Rance McGrew is the star of a weekly TV western where he plays the town Marshal. He is, to say the least, difficult to deal with. He is frequently late on the set, arrives unprepared and often requests script changes just as they are about to shoot a scene. To top it off, he's quite inept at handling his gun which he inadvertently tosses into the saloon mirror on more than one occasion. He's given a dose of reality however when he inexplicably finds himself back in time, coming face to face with the real Jesse James. Written by
In the "showdown" sequence, when Rance McGrew is backing away from Jesse James, the funeral parlor hoves into view and reveals that the Funeral Director is "C. Nyby" (a nice little in-joke, as the director of this episode is one Christian Nyby!). See more »
At different times while they are filming Rance's various takes in the saloon, his Ford T-Bird with the longhorns is clearly visible out in the street. See more »
The evolution of the so-called 'adult' western, and the metamorphosis of one Randy McGrew, formerly phony-baloney, now upright citizen with a preoccupation with all things involving tradition, truth, and cowpoke predecessors. It's the way the cookie crumbles and the six-gun shoots - in The Twilight Zone.
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Lord knows Rod Serling did his best to write comic episodes for his great series, but the results were almost always trite and heavy-handed. This one, though often maligned by the "experts", is truly delightful (and yes...I realize that comedy is very subjective).
There are some slow, repetitious moments in the main confrontation between Rance and the real Jesse (which could have been solved with more inventive direction)....but otherwise, Chris Nyby's work is first-rate. The entire first half is just CRAZY--a beautifully staged "chamber-comedy" in which we find ourselves enmeshed in the quirky interplay between a tedious, pampered boor and the behind-the-scenes mechanics of TV make-believe. And for once, here's a running gag that actually works!--- Rance's bad habit of wildly flinging his six-shooter in the direction of the mirror mounted behind the bar.
The real pitfall of this brand of satire is the tendency to play too broadly..but Larry Blyden's performance is beautifully balanced and controlled, as is that of Robert Cornthwaite, who could always be counted on for a first-rate job. Arch Johnson is also dead-on.
From Rance's nutty first entrance to the hilarious concluding plot twist, Serling managed to crank out his best comedy while buried under the stress of his third full season of production. Last but certainly not least is the CBS music editor, who chose Fred Steiner's whimsical, leisurely "hoe-down" music (composed for Gunsmoke's "Minnie" in 1961), adding the final touch of brilliance to this underrated gem.
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