Monday, July 1, 2013

The Invisible Woman

If you read the Times obituary of the actress Maxine Stuart closely (“Maxine Stuart, 94, Actress on ‘Edge of Night,’” NYT 6/18/13), you will come across a very curious and somewhat disconcerting bit of television history. Stuart appeared on The Twilight Zone only once, but her appearance was on one of the most emblematic episodes of the whole series, “Eye of the Beholder.” The episode concerns a horribly disfigured woman. Surgeons have given her one last chance. If the procedure they are attempting fails, they won’t follow up. They will have to admit defeat. Stuart’s face is covered in gauze right up until the denouement in which the bandages are removed and she’s told the operation has failed. For most of the half hour she looks like The Invisible Man. The irony is that the actress herself didn’t get to appear in the spine tingling climax when the cameras shows the patient as a paradigm of classic beauty with the doctors standing above her as gargoyles. Why? Because she wasn’t good looking enough. Like a stunt man or woman, Stuart’s substitute’s face was attached to the most dramatic moment of the whole episode. In journalistic terms Stuart was scooped. Commenting on what occurred, Times obit writer Margalit Fox said,  “That Ms. Stuart was deemed not pretty enough to play the unveiled patient in a show about beauty as a socially constructed concept was an irony not lost on her, she said in interviews.” If Stuart was not beautiful enough, nor ugly enough to play either end of the spectrum, her looks and talent earned her a permanent role on The Edge of Night.

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