Christine White: Heroine From a Classic 'Twilight Zone' Episode

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Actress Christine Lamson White, who died on April 14 at age 86 in Washington, D.C., racked up an impressive 53 appearances in TV series and made-for-TV movies during a career that stretched from 1952 to 1976, including roles on hit programs such as The Fugitive, Bonanza, The Untouchables and Perry Mason. She also had a small role in a 1973 Clint Eastwood action movie hit, Magnum Force.

But White remains best known as the wife who sat next to a then-youthful William Shatner on an airliner in a classic 1963 episode of   The Twilight Zone, " Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," in which Shatner's character sees a monster on the wing that apparently only he can perceive. 

White's character, Julia Wilson, was the wife of Robert Wilson (Shatner), who had recently been discharged from a "sanitarium" after suffering a mental breakdown - on an airplane, as his bad luck would have it. As a New York Times obituary of White recounts, her signature moment came at the beginning of the episode, when she utters these fateful lines:

"Honey, you are cured. That Dr. Martin wouldn't let you fly if you weren't - would he?"


White's character spent most of the rest of the episode dozing peacefully on her husband's shoulder, thanks to a dose of sleeping pills. But the episode itself became so renowned that it was not only expanded into a movie, but also parodied on TV programs such as  Saturday Night Live, 3rd Rock From the Sun and The Simpsons.

Some other interesting facts about White:

  • She began acting in plays while attending the University of North Carolina, where she studied English.
  • She reportedly was romantically involved with actor James Dean in her youth, and her final role was in a 1976 made-for-TV movie about him.
  • She appeared in the 1973 movie Magnum Force as a woman who flirts with Clint Eastwood's character Harry Callahan.
  • She eventually left acting and returned to her native Washington, D.C., to take care of her elderly mother. During that time, she produced and distributed a quarterly bulletin, The Rampart Papers.

 

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