The original Twilight Zone aired in the early 1960s and featured stories about people predominantly in their thirties and forties. The Golden Girls aired in the mid to late 1980s and featured stories about people predominately in their fifties and sixties. Both television shows were looking for attractive, vibrant people, so it’s no surprise that there was a lot of overlap. All you have to do to find examples is cross-reference all 156 episodes of the Twilight Zone with the 177 episodes of the Golden Girls. Or you could simply read this list!
10. Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynold’s appearance on The Twilight Zone is not generally well known. Burt appeared as actor Rocky Rhodes in an episode titled The Bard. The basic plot is that William Shakespeare is conjured to help a failed writer plot a television show. Burt was doing an almost direct impersonation of Marlon Brando to make fun of the “method actor” movement. The highlight of the episode is Reynolds getting slugged by a resurrected Shakespeare.
Reynolds was a central plot point of a season two episode of The Golden Girls called Ladies of the Evening. Rose, Dorothy and Blanche are arrested on suspicion of prostitution while waiting to meet with Burt Reynolds. In the show, Sophia was a friend of Reynolds. She arranged for Reynolds to drop by the house for a quick meeting with the other girls.
There is some commonality in the two roles, as Burt Reynolds plays a spoiled celebrity in both. There’s also the fact that Burt Reynolds and Rocky Rhodes are about the two greatest names ever.
9. Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney is one of the most recognizable names in entertainment. Rod Serling wrote The Last Night of a Jockey for The Twilight Zone specifically with Rooney in mind. It’s the only episodein which only one actor can be seen. Rooney plays a shifty jockey named Grady who’s been banned from racing. Grady has always wanted to be tall more than anything, and his wish is granted — Grady is made ten feet tall. Then the racing commission informs him that he has been reinstated, but Grady is now too tall to be a jockey. When he asks to be small again, a voices tells Grady that he will always be a small person no matter what his height.
Mickey Rooney also had one appearance on The Golden Girls. The title of the episode is Larceny and Old Lace. Rooney plays another shifty character named Rocco who romances Sophia. Rocco brags about committing various illegal activities, and even takes credit for a bank robbery. Rocco’s claims are seen as possible bluster, but he does go on to leave a bag of money in Sophia’s room. In these epsiodes, Rooney excelled at playing morally bankrupt characters. There’s also the factor of “Hey, wait, isn’t that Mickey Rooney?”
8. Lois Nettleton
Lois Nettleton was memorable in the Twilight Zone episode The Midnight Sun. Nettleton played Norma, an artist living in a world where the Earth is edging closer to the Sun. There is no night and desperation has set in. In the end, the entire situation is revealed to be a dream, but reality isn’t much better. In Norma’s real world, the Earth is actually entering an ice age as it’s getting farther away from the Sun.
Nettleton’s turn in The Golden Girls features an entirely different type of confusion. Nettleton plays the character of Jean in the episode Isn’t It Romantic? Jean is an old friend of Dorothy’s who comes to visit. Jean is also a lesbian who develops a crush on Rose. This puts Rose in an awkward position — she has to let Jean down gently and preserve her friendship with Dorothy. Meanwhile, Blanche feels that men and women should both find her more desirable than Rose. All in all, Nettleton plays a character in both shows who seems to misjudge the heat around her.
7. Lloyd Bochner
When people think of The Twilight Zone, they think of Lloyd Bochner, whether they know they’re thinking of him or not. If you ask people about The Twilight Zone, they’ll eventually talk about To Serve Man. At the end of To Serve Man, the great twist ending is that the alien book titled To Serve Man is a cookbook. Lloyd Bochner plays Michael Chambers, the man who unsuccessfully tries to warn the human race of the translation. To Serve Man is one of the most recognizable moments in the history of televised science fiction.
Bochner had two separate roles in the Golden Girls. The first was probably the easiest one for Bochner to “act” — Bochner was in an episode titled The Actor, where he played a character named Patrick Vaughan. Vaughan’s a famous actor who’s no longer working in television or movies, and has been reduced to starring in local dinner theater to make ends meet. The role is eerily reminiscent of the life of Bob Crane after the cancellation of Hogan’s Heroes. Vaughan, like Crane, takes solace in bedding women entranced by his glory years wherever he goes. In The Actor, Vaughan has affairs with Dorthy, Rose, Blanche, and pretty much every other female cast member. Bochner returned to the Golden Girls in the episode The Rites of Spring, where he played Eduardo, a hairdresser who goes out of his way to compliment the girls. In retrospect, that might have been another perfect role for Patrick Vaughan.
6. Anne Francis
Anne Francis had an acting career which spanned from the 1940s to the early 2000s. In the early 1960s, she had two travels into The Twilight Zone. The first was the 34th episode of the series, The After Hours, where Francis plays Marsha White, a shopper who’s drawn to the top floor looking for a gift for her mother. As the episode progresses, White learns that she has a much stronger connection to the department store — she’s actually one of the mannequins on the top floor. Francis returned in the fourth season episode Jess-Belle as the title character, a woman who sells her soul to a witch for a man’s love. That catch is that she turns into a jaguar at night. After Jess-Belle is hunted down in large cat form, she seemingly continues to cause trouble after death.
Francis would go on to appear in the 95th episode of The Golden Girls, Till Death Do We Volley. Francis played the character of Trudy McCann, an old friend of Dorothy. They were extremely competitive in college and decide to continue their rivalry with a tennis match, only for McCann to die in the middle of it. But she shows up at the end of the episode alive and well — she was playing a prank on Dorothy the whole time. After looking back on it, the ending may well have been worthy of The Twilight Zone.
