Rod Serling


Screenwriter

About

Also Known As
Rodman Edward Serling
Birth Place
Syracuse, New York, USA
Born
December 25, 1924
Died
June 28, 1975
Cause of Death
Heart Attack During Open Heart Surgery

Biography

Best-remembered for creating, producing, hosting and (sometimes) writing the classic TV horror and sci-fi series "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-64), Serling himself preferred his earlier TV writing. He grew up in the bucolic small town of Binghamton, NY, a milieu he would often return to in his work. After serving as a paratrooper in WWII, Serling wrote radio plays at college and eventua...

Family & Companions

Carolyn Louise Serling
Wife
Married on July 31, 1948; survived him.

Bibliography

"Serling: The Rise and Twilight of Television's Last Angry Man"
Gordon F Sander, Dutton (1992)
"The Twilight Zone Companion"
Marc Scott Zicree, Bantam Books (1982)

Notes

Inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame posthumously in 1985

Received the Purple Heart for service in WWII

Biography

Best-remembered for creating, producing, hosting and (sometimes) writing the classic TV horror and sci-fi series "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-64), Serling himself preferred his earlier TV writing. He grew up in the bucolic small town of Binghamton, NY, a milieu he would often return to in his work. After serving as a paratrooper in WWII, Serling wrote radio plays at college and eventually turned pro. He broke into TV in 1951, and was soon supplying scripts for "Kraft Television Theater" (NBC), "Studio One" (CBS), "Matinee Theater" (NBC) and "Playhouse 90" (CBS). Serling's first big hit was the psychological drama "Patterns," shown on "Kraft Television Theater" in 1955 and made into a film that same year. Winning the first of six Emmys, he was signed to a first-purchase rights contract by CBS and went on to pen the Emmy-winning dramas "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (1956) and "The Comedian" (1957), and scores of other TV scripts.

But it took "The Twilight Zone" to make him a star, in a way few writers ever attained. The darkly handsome Serling hosted the clever, adult series, introducing each episode in his own sly, velvety-voiced style. The high quality of the show not only attracted many old-time guest stars (Ed Wynn, Gladys Cooper, Buster Keaton, Burgess Meredith, Franchot Tone), but introduced several newcomers to the public (Robert Redford, Jean Marsh, Inger Stevens, Elizabeth Montgomery, Burt Reynolds, a very young Ann Jillian). When the show went off the air (still at the height of its popularity), Serling never quite regained his footing.

Serling's dark western series, "The Loner," lasted only one season (1965-66) on CBS, and his movie "The Doomsday Flight" (NBC, 1966) tortured him by inspiring an actual hijacking.

Serling's big-screen career never really took off. He wrote a handful of films, among them "Saddle the Wind" (1958), "Seven Days in May" (1964) and "Assault on a Queen" (1966), but his only big hit was the 1968 sci-fi classic "Planet of the Apes" (written with Michael Wilson). He also hosted a game show, "The Liar's Club" (syndicated, 1969), and lent his distinctive voice and image to many documentaries and advertisements. Serling's next series, "Night Gallery" (NBC, 1971-73), was no "Twilight Zone," but it did occasionally shine--the premiere, directed by neophyte Steven Spielberg, brilliantly showcased Joan Crawford. In his last years, Serling wrote the TV movies "A Storm in Summer" and "A Storm in Winter" (both NBC, 1970), and "Oath: The Sad and Lonely Sundays" (ABC, 1976). A heavy smoker, Serling was only 50 when he died during bypass surgery in 1975.

Life Events

1948

Worked as manager of Antioch College's radio station

1956

First teleplay adapted for film, "The Rack"

1958

First credit as screenwriter, "Saddle the Wind"

1966

Wrote first TV-movie, "The Doomsday Flight", for NBC

1969

Hosted the syndicated game show, "The Liar's Club"

1976

Last writing for TV included the ABC medical anthology drama pilot, "Oath: The Sad and Lonely Sundays"

