MUHLENBERG COUNTY, KY (12/18/12) – Mention Muhlenberg County to most people, and they will tell you it's the home of the Everly Brothers and Merle Travis. Together, these 3 superstars sold tens of millions of records and toured about the world. Don and Phil Everly still tour!
But one place these 3 famous Muhlenberg Countians never ventured was an eerie sci-fi world known as The Twilight Zone. That honor was reserved for two other Muhlenberg Countians, James Best of Powderly, and Warren Oates of Depoy.
Unlike anything you'll find today on television, Rod Serling's Emmy winning weekly trip into the unknown amazed viewers and scored numerous awards, spawning a movie version, and a return to TV from 1985 to 1989. Along the way the show launched the careers of actors, such as Robert Redford and William Shatner.
Warren Oates made two trips into The Twilight Zone, both in 1963. The first was in "The Purple Testament", the disturbing tale of an army lieutenant serving in World War 2 who develops the ability to tell who is about to die next in battle. Then Oates starred as a soldier who really goes over the hill, so to speak, as one of three National Guard soldiers conducting war games near the location of Custer's Last Stand at Little Bighorn...titled "The 7th Is Made up of Phantoms". Both are considered two of the series' finest.
James Best, of course is best known to TV viewers as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane in the hit series "The Dukes of Hazzard". But long before putting on his sheriff's badge, Best appeared on three Twilight Zone episodes, all set in the 1800s.
"The Grave", starring Oscar winner Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef of the "Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and Best as the town idiot, an acting stretch for a man who has taught college level acting classes and authored a biography.
Marvin stars as a gunfighter, who gets a ghostly surprise instead of a shootout in a small Western town.
"The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank", stars Best with a bit more sense this time, as the lead character who makes a surprise return to life during his own funeral and how the town folk deal with this strange turn of events.
Best again returned to the Twilight Zone in "Jess-Belle" with Anne Francis, who goes to great lengths to prevent Best's character from marrying another by having a local witch cast a spell.
Warren Oates, sadly passed away in April, 1982, soon after he gained long deserved name recognition as the grumpy Drill Sargent in the Bill Murray hit "Stripes."
Oats was the son of Sarah Alice (Mercer) and Bayless Earle Oates, and still has many family members in Muhlenberg and surrounding counties.
James Best is still going strong, with a hit book titled "Best in Hollywood" and a busy website, www.jamesbest.com. Born Jules Guy in Powderly, his mother was the sister of Ike Everly, the father of The Everly Brothers.
You can almost bet James Best will join millions of viewers as both he and Oates are featured during the SyFy Channel's annual Twilight Zone marathon on December 31st and January 1st as we all get another chance to enjoy their trip from Muhlenberg County, to The Twilight Zone.
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