S01E04 - The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine
"Barbara Jean Trenton (Ida Lupino) is an actress past her prime, a once-brilliant star who sequesters herself in her private screening room where she can relive the flickering moments of a fleeting fame played out on the silver screen. Watching her old films drives her deeper into another world...a world beyond space and time...one step away from The Twilight Zone."
Back in September 2015, Forbes ran an article with the rather eye-catching headline, “At Age 32, Is Anne Hathaway Already Too Old To Be A Movie Star?” During the interview, the Academy Award winning actress lamented, “When I was in my early twenties, parts would be written for women in their fifties and I would get them. And now I’m in my early thirties and I’m like, ‘Why did that 24 year old get that part?’” Hathaway’s basic premise was that women in Hollywood have a relatively short shelf life and once they reach a certain age, it pretty much over. Apparently, it’s an old sentiment, going back at least to 1950 and the release of Sunset Boulevard, the classic tale of an aging silent film star who slowly goes mad while trying to stage a comeback.
There can be no doubt Rod Serling had Sunset Boulevard on his mind while scripting The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine as he went so far as to secure that film’s composer, Franz Waxman, to handle the music for the episode. And of course, there are the similarities in the main character of Barbara Jean Trenton, a retired actress who spends her days locked up in her mansion, drinking and watching her old films. This is The Twilight Zone, though, so the story begins to veer into the strange when Barabara actually receives an offer from her former studio to appear in a film. The catch is that hers would not be the role of the romantic lead, but rather the supporting one of the lead’s mother. Too vain to let go of her past glories, Barabara refuses to play the role and chooses instead to immerse herself (literally) inside her fantasy world.
I wonder if Russell Crowe ever saw The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine, because it sure sounds like it in an interview he gave where he said, “I think you'll find that the woman who is saying that [the roles have dried up] is the woman who at 40, 45, 48, still wants to play the ingénue, and can't understand why she's not being cast as the 21 year-old… Meryl Streep will give you 10,000 examples and arguments as to why that's bulls***, so will Helen Mirren, or whoever it happens to be… If you are willing to live in your own skin, you can work as an actor. If you are trying to pretend that you're still the young buck when you're my age, it just doesn't work.”
Alas, some folks just never look past the external, even those who should know better. Pope Francis noted this very thing in a 2014 homily when he said…
”How many Christians live for appearances? Their life seems like a soap bubble. The soap bubble is beautiful, with all its colours! But it lasts only a second, and then what? Even when we look at some funeral monuments, we feel it’s vanity, because the truth is returning to the bare earth, as the Servant of God Paul VI said. The bare earth awaits us, this is our final truth. In the meantime, do I boast or do I do something? Do I do good? Do I seek God? Do I pray? Substantial things. And vanity is a liar, a fantasist, it deceives itself, it deceives the vain, because in the beginning he pretends to be [something], but in the end he really believes himself to be that, he believes. He believes it. Poor thing!”
Hmm, I wonder if the Pope saw this episode as well?