These actors in The Twilight Zone's ''Kick the Can'' were father and son in real life
You will find no eerie aliens, plane-trashing goblins, killer dolls or end-of-the-world scenarios in "Kick the Can." The entire tale takes place in the Sunnyvale Rest Home for the Aged — an old folks home. Rod Serling and screenwriter George Clayton Johnson were aiming at your heartstrings not the hairs on the back of your neck with this tale. And yet, "Kick the Can" remains one of the most widely known episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Steven Spielberg deserves some credit for that, as he remade "Kick the Can" in 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie. It's easy to see why the episode resonated with the E.T. director. It's driving message is to not lose touch with the child inside you — or, as Serling puts it, "childhood, maturity, and old age are curiously intertwined and not separate."
File it under "cute" not "creepy." That is also what had led the episode to be somewhat divisive with fans. Now, years later, after much of its original audience resembles the Sunnyvale residents more than the kids playing in the front yard, "Kick the Can" resonates more than ever. Plus, we now live in a society that has taken the message to heart. You only need to look at video game demographics to prove that.
The casting also offers delights. Familiar faces populate Sunnyvale. The man who runs the place, Superintendant Cox, is played by John Marley, who later woke up with a horse head in his bed in The Godfather. Burt Mustin, a presence in both Mayberry and Mayfield, had recurring roles on The Andy Griffith Show and Leave It to Beaver. And, look, it's Hank Patterson, the owner of Arnold the pig on Green Acres!
The story centers around Ernest Truex, who plays Charles Whitley, the old man who gets in touch with his youth through a beaten tin can. Standing at 5' 3", Truex was a distinctive presence in black-and-white cinema. On the big screen, he had a memorable role in His Girl Friday. He acted alongside everyone from Mary Pickford (as the title character in 1914's A Good Little Devil) to Shirley Jones (in the 1965 lion comedy Fluffy).
But "Kick the Can" gave him the unique chance to work with his son.
At the start of the episode, Charley's son comes to Sunnyvale to pick up pop in his car — or so Charley thinks. The son is played by none other than Barry Truex, Ernest's son in real life! Watching the scene with that knowledge makes it all the more heartbreaking.
The father and son had previously worked together on a local New York television program called The Truex Family broadcast on WPIX.
"I didn't say I'd come and get you dad," young Whitley explains. "I said I'd come and we'd talk about it." He then kicks his dad out of his car like a can.