Episode director Jack Smight, the cast, and the crew set out to Death Valley on the second week of June 1959 and were subjected to the site’s harsh conditions from the get-go, which were exacerbated by a string of poor decisions. Smight recalled that it was “unbelievably hot” as the temperature was “around 130 degrees,” and the intensity of the heatstroke worsened after the caterer served a “very heavy meal” in the heat. This caused several crew members to faint, including director of photography George T. Clemens, who collapsed from a camera crane due to exhaustion. While an on-site nurse recommended ingesting lukewarm water for a speedy recovery, some folks opted for cold beverages out of desperation and experienced adverse effects soon after.
With most of the crew feeling under the weather, several members had to step up and work twice as hard to keep things rolling. Assistant director Edward Denault had to juggle his standard duties as assistant director with last-minute script work and sound-boom handling, as everyone started “dropping like flies.” Moreover, the heat also delayed filming, as the dryness of the area evaporated any makeup used to convey profuse sweat, forcing the crew to mix large portions of oil with some water to sell the illusion of humid heat. This was naturally an uncomfortable process, and intense dehydration made things worse for everyone down the line.
After two days of suffering, everyone finally returned to the studio, MGM, to film all the interior shots, which was a breeze compared to the experience in Death Valley. Ironically, “The Lonely” is Smight’s best work among the four “Twilight Zones” episodes he directed, and still emerges as one of the most compelling entries in the anthology series as a whole.