The original McGarry was expected to be Paul Douglas, a theater-turned-film maker who starred in films such as “Panic in the Streets” and “Letter to Three Wives” before his death at 52. According to Serling, this was clear during filming. He said there was something wrong with Douglas, but the show’s creator mistakenly assumed he was drunk. “I loved Paul Douglas,” Serling is quoted as saying in Zicree’s book. “There was something brave and courageous about this man, and you could always count on him.” But when he was hired for the role, Serling said he “had a reputation for being heavy on the bottle,” so Douglas’ casting was assured by his agent that the actor would not drink while working on the series.
According to Serling, it was clear that Douglas was not well based on the first day’s footage. “Even if it was black and white, it was variegated… multicolored, half-messy, and his breath was so short that he couldn’t even continue a short, staccato sentence.” [gasping for breath]Angered, Serling called Douglas’ manager to discuss the actor’s drinking, but was told again that, to his manager’s knowledge, that was not the case. This only happened after filming ended (Serling called it a “disaster”). It was a Thursday and Douglas died on a Saturday and the producer realized how off-base he had gone. His description of the tragedy feels like something out of the show itself: “What he suffered was, of course, an incipient heart attack, and we’re literally watching him die before our eyes.”