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Rod Serling

Rod Serling

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Emmy Award–winning television and film writer Rod Serling created and hosted the sci-fi fantasy series 'The Twilight Zone' and co-wrote 'Planet of the Apes.'

Who Was Rod Serling?

In 1955, Rod Serling won his first Emmy, for writing the TV business drama Patterns. In 1959, he turned to the sci-fi fantasy genre, with The Twilight Zone. In 1968, he co-wrote the screenplay for Planet of the Apes. Serling died in Rochester, New York, on June 28, 1975. Over the course of his career, he wrote 252 scripts and won six Emmys.

Early Years

Television writer and producer Rod Serling was born Rodman Edward Serling on December 25, 1924, to a Jewish family in Syracuse, New York. When Serling was 2 years old, he and his family moved to the quiet college town of Binghamton, where his dad opened a grocery store.

After graduating from Binghamton High School, Serling enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, with the aim of fighting the Nazis in Europe. Contrary to his intention, he ended up becoming a paratrooper in the Pacific theater. During the war, Serling was injured in his knee and wrist at the Battle of Leyte in the Philippines. He was sent home with a Purple Heart and emotional battle scars that would haunt him for the rest of his days.

To compound matters, Serling's return from the war was followed by the devastating loss of his father, who died suddenly of a heart attack. His traumatic experiences would later serve as inspiration for his writing. After the war, Serling attended Antioch College in Ohio.

Television Writer and Producer

In 1948, Serling moved to New York City and entered the work world as a struggling freelance radio writer. In 1955, he branched out into television script writing with the TV business drama Patterns. Patterns earned Serling his first Emmy Award.

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Serling's second Emmy win came a year later, with the 1956 production of Requiem for a Heavyweight, starring Jack Palance. During the late 1950s, Serling fought the CBS network when they insisted on editing his controversial scripts. CBS got its way and heavily revised his script about lynching, entitled A Town Has Turned to Dust, and another about corruption in a labor union, called The Rank and File. Instead of continuing to fight inevitable censorship, in 1959 Serling turned from realism to the sci-fi fantasy genre, with the iconic series The Twilight Zone. Not only did Serling write the series, but he was also the face of it, serving as its on-screen narrator. The Twilight Zone ran until 1964 and garnered Serling his third Emmy.

In 1968, Serling co-wrote the screenplay for the original movie version of Planet of the Apes. After a stint of screenwriting, he returned to television writing in 1970.

Serling spent his later career hosting Rod Serling's Night Gallery and teaching screenwriting at Ithaca College. Over the course of his career, Serling wrote an estimated 252 scripts and won a total of six Emmys.

Personal Life and Wife

While Serling worked 12 hours a day seven days a week, his wife, Carol, whom he had met at Antioch College, tended to their daughters, Jodi and Anne. Despite his demanding work schedule, Anne Serling claims in her memoir of her father, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling, that she "never felt the 12-hour workday," and always knew that if she needed to, she could go talk to him.

Later Life and Death

In May 1975, when he was 50 years old, Serling had a heart attack while running on a treadmill. A couple of weeks later, he had a second heart attack, at his cottage on Cayuga Lake, and was sent to the hospital for open-heart surgery. On June 28, 1975, Serling died at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York.

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