Liza Minnelli wanted a key role on The Twilight Zone but could not pass the audition
"Come wander with me," sings Mary Rachel, an eerie singer at the center of The Twilight Zone episode that's titled after this lyric from her song. She first appears as a vulnerable woman in the woods who falls for the episode's antihero, a folk singer named Floyd Burney who's desperately seeking a song that can rocket him to fame.
Hesitant at first to share her song, Mary Rachel eventually gives in, and although Floyd isn't that keen on the lyrics, he asks to buy the rights to the song. When she refuses, he woos her into singing it again and secretly records it. Things get weird when, each time the recording plays back, new verses are added, spinning a ballad that begins to mirror reality. By the end of the episode, the song's lyrics prove to be a prophecy that leads to Floyd's undoing, serving as a lesson for the fame-seeking folk singer.
"Come Wander with Me" is famously the last episode ever filmed of the original series ("The Bewitching Pool" was the last aired), and it starred a young Bonnie Beecher in her debut TV role. Her performance was aptly chilling, leading her to be cast in many more dramatic roles on shows like Gunsmoke, The Fugitive, Peyton Place, The Invaders and Star Trek. Unbeknownst to Beecher, she faced stiff competition for the part, as there was another rising star with her eye on this hair-raising role.
Liza Minnelli launched her career at 17 by winning the theater world's top award for her role in the Off-Broadway revival of Best Foot Forward. The very next year, she auditioned to star in an episode of The Twilight Zone, one of the most coveted experiences for any actor, writer or director of the time. The TV drama had become famous for pulling the very best out of its stars, and Minnelli's first chance to audition came in the show's final season with the episode "Come Wander with Me."
Producer William Froug told the Archive of American Television why Minnelli didn't get the part. "She was so wrong for it," he said. "It was a country singer. The character was a teenage country singer, which is not Liza Minnelli. She was anything but."
At 18, Minnelli seemed to be in the right age range, but Froug said she just wasn't the right fit.
"She came in, I thanked her, and I said, 'This part is not for you,'" the producer explained. In The Twilight Zone Companion, the episode's director Richard Donner said he was the one who made the call, saying he expected Beecher to become a big star and wanted to work with her immediately.
Whoever made the ultimate decision, it seemed to have nothing to do with how lovely Liza would've sounded in the part. As it is, Beecher gave The Twilight Zone a particularly haunting final bow on the production side, and Minnelli became one of very few stars to join the elite EGOT club.
We're sure there were no hard feelings — and that Minnelli's stunning success directly following isn't a sign she met a folk singer with a secret song just for her on that unlucky day she sought to enter... The Twilight Zone.