Liza Minnelli wanted a key role on The Twilight Zone but could not pass the audition

The iconic singer wanted a break in "Come Wander with Me," the final episode filmed in the original series.

"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.

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artisteonfire 53 months ago
As a child, the song haunted me. The melody/chords were the first I ever taught myself. While Liza does seem like the casting-misfit - I can easily imagine her young-vocals complimenting the music.
Wbrabbit artisteonfire 5 months ago
I'd love it if they'd actually released this song as a single. It's one of my favorite songs I've ever heard. They could have re-worked the lyrics and kept the haunting chorus.
cperrynaples 53 months ago
A few quick notes about Bonnie Beecher: [1] She was a girlfriend of Bob Dylan [no, not the one on the famous album cover]! [2] She married Wavy Gravy, the famous "host" of Woodstock! [3] She's still alive at 78, with more than enough credits for a "Watch ME on ME" commercial!
Wbrabbit cperrynaples 5 months ago
She must have given up acting for some reason. Has anyone ever asked her why she chose to stop acting? She was in a string of shows in just a couple years, and Richard Donner believed she would be a big star. You can see that here just from the debut, she's incredible in this.
Moody 53 months ago
I can't imagine Liza doing country music. She's far too classy for that!
rraypo Moody 53 months ago
Thank you, well said.
Wbrabbit Moody 5 months ago
I never thought of the song in this episode as country. It sounds like a folk song to me. If you look at the first four years of both their careers, Bonnie Beecher actually landed four times more roles than Liza. And that's with being unknown and having no Garland in the family tree.

Not to say Liza isn't incredible. She is. Like Froug said, this was just the wrong part. But I do believe Donner was right, Beecher could have been a big star, too. Does anyone know why she suddenly stopped acting?
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