These actors in The Twilight Zone's ''Kick the Can'' were father and son in real life

This heartbreaking scene hits home even more.

You will find no eerie aliens, plane-trashing goblins, killer dolls or end-of-the-world scenarios in "Kick the Can." The entire tale takes place in the Sunnyvale Rest Home for the Aged — an old folks home. Rod Serling and screenwriter George Clayton Johnson were aiming at your heartstrings not the hairs on the back of your neck with this tale. And yet, "Kick the Can" remains one of the most widely known episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Steven Spielberg deserves some credit for that, as he remade "Kick the Can" in 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie. It's easy to see why the episode resonated with the E.T. director. It's driving message is to not lose touch with the child inside you — or, as Serling puts it, "childhood, maturity, and old age are curiously intertwined and not separate."

File it under "cute" not "creepy." That is also what had led the episode to be somewhat divisive with fans. Now, years later, after much of its original audience resembles the Sunnyvale residents more than the kids playing in the front yard, "Kick the Can" resonates more than ever. Plus, we now live in a society that has taken the message to heart. You only need to look at video game demographics to prove that.

The casting also offers delights. Familiar faces populate Sunnyvale. The man who runs the place, Superintendant Cox, is played by John Marley, who later woke up with a horse head in his bed in The Godfather. Burt Mustin, a presence in both Mayberry and Mayfield, had recurring roles on The Andy Griffith Show and Leave It to Beaver. And, look, it's Hank Patterson, the owner of Arnold the pig on Green Acres!

Mustin, Patterson and Marley in ''Kick the Can''

The story centers around Ernest Truex, who plays Charles Whitley, the old man who gets in touch with his youth through a beaten tin can. Standing at 5' 3", Truex was a distinctive presence in black-and-white cinema. On the big screen, he had a memorable role in His Girl Friday. He acted alongside everyone from Mary Pickford (as the title character in 1914's A Good Little Devil) to Shirley Jones (in the 1965 lion comedy Fluffy).

But "Kick the Can" gave him the unique chance to work with his son.

At the start of the episode, Charley's son comes to Sunnyvale to pick up pop in his car — or so Charley thinks. The son is played by none other than Barry Truex, Ernest's son in real life! Watching the scene with that knowledge makes it all the more heartbreaking. 

The father and son had previously worked together on a local New York television program called The Truex Family broadcast on WPIX.

"I didn't say I'd come and get you dad," young Whitley explains. "I said I'd come and we'd talk about it." He then kicks his dad out of his car like a can.

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MrBill 12 days ago
Ernest Truex's wife Sylvia Field played Mrs. Wilson on Dennis the Menace (1959).
Nadya92129 16 days ago
Ernest Truex was such a good actor. This episode featured so many of my favorite character actors. As with the "Willoughby" episode, it is wistful and makes me feel so sad.
frances3agape 16 days ago
Too heartbreaking for me to watch anymore - either version.
Have always enjoyed Ernest Truex in Twilight Zone (2) and Alfred Hitchcock shows (2).
Just a couple of weeks ago, one of my fave AH's with him was on - THE PEARL NECKLACE. He was also in another good one THE PERFECT PEARL.
He was also in TZ's I KNOW WHAT YOU NEED.
Wiseguy frances3agape 13 days ago
The title was just "What You Need."
frances3agape Wiseguy 12 days ago
Thanks, Wiseguy. I should have double-checked before posting
Even when I was a kid,I found this episode one of my favorites,even though it is very sad on the one hand,but a note of hope on the other.Now,many years later,it doesn't just tug at the heartstrings it YANKS them!!
Pacificsun 16 days ago
While MeTV's critique is well written, there’s a bit more to the story than what it references. I couldn’t remember watching the episode until looking into it a little further. Most curious is MeTV relating it to video games (quoting): "Kick the Can" resonates more than ever. Plus, we now live in a society that has taken the message to heart. You only need to look at video game demographics to prove that.

My guess is, MeTV is looking at the plot in terms of an escape. A mechanism the dad chooses through his playful attitude (nostalgia). The thing is, video games are passive recreation. Definitely escape. While believing is a very active and engaging effort!

Rod Serling tackles knotty subjects (why they are so relevant today) by asking tough questions. Look at the layers he built into the story. Are elderly marginalized? At what point is “proper“ care abdicated? What’s the definition of proper care? In this case, dad (and the viewer) is tasked with those questions by using a positive (and insular) attitude. Which (if it ended there) might become a superficial solution.

