Horace Ford is a toy designer. He is enthusiastic about what he does and has fond memories of the games he played as a child. Lately, he is forever talking about his childhood, obssessing in fact, over those little childhood moments that brought him great joy. His mother however doesn't quite remember their time living on Randolph St. as such a great time in their lives. He goes to visit his old neighborhood but when he gets there, he seems to have stepped back in time. He returns to the street several times and the scene repeats itself over and over. He realizes his childhood wasn't the wonderful time he remembered. Written by
Horace Maxwell Ford was born in June 1925. See more »
Although the flashback scenes take place in June 1935, a poster for the 1938 film The Toy Wife is seen. See more »
Mr. Horace Ford, who has a preoccupation with another time, a time of childhood, a time of growing up, a time of street games, stickball and hide-'n-go-seek. He has a reluctance to go check out a mirror and see the nature of his image: proof positive that the time he dwells in has already passed him by. But in a moment or two, he'll discover that mechanical toys and memoires and daydreaming and wishful thinking and all manner of odd and special events can lead one into a ...
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Hingle compelling, but "child-sized" plot fails to fill the hour
Escaping to alternate worlds and/or one's childhood was a frequent theme on "The Twilight Zone" (TZ). TZ goes hopping and skipping again with "The Incredible World of Horace Ford." Unfortunately the results this time are unconvincing drama and a fantasy gimmick repeated to the point of tedium. You might think TZ was just running out of ideas, but surprisingly this was a Reginald "12 Angry Men" Rose story first televised eight years prior on the anthology "Studio One" (an old haunt of TZ's Rod Serling!). Art Carney starred as Horace, and Jason Robards was his co-worker Leonard O'Brien.
The redeeming factor of TZ's version is Pat Hingle in the title role. Horace Ford may strike some viewers as unrealistic; on the other hand, his odd, clashing traits are interesting to see, and Hingle certainly uses them to create a compelling TV character.
Horace is almost 38 but seems stuck in childhood. Immature in manner, he's also prone to gushing, endless reminiscences about the playground games and old neighborhood kids from long ago. However, this probably contributes to his success as a toy designer, valued by his company. (Amusingly, the story suggests his immaturity goes in hand with him just being a temperamental artiste. He resents the suggestion that he cancel the "light-up eyes" feature of the new robot he's designing, because light-up eyes are central to the toy's whole "meaning" or something!)
Also unexpected is that this childish man has a wife, although, in another infantile touch, the couple lives with his mother. Yet Horace is well aware that his work is what supports the whole household.
Serling's smug opening narration scores points against Horace for being too childish. It seems the fantasy plot that unfolds is meant to reform him in some way. In typical TZ fashion, Horace decides to revisit a childhood neighborhood, and his trip takes him further than expected.
But the resulting drama never comes together. It's uncertain what the episode wants Horace to do. Without spoiling anything, the denouement's conclusion goes too far in taking a proposal with a little psychological truth in it, and applying it sweepingly to a man's entire childhood. For this to work, Horace would have to be not merely eccentric, and immature, but deluded.
The drama is not well-done, and unfortunately neither is the episode is general.
When I complained about repeating the fantasy gimmick, I didn't mean merely that the episode is a rehash of other TZ trips to the past, though many viewers will likely conclude that. Rather, the episode repeats its big long trip two more times with almost no change. We are forced to sit through the same mundane collisions with pedestrians, the same mother screaming the same words out a window, etc. I think they literally reused the same footage. Picture "Groundhog Day" without the comedy or variations. This is just tedious TV.
Also a problem is the ambiguous character of Laura, Horace's wife. Like everyone else, she doubts his story of what happened on his return to the old hood. But then the episode makes a big to-do (again, done three times) about one of the hood kids showing up at her door in his outdated clothes, and returning the watch Horace keeps dropping. Yet nothing comes of this. It doesn't change Laura's disbelief at all, and in fact doesn't move the story forward.
It's surely a burden for a young wife to have to live with her mother-in-law, and do so in an apartment. But that's not enough to explain Laura's cruelty to the woman. At inappropriate times, and after the most minor offenses, she's always telling Mother Ford to be quiet and leave the couple alone. The worst is when the prospect arises of unemployment for Horace. Mother gives a long, impassioned speech about how unfair that would be for the talented Horace, and how worried she is about how the household would survive. All true. Laura's response?
Mother's speech makes sense, and is well acted, but this too is unnecessary to the story. It's pure filler. With stuff like this, and the tedious repetition, I guess they just didn't have enough material to fill an hour.
We are left with Hingle as what makes this worth watching. He's dynamite as the energetic, moody, sometimes exasperating Horace. Modern viewers who know him mainly from his minor role as Commissioner Gordon will be surprised at his strong acting.
You might just want to fast forward through most everything else, though.
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