Picture, if you will, a night like any other. A war veteran sits alone at a rusty typewriter, churning out another script. He has sent out a hundred stories like it; they all come back to him, frequently unopened and idly stamped "REJECTED" on its face. This one is different however. This one strays away from all that is normal, all that is predictable and safe. Instead it veers in strange and frightening directions, with only one destination in mind: The Twilight Zone.


Rodman Edward Serling was born in Syracuse, New York, on Christmas Day, 1924, and grew up in nearby Binghamton. Although he claims to have had little literary aspirations as a child, he spent a lot of time reading pulp comics, particularly Weird Tales.

After finishing high school, Serling joined the Army as a paratrooper. While in basic training, he proved himself to be a proficient boxer. When his unit was sent to the Philippines, Serling spent only 2 weeks on active duty before being injured by shrapnel and sent home. When the war ended, Serling was discharged and began attending school at Ohio's Antioch College as a Physical Education major. Eventually, his interest in writing won him over, and he became a Language and Literature major, making scripts at the local radio station to make ends meet: he also sold his first television script to NBC while still in college. In 1948, he met and married Carolyn Kramer, a fellow student.

Upon graduation, Serling began writing scripts for WLW radio in Cincinnati. Here he began writing material at a furious pace, but he was never very successful in getting it published: at one point, Serling claimed to have received 40 rejection slips in a row. Still, he was persistent, and when he finally sold a half-hour script to an ABC theatre show, he quit his job at the station and began writing full time.

From 1951 to 1955, Serling had over 70 scripts made for television, many of them to critical and public acclaim. His high point was his script "Patterns", for which he won his first Emmy award in 1955. The drama was so popular it was aired twice in the same season - the first ever such occurrence on TV. In 1956, he was named the head writer of CBS's adventurous new series "Playhouse 90", which would consist of weekly 90-minute dramas.

The series debut, written by Serling, was "Forbidden Area", which starred Charlton Heston, Tab Hunter, and Vincent Price. The following episode, "Requiem For A Heavyweight", starring Jack Palance, won 2 Emmys, including one for writing, and became a successful Broadway play. Later, Serling won another Emmy for his episode "The Comedian" starring Mickey Rooney. But Serling felt that the structural dictations set on him by the advertising companies was a poor way to write. He demanded freedom, and when he didn't get it, he left to create his own show. It would be called "The Twilight Zone".

"The Twilight Zone" consisted of half-hour morality plays told under modern circumstances and with plenty of plot twists and science fiction involved. Serling himself wrote nearly 2/3 of the episodes, in addition to playing the wry and debonair host who bookended the show. "The Twilight Zone" proved to be a smash hit with both critics and audiences. Eventually, it also became known as a major proving ground for some of Hollywood's biggest stars: Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, William Shatner, Martin Landau, Ted Knight, and Don Rickles all benefited from appearances on the show. The show lasted 5 seasons, winning Serling 2 more Emmys (bringing his total to 5).

After "The Twilight Zone" ended its run, Serling created another series entitled "The Loner" about an ex-solider turned troublemaker. All throughout his life, Serling was a virulent anti-war protester, even serving a small jail sentence for his actions taken during the Vietnam War. Serling continued to write for other works, creating first drafts for scripts such as Frank Sinatra's Assault On A Queen and the 1968 epic Planet Of The Apes. He also won his 6th Emmy that year, for a script he wrote for Bob Hope's Chrysler Theater program.

In 1969, Serling again returned to the darker realms of fiction, creating his series "The Night Gallery". "Night Gallery" had a definitively creepier and more horror-driven feel: stories by H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury, among others, were converted for the little screen. The show had mixed reviews, and many people felt it didn't hold up to the original aesthetic of "The Twilight Zone." Still, the show lasted 4 seasons, proving Serling could still pack 'em in. In fact, the show won Serling his 7th Emmy for "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar".

Serling began teaching TV and Film Writing at his alma mater Antioch College in 1971 and continued doing so until he died January 28, 1975, after complications from a coronary bypass. He was 50 years old.


And so ends our sordid tale. In all of us lurk secrets that haunt and terrify us day and night. Our war veteran, Rod Serling, was a man who let his personal demons roam free through his pen and paper. And yet we cannot say for sure if his way is the best way. In the end, we can only guess what surprising truths we may find when we visit the deepest corners of ... The Twilight Zone

Primary Source: http://www.scifi.com/twilightzone/serling/

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