Growing up as a latchkey kid in Del Rio, Texas, I discovered early on the joys of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone: I’d found the show in sporadic showings on WGN out of Chicago and would avidly follow along to stories of monsters, ghosts, alternate dimensions and everything in-between any time the TV Gods smiled down on me and threw me a random episode. I was hooked from a very early age on the series and it wasn’t long before I stumbled upon one of my all-time fave Zone episodes, the 1961 effort entitled The Passerby. This creepy little tale written by Serling was for late nights, thunderstorms and hot chocolate and was partially responsible for hours of lost sleep as I fitfully struggled with the tale of a post-Civil War south and a former belle whose gutted out residence just happened to butt up against a road that was festooned with all of the dead Union and Confederate troops of that awful conflict. Beneath the horror of war and the utter eeriness of life so closely intermingling with that of the dead that was this episode, a couple of bright acting talents truly stood out – James Gregory…and Joanne Linville. It was these two who anchored the episode, lending a real empathy for two lost souls encountering an otherworldly situation. Linville, in particular, stood out as a woman waiting for her lost love to return home from war. The tenor of her voice, the subtlety in which, to my eight year old ears at least, in which she nailed her character’s southern drawl and, most of all, her quiet yet palpable yearning and grief really carried the day in a style that even consummate actor James Gregory couldn’t quite match. Yeah, I was smitten with Ms. Linville from the start, so much so that a year later when I managed to catch the episode again on WGN I rescued the audio for that episode onto my tinny little cassette player (these were the days before VHS had become prevalent; yes, I’m old.), playing it over and over again as I envisioned Linville and Gregory in all of their black and white glory.
Mine was not the only admiration that Joanne Linville enjoyed during a long and storied career. The actress, born Beverly Joanne Linville on January 15, 1928, more than earned the accolades and respect of anyone who she brushed up against through her many complex and relatable performances throughout the decades. The accomplished actress passed away on June 20, 2021 at the age of 93.
Her career – where to begin? A list of credits in memorable film and television ranging from Guiding Light, One Step Beyond, Gunsmoke, Star Trek, Hawaii Five-O, Route 66, Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty and A Star Is Born are just a few of the cherry-picked examples of the level of her craft and her dedication to it.
In eulogizing Ms. Linville, our pals over at The Hollywood Reporter claimed that she “sparkled” in her work in that episode of The Twilight Zone I just waxed rhapsodic about. That is apt and I might just add that, to this former latchkey kid from Del Rio, Texas, she also glimmered and glowed. Her likes will never be seen again.