Sunday, July 8, 2018

"The Twilight Zone" interview: "Little Girl Lost" (1962), "Living Doll" (1963)

Introduction to the Twilight Zone interview series (including the list of interviewees).

Tracy Stratford (now Shaw) played the title character of "Little Girl Lost" (season 3, 1962) and a girl with a cold-hearted stepfather in "Living Doll" (season 5, 1963).

[NOTE: Here is the first time I interviewed Tracy…about Peanuts.]

How old were you when you were first cast in The Twilight Zone

I was 5½ when "Little Girl Lost" was filmed, six when it aired. 

How did you get the role? 

I got the role after going on an interview, but don't recall the specifics. 

Any funny or otherwise interesting anecdotes about the experience? 

They filled the stage with fog or dry ice and filmed it by pointing the camera into a reflecting ball in which my character was reflected, thereby making me look like I was floating and sometimes upside down. They wired the dog to my nightgown so that it looked like it was "leading" me out of the 4th dimension.

Did anything go wrong during either shoot? 

Nothing went wrong in either shoot that I can recall, although Mr. Serling thought people wouldn't be able to understand a child's voice, so the talking at the end of "Little Girl Lost" is not my voice. I guess he changed his mind when it came to the "Living Doll." Even the crying was me. 

If you had any interaction with Rod Serling, what do you remember about him? 

I remember him behind the cameras observing and giving input. He didn't really interact with the cast that I can recall. Perhaps he did with the adults off screen. 

What do you remember about Telly Savalas? 

I was scared (really) of Telly Savalas. He was intense to act opposite and pretty intimidating! And the fact that he was playing a bad guy didn't much help. I believe he really "lived his role" while he was working. 

What did you think of your episodes at the time? Did you understand them (especially "Little Girl Lost")? Did you like one more than the other, and if so, why? 

I think I preferred working on "Living Doll," even though I had to cry in it. It is definitely the scarier of the two, in my opinion. 

After they aired, do you remember specific reactions from family, friends, and the public? 

Anyone who has watched Twilight Zone usually knows "Living Doll." And everyone talks about how scary it was, and how much they liked it. A couple of weeks ago, someone told me that "Little Girl Lost" was the scariest show they'd ever seen. They used to have their parent crawl under the bed every night and check the walls to make sure they wouldn't get sucked into the 4th dimension. Rod Serling was obviously way ahead of his time, and was the master of scary!

Did being on a hit show have any social/psychological impact on you as a kid (i.e. in school, on dates, etc.)? 

The only drawback to acting while a child was that other kids at school, if they didn't know me, automatically assumed, because I acted, that I was a snob. To my friends, however, I was just me. 

Did you watch the show regularly? 

I did watch a lot of the Twilight Zones, and my favorite scary one is the one with William Shatner and the thing trying to rip apart the airplane wing ["Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"]! Now that was creepy! 

How long did your acting career last, and why did it end? 

I began when I was two and worked until I was 13 or 14. In some cases, unless a child actor is under contract with a particular studio, working as an early teenager became a bit difficult because of the child labor and schooling laws (8-hour work days, three hours of school during the school year). Many studios found it easier to hire 18-year-olds who looked younger to play early teen parts. No worry about school or working overtime for an 18-year-old. 

Have you ever missed acting?  

Occasionally. I missed the actual work more than anything. I did not miss having to go on interviews, however. That was my least favorite part.  

What are you doing these days?  

I am a teacher-librarian at a high school, which I love. Introducing students to great stories is where it all begins! I have also directed plays for elementary through high school students in my current district and in my previous district.

Where do you live? 

I have lived in Washington state for a long time now. We love it. 

If you have children/grandchildren, have they seen your Twilight Zone appearance, and if so, do you remember their reactions? 

My daughters have both seen Twilight Zone, and think it's pretty awesome. One of my grandsons has seen it; I'm not sure if my younger grandson has. But they both love stories and adventures—we talk a lot about books and great movies. 

Have you participated in a Twilight Zone event (reunion, convention, documentary, etc.)? If not, would you be open to doing so (i.e. meeting fans and signing autographs)?  

I have not participated in any Twilight Zone reunions—I didn't know there were any! I have participated in more things for A Charlie Brown Christmas than for anything else. 

Are you still in touch with anyone who knew you when you appeared on the show? 

I'm not sure what you mean by this question. Actors? No, I've not been in touch with either Telly Savalas, the lady who played my mom, or the directors. Friends? I am still in contact with friends who knew me then. 

When was the last time you watched your episodes? How did you think they held up? 

I cannot honestly recall the last time I watched either episode in its entirety. One of my daughters purchased the DVD of the shows because I didn't have a copy of them! 

Do you have any mementos from the experience such as candid photos, the script, or anything from the set? Autographed cigarette from Rod Serling? 

I have a few still photos and some newspaper clippings that my mom put into the interview portfolio book I would take to interviews. Casting people would look and see what you had done, who you had worked with as part of the interview process. 

Have you been interviewed before about this specifically? 

I don't believe I've been interviewed specifically about my work in Twilight Zone. It's come up occasionally in conversations, but never "interviews."

Do you have clippings from magazine/newspaper interviews/profiles published at the time? 

I do not have clippings from newspaper interviews. Just photos advertising the programs. 

How do you look back on your Twilight Zone experience? 

I loved the actual work as a kid. I loved watching how things were done, the setting up of lights and cameras, exploring sets, watching the rushes to see how things went during the shoots. 

If the experience changed your life in any way, how? 

Being a child actor was a unique experience. Acting taught me how to interact with a variety of people, taught me that being a believable actor meant that you had to "feel" what your character felt. That meant that you had to be empathetic and honest. The experiences taught me that there is way more to acting than the people you see on screen; the people behind the scenes are in many ways more important and have a more interesting role to play in creating the magic that is movies and television. All the people that I had the good fortune to work with taught me a lot about their own skills, how to be kind and honest, and how to treat others with respect—even curious kids, who may have been bugging them! Overall, I think I was very fortunate to have this experience growing up.


skj said...

Cool Interview!! Glad i came across it; Tracy is in 2 of my all time favorite TZs!!! Great update, glad she's doing well in life xo

Mdogg said...

Thanks for the interview!

Paul W said...

Thanks for posting this interview. "Little Girl Lost" is one of my favorite TZ episodes.

William said...

Living Doll was a favorite of mine. Every child with a violent, abusive parent/stepparent would have liked having this doll; girls and boys, including me. The doll was a hero.
In the end, I know of nothing done by Rod Serling that was not enlightening. He had a way of holding up a mirror to humanity (and lack thereof) saying "look".

Mois said...

I found this interview very interesting. Little girl lost scared the living doodah out of me. I was very insecure as a kid and I think for a year or two I was afraid I turn over in my sleep and fall into another dimension through the wall and that'd be all she wrote.