|“||I wouldn't say that, Mr. Feathersmith. I wouldn't say that I - 'never did like you'. I have disliked and detested you with great cordiality. I have found you to be, from the moment you came into my office, a predatory, grasping, conniving, acquisitive animal of a man. Without heart, without conscience, without compassion, and without even a subtle hint of the common decencies. Shall we go on from there?||„|
|~ Mr. Dietrich sums up William J. Feathersmith.|
|“||Miss Pepper...Miss Pepper! (...) Heh, heh, heh...ha, hah, hah, ha...HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!||„|
|~ Feathersmith's Evil Laugh to his secretary Miss Pepper after he drives Mr. Dietrich to bankruptcy.|
William J. Feathersmith is the villainous protagonist of the Season 4 episode "Of Late I think of Cliffordville" of The Twilight Zone. He is a sadistic robber-baron of a businessman who has made his career off of using, abusing, and then discarding others when they are no longer useful. However, by the time we see him, he has grown bored due to feeling he has nothing left to do, and so makes a deal with the Devil to go back in time to the town Cliffordville as it was in his youth.
He was portrayed by the late Albert Salmi, who also played fellow Twilight Zone villain Joe Caswell.
William J. Feathersmith's early biography is revealed throughout the episode. He began his business career in or around 1910, in a small town Ciffordville, Indiana. He had worked his way up to be a partner of the Dietrich Tool & Dye Company's owner, Sebastian Dietrich. However, Feathersmith betrayed Dietrich, and became a robber baron. In 1937, he learned that some valuable oil was dug up on the land owned by Dietrich on the outskirts of Cliffordville. Feathersmith continued working off the work of others and, eventually, by 1963, had started an industrial corporation, and acquired millions of dollars from his business earnings.
In the episode, Mr. Feathersmith is first introduced to the audience having a meeting with Mr. Dietrich. He offers him a cigar as an ostensible show of politeness, but Dietrich declines. Dietrich describes Feathersmith as a thoroughly ruthless and immoral man who preys upon others. This assessment is actually true, as Feathersmith then gleefully reveals that he bought a note for $3,000,000 that Dietrich owes, and demands that Dietrich pay him the full three million dollars immediately. Dietrich weakly protests, pointing out that, if Feathersmith calls the note, he shall be bankrupted and lose everything. However, Feathersmith calls the note off-screen, ruining Dietrich. Mr. Feathersmith laughs gleefully as a crushed Dietrich leaves his office.
However, when next we see Mr. Feathersmith, he has become quite drunk and it becomes clear that he is now bored and feeling lost and directionless in life due to having succeeded too much. He states this to his janitor, Mr. Hecate, while saying in his own words he has "gotten everything there is to get" and no longer feels he has anything left to aspire to. Shortly after, he meets a female Devil, who offers to give him what he wants: the chance to go back to a town called Cliffordville, where he had spent his youth and had his start as a bussinessman. Nostalgic for the town as he remembered it and wishing to go back and claim his success all over again, Feathersmith agrees to make a deal with "Miss Develin". He offers her his soul, but she points out that, after all the wicked deeds he's done throughout his life, his soul is damned to Hell and is not his to offer. Instead, she demands that he liquidate his fortune and give the better part of it to her. He reluctantly does so, and is seemingly de-aged to a young form and sent back to Cliffordville.
At first excited, Feathersmith is horrified to discover that he cannot capitalize on the investments he had been hoping to make due to various complications, is repulsed by unpleasant things about the past he had chosen to forget about or remember differently, and finally realizing that, though Miss Develin de-aged him to his early thirties, his biology is still that of an old man, so he will not live long enough to see his investments (such as they are), come to completion. Running into Miss Develin, she needles him for having built his whole career on using and hurting other people whilst creating nothing worthwhile himself. He begs Miss Develin to take him back to the present, which she agrees to do if he can afford the train ticket. Feathersmith sells a piece of land that he owns that has oil under it (it would be drilled in 1937) to a young man and buys the train ticket, leaving Cliffordville and returning to the present in disgrace.
In an altered timeline, because of everything he did in the past, it turns out that Feathersmith sold his piece of land to Mr. Hecate, who founded what would've been Feathersmith's corporation using the profits from the oil dug up in 1937, with Feathersmith as his janitor. Now in Feathersmith's initial position, the self-important Hecate mocks the somewhat affable Feathersmith for being a janitor for 40 years, as Feathersmith is forced to accept the mockery, just as Hecate did in his place.
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