy way to regain his youth: he offers a large number of young men (beginning with a hotel bellboy) a small amount of cash for just one year of their lives. The boys accept the money, thinking Ross is just crazy (and since none of them feels any different after aging just one year, none thinks anything has really happened). In short order, Ross is young again, and still rich.

With his new-found wealth, he attempts to win Leah's hand again, and again, she refuses. She wants a man with a heart, who is as generous and compassionate as her father. Frustrated, Ross approaches Mr. Maitland, who is kind to him despite his disrespectful and condescending demeanor, but does not think he would be a good husband for his daughter. Ross offers to make him and Leah financially secure for the rest of their lives. When the father skeptically asks how, Ross says hesitantly, "Well, it's a little hard to explain..."

Sometime later, we see that Ross has become a warm, compassionate fellow who has won Leah's heart. Ross, in consideration of Mr. Maitland's feelings, meets with him in private and asks his assent to the marriage, but Mr. Maitland refuses. He implores the older man, "Don't you have any compassion?" Maitland coldly replies, "I sold that to you yesterday", and shoots Ross dead.


  • 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

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