1924 - 1975
Rod Serling, six-time Emmy Award screenwriter who developed the science fiction series, The Twilight Zone, died June 28, 1975. He was 50.
Serling was born December 25, 1924 in Binghamton, New York. Hardly out of high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. His father died while he was in the service.
After the war, he used the GI Bill to finance his college education at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. While in school, he began writing scripts for a Cincinnati radio station.
Starting out as a physical education major, Serling soon changed his course of study to language and literature. During his first year at Antioch, he met Carolyn Kramer, whom he married and had two children with.
After graduation in 1950, he began writing and submitting screenplays to television producers. By 1952, he was making a living with his writing. In 1954, Serling’s hard work began to pay off. His scripts were showing up on most of television’s dramatic programs, including Lux Video Theater, Armstrong Circle Theater and Studio One.
The year 1955 saw Serling win the first of his six Emmys for the drama Patterns, which was about power struggles in the corporate world. The next year he won another Emmy for Requiem for a Heavyweight, starring Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney. Serling had a total of 20 dramas televised in 1955.
Much of Serling’s work was a reflection of his values and politics. His daughter Anne said he hated prejudice and inequality, and used his work to advocate those principles.
When Serling’s more controversial screen writings came under the censorship of network executives, Serling sought a more creative outlet. That outlet turned out to be The Twilight Zone. Serling said what he couldn’t have a Republican or Democrat say in one of his scripts, a Martian or alien could say without censorship by TV moguls.
For five years, 1959-64, The Twilight Zone, hosted by Serling, addressed societal issues head on. Prejudice, alien encounters, the Cold War and human indignity were common themes. The Twilight Zone became Serling’s signature work. A later Twilight Zone series followed, as did Twilight Zone: The Movie, after Serling’s death.
Serling continued to turn out critically acclaimed screenplays during the 1960’s, including Seven Days in May, The Doomsday Flight, and Planet of the Apes.
His Hallmark Hall of Fame drama, A Storm in Summer, won an Emmy in 1969.
Night Gallery aired in 1970 and became a series hosted by Serling one year later.
During the last seven years of Serling’s life, he taught courses at Ithaca College in New York to help young writers learn more about their craft.
Serling suffered a heart attack in May of 1975. He underwent heart bypass surgery on June 27, but succumbed to another heart attack the next day in Rochester, New York on June 28, 1975.