Kevin McCarthy‘s indelible screen moment happened in 1956, in the last scene of the original version of Don Siegel‘s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. His small-town doctor character is wildly freaking out — terrified, out of breath, screaming — in the middle of congested traffic as he tries to warn everyone about the pods.

The point, of course, was that creeping conformity was spreading across the land, etc. (Allen Ginsberg‘s “Howl” was saying roughly the same thing, if I’m not mistaken.) This ending was jettisoned in favor of a slightly more upbeat one with a skeptical doctor (Whit Bissell) at a medical clinic, and at long last a heeding of McCarthy’s warning.

McCarthy — a good actor and, in my anecdotal opinion, a gracious and very likable man (I spoke with him at a Los Angeles party in the the mid ’80s) died yesterday at age 96 — now that’s a life.