Wednesday, August 22, 2012

R.I.P. William Windom.

Actor William Windom passed away on August 17, 2012 at the age of 88.
Windom was the star of the (very) short lived sitcom “My World and Welcome To It” (1969), which I remember liking for the very brief time it was on.  He was also on “The Farmer’s Daughter”, which I never saw – but, oddly, can remember seeing commercials for! 

But, to me, there are four roles William Windom is best remembered for:  Three for Rod Serling and one for Gene Roddenberry.   (…Great credits, if you ask me!)

TWILIGHT ZONE: Five Characters in Search of an Exit” (1961).  Windom is “The Major”, a military man and one of a quintet of disparate characters – a clown, a ballet dancer, a hobo, and a Scottish bagpiper – who find themselves trapped in a large and seemingly inescapable cylinder.   

NIGHT GALLERY:  They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” (1971).  Windom is Randolph Lane, a plastics sales executive, and a man out of time.  His time was the days immediately after WWII and all the promise those times offered a returning hero.  Life in 1971 has become devoid of all enjoyment and pleasure and, under the influence of alcohol (and some mighty powerful hallucinations), he finds himself back in his glory days, celebrating in “Tim Riley’s Bar” – a structure, now abandoned, and ready to be demolished.

NIGHT GALLERY:  Little Girl Lost” (1972).  Professor Putnam (Windom) is a brilliant but unbalanced government scientist, who has tragically lost his young daughter Ginney – and is working on a doomsday project for the U.S. Military.  Tom Burke (Ed Nelson) is engaged to “humor” Putnam, and perpetuate Putnam’s delusion that the little girl is still with him – in order to get him to complete the project.  …Oh, what an ending!
Brushing "Ginney's" hair!

And, one of my most favorite things of all time…

STAR TREK (TOS):  The Doomsday Machine” (1967).  Said to be “Moby Dick in Space”, Windom’s vengeful and insane Commodore Decker takes command of the Starship Enterprise in order to destroy the massive planet-killer that cost him his ship and his crew. 

The Doomsday Machine”, like certain other TREK classics such as “City on the Edge of Forever” and “Amok Time” is one of TREK’s very best, and something that everyone should see at least once – no small thanks to its brilliant guest star! 

Rest in Peace, Mr. William Windom – and thank you for these and so many other great moments! 


Anonymous said...

"My World and Welcome to It" may have been ahead of its time, with the Walter Mitty-type fantasy sequences. Today, it might fit right in with shows like "Family Guy."

Anonymous said...

BTW (and this is intended as an addition, not a correction), I just remembered another science fiction appearance by Windom. He played the president in "Escape from the Planet of the Apes."

Comicbookrehab said...

Windom also had a recurring role as Seth, Cabot Cove's town Doctor with an awesome buzzcut and sidekick of Jessica Fletcher in "Murder She Wrote" and was the voice of Uncle Chuck in DIC's "Sonic The Hedgehog" with Jaleel White as the voice of Sonic. He also appeared in an early Batman: The Animated Series episode,"Prophets of Doom", with Heather Locklear.

I thought William in "The Doomsday Machine" looked a lot like Patton Oswalt, particularly in his death scene. In "FCISE" he looks a lot like the late Nicolas Courtney from "Doctor Who". He tended to play the "likable curmudgeon" often, aging into the part gracefully. :)

Joe Torcivia said...


My admittedly vague recollections of “My World and Welcome to It” would have me believe that it might have been more at home and more successful in 1966 than in 1969. …So, in that sense, it may actually have been more “behind” than “ahead” of its time.

Amazing what a difference a mere three years would make! 1966 was also the year the trio of Ironside, Dragnet, and Dean Martin (…mentioned in the comments of my “Katie Elder” post) would go back-to-back-to-back for the first time on Thursday nights. And, by fall 1969 with all my ‘60s favorites gone, that trio of shows would be just about my favorite thing left on TV.

Though, you’re quite right, by the time of Family Guy, audiences would have “come back around” to appreciate something like My World and Welcome to It! …Pity it would have to take about 40 years for us to get there.

Joe Torcivia said...

Anon and ‘Rehab:

To paraphrase an old saying that I like:

There are no “corrections” here at TIAH Blog… only “additions” we haven’t met yet!

There aren’t many things that I can say are “good” about writing these tributes to the departed people that made my life a brighter one – but one is that I get to list the particular accomplishments of theirs that I liked best (sharing them with you all), and that others can add their own to the list.

Anyone with as extensive an accumulation of credits as William Windom is bound to have favored or otherwise notable work that I may have forgotten – or maybe never heard of. All are welcome to add their personal favorites to the discussion.

This goes for every such tribute I do. That’s what MAKES it a tribute!

There was even a second Twilight Zone that I neglected to mention, probably because I hadn’t seen it nearly as often as “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” – ‘cause it was one of the hour-long ones.

Thank you both for your contributions!

Bruce Kanin said...

Windom was one of those actors who didn't seem like he was acting - he was that good. "My World..." was clearly ahead of its time, so much so that the masses probably couldn't appreciate it and it only lasted a season.

I remember "The Farmer's Daughter". Windom and Inger Stevens had chemistry and "made" the show. Unfortunately when it had ratings challenges, the two married, and like Lois & Clark, that's when the fun went out of the show.

But he is best remembered, for me, via Star Trek's "The Doomsday Machine". It is arguably one of the top five all-time Trek episodes - crackerjack from start-to-finish.

William Windom's Commodore Decker is the focal point of the show - first as a sympathetic & sad character, then as a highly troublesome & irritating one and finally, in death, going out as an unexpected hero.

His interplay with Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley is wonderful and makes the episode. I could watch this one over and over - and have!

R.I.P. William Windom, a consummate actor.


Joe Torcivia said...

Completely agreed, Bruce!

Over the last two days, I watched all four of the Windom appearances that I cite in my post (I tend to do that when someone I like or otherwise admire passes.) – and here’s one of the most remarkable things about his performance in “The Doomsday Machine”…

As outstanding as we all recall William Windom’s portrayal of Matt Decker, it’s difficult to believe that (…and by THIS TIME, I doubt I’m spoiling anything) his character didn’t even survive into ACT FOUR!

…And, in those three acts (also sans teaser), he remains regarded as one of the best guest stars in TREK history over four decades later!

Joe Torcivia said...

CORRECTION: In my reply to Anon (above) I should have said… “1967 [ not 1966 ] was also the year the trio of Ironside, Dragnet, and Dean Martin (…mentioned in the comments of my “Katie Elder” post) would go back-to-back-to-back for the first time on Thursday nights. ”