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Twilight Zone, Episode 1.04: The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Or, Sunset Boulevard 2."
4 stars

"Picture of a woman looking at a picture. Movie great of another time, once-brilliant star in a firmament no longer a part of the sky, eclipsed by the movement of earth and time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame."

In this blandly directed but elegantly acted Serlingization of Sunset Boulevard, Ida Lupino's Barbara Jean can't tear herself away from her private screening room, where she runs all her old romantic films over and over. Her agent (Martin Balsam) fears for her sanity, as does her maid (Alice Frost).

As written by Serling, the episode lacks the acidic satire of Billy Wilder's classic; instead, it feels compassion for Barbara Jean, who yearns for a dead era and rails against the crudity of 1959 cinema, with its shirtless Brandos and its rock 'n' roll. (Horrors!) We sympathize with Barbara Jean even when she callously rejects a former co-star who has come to see her.

Lupino an actress since 1931, and a director since 1949 gives Barbara Jean the dignity of a grand old dame of motion pictures, but generously doesn't take it over the top as Gloria Swanson did. Barbara Jean could just as well be any aging woman longing for her simpler, more romantic days. The denouement is literal but understandable. Ever wonder why you always see this sort of story about older actresses and never older actors? Things haven't changed.

Fun facts: Franz Waxman, who scored "Sunset Boulevard," also scored this episode his first foray into composing for television. Jerome Cowan, who plays Barbara Jean's past-his-prime former leading man, was luckier in real life he worked from 1936 until his death in 1972.

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originally posted: 12/29/08 12:42:00
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This episode of Twilight Zone has been reviewed as part of an ongoing retro TV series. For more in the Twilight Zone Episodes series, click here.

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11/04/13 action movie fan typically good twilihjt zone episode 4 stars
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  23-Oct-1959 (NR)



Directed by
  Mitchell Leisen

Written by
  Rod Serling

  Ida Lupino
  Martin Balsam
  Jerome Cowan
  Ted de Corsia

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