Despite his life's work as an actor, Vic Morrow's greatest contribution may have been his death. Morrow was a veteran actor of both TV and film. His credits include the hit World War II series "Combat!" and the groundbreaking film "Blackboard Jungle" and TV miniseries "Roots." But by 1982 it had been some years since his last big role, and appearing in "Twilight Zone: The Movie" could have marked his comeback.
In the movie, Morrow's racist character experiences a Scrooge-like change of heart through time travel. In the climactic scene, he rescues two Vietnamese children from helicopter fire during the Vietnam War. But the helicopter flying into an exploding charge was not part of the script. The accident blinded the pilot, the chopper crashed to earth, crushing the girl, 6-year-old Renee Chen, and decapitating Morrow and the 7-year-old boy, Myca Dinh Le [source: Weintraub].
The grisly, graphic death and celebrity of the film's director, John Landis, finally brought much-needed attention to the issue of safety on the Hollywood movie set [source: Weintraub]. As a direct result, studio heads and workers' unions hammered out a codified set of safety standards. What's more, both Landis and the Warner Bros. studio were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Although acquitted, they settled civil suits with substantial payments to Morrow's children and the families of the child actors, who also had been illegally hired [source: Longwell].