As I've mentioned, my latest project is to watch every single episode of the original Twilight Zone, and one thing that makes this such an enjoyable experience is the brilliance of the casting. You will very often see performances from people who turned into stars shortly after the series' 1959-1964 run: Robert Redford, Telly Savalas and Peter Falk show up, as well as Burt Reynolds, doing a note-perfect Brando imitation. There's a whole flock of future sitcom stars: Jack Klugman (four times!), Dick York, Buddy Ebsen, Agnes Moorehead in a brilliant, wordless performance as an isolated farmwife terrorized by alien invaders. Bill Shatner has two starring roles, including his turn in the hysterical "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."
One of my favorite Twilight Zone regulars was a beefy, round-faced actor named Albert Salmi, who took the lead in two episodes: "Execution" and "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville." Neither one of them was exactly successful. In the first, Salmi was a horse thief about to be executed in 1880 when he's whisked into the future (or into the present, if you will) by the instantly typecast Russell Johnson as a physics professor. The first half of the episode was pretty good, but eventually a small-time hood tries to rob Johnson's lab (as if physics professors kept a lot of cash lying around), then kills the much-bigger Salmi in hand-to-hand combat, all for no apparent reason except they couldn't think of a better ending.
In "Cliffordville," which boasts one of the series' best episode titles, Salmi plays a rapacious business tycoon who arranges with a female devil (future Catwoman Julie Newmar) to get sent back in time to his Indiana hometown, so he can build his fortune all over again. He fails at this, for reasons the script never quite makes clear. But as in "Execution," Salmi is eminently watchable, obviously delighting in playing the villain. It's rare to see someone so blatantly enjoying his acting. Both performances would have you noting to try to catch anything else you can featuring Albert Salmi.
Salmi never became a star, but he was awfully busy throughout the 1960s and 1970s, making several appearances on Gunsmoke and Bonanza and popping up in series from Toma and Kung Fu to Scarecrow and Mrs. King. He was a regular on Petrocelli, and played Danny Noonan's father in Caddyshack.
By the end of the 1980s, the parts were drying up, and Salmi moved with his wife to Washington State, where he planned to write his memoirs. But Albert suffered from depression, and his wife, Roberta, moved out of their Spokane home. I've seen it reported that Roberta was terminally ill, and that during their separation Albert had gone to live in Idaho.
On April 23, 1990, Albert Salmi drove back to the house he had once shared with his wife. He walked into the kitchen, shot Roberta dead, then went upstairs and pulled the trigger on himself. Albert Salmi was 62.