TCM marks the tragic actor’s 100th birthday with a slew of films today.
Sadly, this career boost did not remedy his lingering personal troubles—a crippling insecurity and the alcoholism that went with it. In 1973, he was fired from the role of the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles, supposedly because he collapsed from an attack of delirium tremors. By the end of his life, he was reduced to playing in stock theater with an occasional part as a cardboard villain in a genre flick. His last role was in a Bruce Lee movie, The Game of Death. In the fall of 1978, Young married 31-year-old Kim Schmidt. Three weeks later he shot and killed her, then put the gun to his mouth and pulled the trigger. (…)
Perhaps you have to be from a small-town during a time before video games, computers, play dates, and helicopter parents to understand the pleasure in the pain that derives from revisiting a childhood like the one in “Walking Distance.” It was all about freedom: The freedom to roam the entire neighborhood or town from dawn to dusk; the lure of the woods or parks; the freedom from structure and responsibility. This episode of The Twilight Zone is more than nostalgia; it serves up a sense of loss without the hope of replacement or renewal. “Walking Distance” captures that feeling of permanent loss, and Young plays Martin Sloan with a vulnerability that is heartbreaking. Apparently, the town and park were based on Binghamton, N.Y., where Rod Serling grew up. If you watch this episode, notice how Serling’s voice almost chokes up as he makes his closing remarks.