The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine

The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine is the fourth episode of the first season in the original run of the Twilight Zone. The episode originally on October 23rd, 1959.

Ida Lupino was the only woman to star in and direct an episode of the Twiilight Zone. She directed

Martin Balsam played agent Danny Weiss in the episode. Balsam was also Detective Milton Arbogast in Psycho.

Jerome Cowan was friends with the legendary Fess Parker. As such, Cowan appeared with Parker in productions like Daniel Boone.

Just The Facts

  1. "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" has many common elements with Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard. As a matter of fact, composer Franz Waxman worked on both.
  2. Ida Lupino has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The stars are for both acting as well as directing.
  3. The Billy Wilder connection continued with director Mitchell Leisen. Leisen directed both Midnight (1939) and Hold Back The Dawn (1941) which were both scripted by Billy Wilder.

The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine

In the 1950s, there arose what might considered a relatively new phenomenon if you think about it. Now, you were starting to have instances of aging Hollywood Film Stars. Films were a medium which were about fifty years old at this point. Many people long for the 'good old days.' It might actually be doubly depressing if the 'good old days' can be watched in rather magnificent celluoid. To this point, Ida Lupino stars as Barbara Jean Trenton. Trenton is an aging film star who wiles away her time watching her old movies and refusing to live in the present. She also refuses to acknowledge her own age.

Trenton was played by Ida Lupino. Lupino is actually an inspired choice for the role as she had a storied career as both an actress as well as director. Lupino dealt with film her entire adult life. She would go on to be the only woman to direct an episode of the original run of the Twilight Zone. This is especially remarkeable since there was never a woman who actually wrote an episode of the original run of the Twilight Zone. During the episode, Trenton receives two visitors.

The first visitor is her agent Danny Weiss played by Martin Balsam. Weiss wants Trenton to have a supporting role in a new movie. The problem is that Trenton would be playing a motherly role which is against the image Trenton has of herself. She would also not be the star of the movie (as it would be a smaller role.) This is precisely the type of transition that many aging actors go through. In the television series Bollywood Hero, Chris Kattan asks what happened to all of those action roles that Harrison Ford used to do. The answer comes back that they are now all done by Matt Damon.

Trenton absolutely refuses to transition or accept that her life has changed. She prefers the seclusion and comfort of her old films. One of the films, at least, seems to have been filmed in her own home. Trenton's second visitor is Jerry (played by Jerome Cowan.) Jerry is a formerly dashing film star who is now a businessman in the midwest. Trenton cannot stand not only that Jerry got old but that he seems to have accepted getting old. The scene actually evokes memories out of the novel Moby Dick. There is a chapter in the book where Ahab meets a Captain who has lost an arm to the white whale. Ahab presses whether the Captain will be looking for vengeance. The Captain responds ""Didn't want to try to; ain't one limb enough? What should I do without this other arm? And I'm thinking Moby Dick doesn't bite so much as he swallows."

The other captain can let go. Ahab cannot. Trenton cannot let go of her Hollywood career and resents that Jerry has managed to. She sends 'the old man' from her sight. Mystically, Barbara Jean Trenton is given a seemingly one time choice which she accepts. Trenton is allowed to step into her movie to be forever the self she wants to be. Trenton is seen in her own living room on the movie. She throws a white scarf down and walks away. In the living room, those who love Trenton find her scarf on the floor.

Trenton crossed over from a world she could not handle into one she could. Even if it did not make sense to those around her, it was a gift given to her by... The Twilight Zone.