Edwin Rodman "Rod" Serling
Born: December 25, 1924 Syracuse, NY
Died: June 28, 1975 Rochester, NY (Heart Failure)
Buried: Interlaken Cemetery, Interlaken, NY
Most recognized as the verbose narrator/host with impeccable diction of his popular television creation, The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling was a prolific writer and creative genius writing 92 of the 156 episodes originally aired from 1959 to 1964 and in perpetual syndication ever since.
He began writing professionally for radio after a stint as a paratrooper in the Pacific Theater during WWII and subsequent graduation at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
From radio he moved to live television where he won critical acclaim and three of his six Emmys for the early teleplays: Patterns, 1955; Requiem for a Heavyweight, 1956; and The Comedian, 1957. He continued to write for television until he became fed up with the censorship usually inflicted by the sponsors who would order the removal of key elements regarding politics or race. In a memorable episode of The Mike Wallace Interview Rod offered his side of the story, citing particular examples of the rampant censorship of the times. Because of his success, he was in a position to create and develop a series of his own, at last having final say in the end product. Serling moved the family to California, hired great writing talents he admired such as Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and George Clayton Johnson, gathered a fine stable of directors, utilized the flourishing acting talent so readily availble and The Twilight Zone was born. TZ won Serling two more Emmys, even more critical acclaim and a devoted following, but not the stellar ratings needed to keep it afloat. In 1964, TZ was given the axe and after having been cancelled once already and brought back to air, a beleaguered Serling decided to call it a night.
After The Twilight Zone, Serling tried to break into film and wrote several screenplays, most notably Seven Days in May, 1964 and Planet of the Apes, 1968 co-written with Michael Wilson.
Rod, unsatisfied with his experience in the movie industry would come back to television in 1969 with The Night Gallery
, mostly in a very limited capacity as host, losing creative control early-on when the producers rejected many of his scripts in favor of more macabre fare over Serling's brand of social commentary. The series ended in 1974.
During the last few years of his life, Serling could be seen in beer commercials, on various game shows and heard voicing over a number of supernatural/UFO documentaries as well as docs for Jacques-Yves Cousteau. In 1973 he taught a series of writing classes at Ithaca College in upstate New York.
Rod Serling died of complications from a coronary bypass operation, the damage most likely due to his four-pack-a-day cigarette habit and stresses of being a workaholic writer. He was survived by his wife Carol and daughters Nan and Jody.