Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

"I don't want to make a big thing out of this, but what kind of a place is this?"

Marsha (Anne Francis)

No doubt about it. Anne Francis was a beautiful woman ... especially when she was young. (Now, before you say, "Who wasn't?" hear me out.)

She had all the qualities necessary to play a damsel in distress in the movies. That was a big part of her beauty — the impression people seemed to get that she was fragile. But she wasn't. Appearances can be deceptive, and that was never more accurate than in the case of Anne Francis.

She was tough, and she could be skeptical. In "The After Hours," the episode of the Twilight Zone that first aired on this night in 1960, her character observed that the elevator that was taking her to a department store's ninth floor (which, as it turned out, didn't exist) was empty, save for her and the elevator attendant (they still had elevator attendants in 1960) even though the lobby had been crowded with shoppers wanting to be taken to the upper floors.

She was told that the elevator in which she was riding was an express elevator that only took customers to the ninth floor, where special items were available. Didn't really seem like the item she sought — a gold thimble — was so special, but she had told the attendant that it was advertised.

She was able to rationalize that ... but rationalizing things became progressively more difficult.

She became aware of strangers — apparently department store employees — who knew her by name (Marsha). And then she learned from the store's manager that the store had no ninth floor. Spooky, huh? Spooked Marsha so much she had to lie down in an office and slept through the store's closing. When she woke up, she was locked in.

So she went looking for a way out.

Then she became aware of people gathering around her — disembodied voices that seemed to be coming from the mannequins who could be seen throughout the store.

In the world of the department store, the mannequins had their own world, and each month one of them left the store to live in the world of the humans. It was like a little vacation.

Only Marsha had forgotten that she was a mannequin on holiday and that her time in the outside world had expired. She hadn't recognized the mannequins she encountered in the store — and her tardiness in returning had delayed the next mannequin's departure.

"Did you enjoy yourself, Marsha?" another mannequin asked Francis after her character remembered everything and the other mannequins said goodbye to the mannequin whose turn it was to live with the "outsiders," as they were called. "Was it fun?"

"Ever so much fun," she replied with a smile. "Ever so much fun."

And the mannequins assumed their natural positions.