Videos

Movie Clip

Seven Days In May (1964) - God Help Our Country! JSOC staff Colonel Casey (Kirk Douglas) grows more worried watching first blow-hard McPherson (Hugh Marlowe) then his boss, the possibly treasonous General Scott (Burt Lancaster), addressing veterans on TV, in John Frankenheimer's Seven Days In May, 1964.
Seven Days In May (1964) - Like Overfed Ducks Early and high-tech conference between adjutant Col. Casey (Kirk Douglas) and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Scott (Burt Lancaster), who's planning a coup after the American president signed a nuclear treaty with the Soviet Union, in John Frankenheimer's Seven Days In May, 1964.
Planet Of The Apes (1968) - Hell With The Scarecrows Hot on the trail of vegetation they found on what appeared to be a desolate planet, astronauts Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner) and Dodge (Jeff Burton) haven’t noticed the figures tracking them on the cliffs, trouble ensuing, early in Planet Of The Apes, 1968.
Planet Of The Apes (1968) - Human See Human Do Injured and now a captive, human Taylor (Charlton Heston), still unable to speak, has made more progress with ape scientist Zira (Kim Hunter) than with minder Julius (Buck Kartalian), but none with her boss Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans), introduced here, in Planet Of The Apes, 1968.
Planet Of The Apes (1968) - How Do You Account For Me? Animal psychologist (and Chimpanzee) Zira (Kim Hunter) has proven that human Taylor (Charlton Heston), still unable to speak because of his throat injury, can communicate, though her colleague and boyfriend Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) isn't convinced by his story, in Planet Of The Apes, 1968.
Planet Of The Apes (1968) - We'll Be Running This Planet 20th century Earth astronauts Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner) and Dodge (Jeff Burton), unsure of there whereabouts, observe primitive humans who stole their clothes, and surprised when apes (led by Norman Burton) appear, early in the original Planet Of The Apes, 1968.
Assault On A Queen - She Walks Well Grizzled boatmen Mark (Frank Sinatra) and Linc (Errol John) receive huckster Rossiter (Tony Franciosa) and girlfriend Rosa (Virna Lisi), who had a deep-sea diver die while working for them, early in Assault On A Queen, 1966.
Rack, The (1956) - Traitor We don’t know what’s up with just-returned Korean War POW Ed (Paul Newman), except that he’s afraid of his family, and doesn’t want to leave the hospital, as he takes in the entertainment (Debbie Reynolds in MGM’s The Affairs Of Dobie Gillis), and fellow patient Lee Marvin gives us a clue, in MGM’s The Rack, 1956.
Rack, The (1956) - He Made A Strategic Withdrawal Now in a San Francisco hotel after a big fight with his career-military father, who found out he’s being court-martialed for cooperating with the enemy, just-returned Korean War POW Ed (Paul Newman), who considers himself guilty, gets a first visit from his defense attorney, Edmond O’Brien, in MGM’s The Rack, 1956.
Rack, The (1956) - I Didn't Want You To See Me Like This First direct meeting between Anne Francis as widowed sister-in-law Aggie, Walter Pidgeon as career-military dad Col. Hall Sr. and Paul Newman as Korean War POW Capt. Hall, on the day of his return to California, so traumatized he forgets his brother was Killed In Action, in The Rack, 1956, from a Rod Serling teleplay.
Rack, The (1956) - Where Are Your Ribbons? Reluctant JAG prosecutor (Wendell Corey as Maj. Moulton) conducts his first conference with his defendant, Paul Newman as highly decorated returning Korean War POW Capt. Hall, charged with collaborating with the enemy, his guilt or innocence not yet revealed, shooting on location at The Presidio, in MGM’s The Rack, 1956.
Rack, The (1956) - He Was Killed Over There Opening, with Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis, not long after they appeared as father and daughter in Forbidden Planet, also for MGM, they’re war-widow and father-in-law, not quite greeting POW Paul Newman, returning from Korea, in The Rack, 1956, from a Rod Serling teleplay.

Trailer

Family

Samuel Lawrence Serling
Father
Wholesale butcher. Worked as secretary for General George C. Goethals, supervisor of construction on the Panama Canal; born 1890, died died of heart attack at age 55 in 1945.
Esther Serling
Mother
Died 1958.
Robert Serling
Brother
Novelist. Older; survived him.
Jody Serling
Daughter
Born c. 1950; survived him.
Nan Serling
Daughter
Born 1955; survived him.

Companions

Carolyn Louise Serling
Wife
Married on July 31, 1948; survived him.

Bibliography

"Serling: The Rise and Twilight of Television's Last Angry Man"
Gordon F Sander, Dutton (1992)
"The Twilight Zone Companion"
Marc Scott Zicree, Bantam Books (1982)

Notes

Inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame posthumously in 1985

Received the Purple Heart for service in WWII

Original introduction to "The Twilight Zone": "You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead--your next stop, The Twilight Zone!"

"The writer's role is to be a menacer of the public's conscience...Drama on television must walk tiptoe and in agony lest it offend some cereal buyer from a given state below the Mason-Dixon. Hence we find in this mass medium a kind of ritual track-covering, in which we attack quite obliquely the business of minority problems."--Rod Serling, 1968, quoted in WASHINGTON POST obituary, June 29, 1975

"One time we couldn't mention Hitler's gas ovens because the gas company sponsored the show. Television...has become more mature. Just to deal with homosexuality is a big step."--Rod Serling, 1973, quoted in WASHINGTON POST obit, 6/29/75