But instead there is this quote (Charles Whitley): Maybe, the fountain of youth isn't a fountain at all. Maybe, it's a way of looking at things - a way of thinking. The beauty of that quote, is that it applies to everyone, under many difficult circumstances. The writers were quite clever to address it “magic” (perhaps). Because it only pushes the discussion deeper. Meaning, IS a positive attitude ONLY magic? Or is it about the kind of character it takes, to achieve the power of believing! And when you get to that point, then isn't it a matter of changing reality.

That's the real magic!
DebyK Pacificsun 15 days ago
Rod Serling was a brilliant man. Read his experiences in war shaped his view of the world. HIs show was as full of morals as Aesop's Fables.
Wiseguy Pacificsun 13 days ago
But, as the article states, Rod Serling didn't write the episode. As executive producer he may have approved the episode, but that's as far as his involvement goes.
Pacificsun Wiseguy 11 days ago
😉
Oh no my heart always stops when I see you among my notifications!
How did you let my (forgotten) failure to use quotes slip by?
stephaniestavropoulos 16 days ago
Has anyone of you out there been charged with elder abuse? When I read the article, it home. I was accused of abusing my mother. We lived in an area where trains were constantly going by. {The tracks were located on our side of the street, and the house's [all however many there were] backyards faced them. One night, my mom went to bed, but while she was doing so, she slipped and fell. I had gone outside to get some air, {she told me to go ahead, she'd be fine-like she'd been before,} so I did. Apparently she slipped and fell while one the trains was going by and I didn't hear her right away. So once I did, I had no idea how long she'd been calling out. The neighbors heard her, and called the police. When I heard her I ran inside, but I slipped on this little step up and fell. I crawled, inside on the tile in the family room to the kitchen and had just straightened up to call for help, {there was a phone on the counter behind me.} when I heard banging and the sound of glass breaking. The cops came rushing in and told me to get on the floor now, or they will taze me. I told them I couldn't my knees hurt to much. So they at least allowed me to sit on the couch. They didn't believe me when I told them what happened, {perhaps they would have if a train had gone by, but none did.} They took my mom to the hospital, and they told me I had to stay away from her for a week and not even have phone contact with her. I went to pack a few things so I could stay w/bro in law {who was in Colorado with my niece, during those fires for a softball tournament.} They wouldn't allow me to call a cab to take me to his house, nor would they allow me, {at the time I was using one,} to get the walker or cane to help me. I stumbled down the steps that were in front, the cop said "quit faking, and walk." I wasn't faking, I had a hard time, I asked since he wouldn't allow me to call for a cab, would he give me a ride to the station. He said "he wasn't running a taxi service." He warned me that he would be checking on me to make sure I stayed away from the house. {I think 100 yards,} but I collapsed against the nearest tree. {I lived in a gated area, and I could clearly still see it from where I was.}I saw one b/w all night, and it went nowhere near the house. I either passed out, or fell asleep. The next morning someone awakened me. It turned out she was nurse on her way to work. She flagged down a man and asked him to call the ambulance; she stayed with me until they came. I was frightened, I was worried about my mother not knowing how she was doing. {We were in the same hospital, but I wasn't able to find out.} While there, the hospital was able to get a hold of B-I-L in CO and he was told what happened. My nephew came and got me and took me to their house. It took two days to get the charges dropped. Like I said, I was petrified the entire time. But both my mom and B-I-L knew everything would turn out fine. Looking back, I wished I had their strength and faith.
WHY on earth would you post something this personal on such a public forum?!?!?!?
Damn,I hope you sued the crap out of the stupid cops!!Normally,I back the badge,but not when they do stupid power trips like what you described,or what happened in MN.
ETristanBooth 16 days ago
Barry Truex is responsible for one of my favorite episodes of Father Knows Best, titled "The Persistent Guest." He also played the teenage Benny in The Benny Goodman Story.
gracie200 16 days ago
always one of my fave eps. even as a kid i felt so sad for the dad and thought the son was so mean for abandoning his dad like that. i understand now as an adult the reality of things dictates that the home might give him better care and attention than the son's home for several reasons. but as a kid i said i'm not gonna get old......well that didn't turn out the way i'd hoped, lol.
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