Twilight Zone – The Dummy

★★★★★  May 4, 1962 Season 3 Episode 33

If you want to see where we are…HERE is a list of the episodes.

The story of a ventriloquist and his dummy has been done but the ending keeps this fresh.  This episode still works today. The Twilight Zone covers a lot of ground and some episodes do scare people. This one would be one of those. It’s creepy and may have influenced the 1978 movie Magic.

Cliff Robertson plays Jerry Etherson and is great in this role as a talented but alcoholic ventriloquist. Frank Sutton, who most people know as Sgt Carter from Gomer Pyle, is in the episode as Etherson’s agent Frank. At first you don’t know if Etherson is imagining what is happening or not.

Frank cares about Jerry but after so many missed performances because of his drinking problem….he drops him as a client.  He also suggests Jerry to get help because Jerry swears that “Willy” (the dummy) is alive.

The Dummy has one of the most chilling final shots of any episode of The Twilight Zone.

Any show with a dummy, gives me the creeps. After seeing this when I was younger… I had relatives who had one of those things lying around…I never took my eyes off that  thing.

The dummy “Willy” was created by American ventriloquist supplies maker Revillo Pettee, while the dummy seen at the end was created by English builder Len Insull. “Willy” is in the private collection of magician David Copperfield.

This show was written by Rod Serling and Lee Polk

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration: 

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willy.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

Summary

Jerry Etherson has a reasonably successful nightclub act as a ventriloquist but has one major problem: he believes his dummy Willie is a sentient being who speaks to him and manipulates his life. His agent Frank thinks Jerry needs psychiatric help and tells him he has no future in the business if he doesn’t do something about his delusions. Jerry decides to lock Willie in a trunk and try his act with a different dummy. Willie has plans of his own however.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

What’s known in the parlance of the times as the old switcheroo, from boss to blockhead in a few uneasy lessons. And if you’re given to nightclubbing on occasion, check this act. It’s called Willy and Jerry, and they generally are booked into some of the clubs along the ‘Gray Night Way’ known as the Twilight Zone.

CAST

Rod Serling … Narrator / Self – Host (uncredited)
Cliff Robertson … Jerry Etherson
Frank Sutton … Frank
George Murdock … Willie
John Harmon … Georgie
Sandra Warner … Noreen
Ralph Manza … Doorkeeper
Rudy Dolan … Emcee (uncredited)
Bethelynn Grey … Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Edy Williams … Chorus Girl (uncredited)