5. John Fiedler
John Fielder was a lovable actor with a balding head as well as a squeaky voice. He’s perhaps most well-known for being the voice of Piglet in Winnie The Pooh, and he did a lot of other voice work for Disney. Fiedler appeared in the classic Christmas themed episode of The Twilight Zone, The Night of the Meek, where he played store manager Mr. Dundee. Dundee accuses Art Carney’s drunken Henry Corwin of stealing while dressed as Santa. Dundee is also the recipient of Corwin’s speech about Christmas, which may well be the greatest soliloquy in the history of The Twilight Zone.
Fieldler would go on to star as Eddie in the Golden Girls episode Love Me Tender. Eddie is a short, balding and befuddled man whom Dorothy has nothing in common with, but she continues to date him because he’s really good in bed. Dorothy is somewhat ashamed of herself but is addicted to the sex. Piglet himself once asked about this specific type of relationship:
“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it… you feel it.” – Pooh
4. Kevin McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy was a character actor whose career spanned eight decades. His main Twilight Zone credit is in the episode Long Live Walter Jameson. Jameson is a near immortal who has taken up work in a local university as a history professor. He later appeared in Twilight Zone: The Movie as a character named “Uncle Walt,” in a nod to his role in the original series.
McCarthy would go on to appear twice in the Golden Girls as well. McCarthy’s first appearance was in the first season episode Second Motherhood. McCarthy plays a suitor to Blanche named Richard, who asks for her hand in marriage. The catch that Blanche cannot overcome is that Richard has young children — Blanche has raised her children and does not want to go through the experience again. McCarthy can also be seen as a background character in the second part of the season five episode The President’s Coming! The President’s Coming!
3. Jeanette Nolan
Jeanette Nolan was an accomplished radio, film and television actress who specialized in playing rural and western roles. Nolan’s first Twilight Zone appearance came in the 89th episode, The Hunt. Nolan plays the character of Rachel Simpson, the widow of Hyder Simpson. Hyder goes on a hunt and doesn’t realize that he’s killed. Nolan would also appear as the witch in Jess-Belle.
Nolan’s Twilight Zone history would add depth to her pivotal role in The Golden Girls. Nolan played Rose’s mother Alma in the episode Blanche And The Younger Man. Alma is a feisty and hardy old country woman, and Rose continually attempts to make things “easy” for her. It’s the same frontierswoman spirit that Nolan portrayed so well in the Twilight Zone as well as westerns like Gunsmoke and The Virginian. Nolan was also memorably the voice of Widow Tweed in The Fox and the Hound. The Golden Girls couldn’t have cast a better “country mother” for Rose.
2. Murray Hamilton and David Wayne
Murray Hamilton and David Wayne played the same character in The Golden Girls, Blanche’s father Curtis “Big Daddy” Hollingsworth. Haamilton was the first to play the role in the episode Big Daddy on May 3rd, 1986. Curtis tells Blanche that he’s selling their ancestral home in hopes of becoming a country music singer. Hamilton was scheduled to reprise his role, but died of complications from cancer on September 1st, 1986. The intervention of death on The Golden Girls is ironic when you consider Hamilton’s role in The Twilight Zone. Hamilton co-starred with Ed Wynn in the second episode, One For the Angels. Wynn plays a pitchman name Lou Bookman who’s trying to outsmart and avoid Death, played by Murray Hamilton.
The role of Big Daddy was next picked up David Wayne in an episode titled Big Daddy’s Little Lady. Big Daddy reveals that he’s getting married, and Blanche is horrified to find out that his wife is actually younger than Blanche. The Golden Girls stayed with a Twilight Zone veteran for the role. Wayne was the star of the episode Escape Clause, where he played Walter Bedeker. Bedeker is a hypochondriac who sells his soul to the Devil for eternal life, but gives up immortality when he realizes he’ll spend eternity in prison. In both The Golden Girls and The Twilight Zone, Hamilton’s appearance preceded Wayne’s by fewer than ten episodes.
1. George Grizzard
Film, theater, and television veteran George Grizzard had two turns in both The Twilight Zone and The Golden Girls, playing a different character in all four episodes. Grizzard’s first appearance in the Twilight Zone came in The Chaser. Grizzard plays Roger Shackleford, who buys a love potion to gain the devotion of a woman named Leila. When he discovers that he can’t handle her devotion, he buys a poison that would kill her, although he ultimately can’t bring himself to use it. The second episode Grizzard starred in was In His Image. Grizzard plays both a creator of an android as well as the android itself. After a scuffle, one of them is left dead and the other goes on to romance the love of both their lives. The audience is left to decide whether they believe that the android or the creator died.
In The Golden Girls, Grizzard plays two brothers from the Devereaux family. Grizzard’s first appearance is in the episode That Old Feeling, where he plays Jamie Devereaux. Jamie is the brother of Blanche’s dead husband George Devereaux, and Blanche has to decide whether she’s really falling in love with Jamie or just re-falling in love with a memory of George. There’s good reason for the confusion — in the episode Mrs. George Devereaux, Grizzard would return to play Blanche’s dead husband. George has seemingly returned from the dead. He says he’s been doing secret work and had to pretend that he was dead. But in the end, George returning all turns out to be a re-occurring dream. Blanche got to hug George at the end of the dream, putting a sweet ending on an episode that has twists and turns worthy of The Twilight Zone.