Seated at LEFT: Jeanne Marshall and Pearl Bentel
BELOW: Jeanne Marshall's first free-lance sale following her seminar with Rod... proof of Serling's skill as a teacher and Marshall's talent as a writer.
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525-Mile Trek a Snap for Commuting Grandma
For the bright-eyed, silver-haired grandmother, the 525-mile round-trip to class Pittsburgh to Yellow Springs was a breeze.
Commuter Pearl B. Bentel had a special reason for signing up for TV writer Rod Serling’s 10-week series at Antioch college.
She may well have been the one who pointed Serling in the right direction back in 1950.
Now the tables were turned.
“I was the last member of my class in ’50 to get a job offer,” Serling, and Antioch graduate, told the men and women who attended the seminar on drama in the mass media.
“He was torn between a job with WLW at $25 less than he’d get from an ad agency,” Mrs. Bentel recalled. At the time she was writing a situation comedy for a radio station in Pittsburgh. She came to now Serling through visits to her daughter, Barbara, also at Antioch.
“So I just asked him, ‘Rod, do you want to spend your life writing beer commercials or do you really want to write?’” Mrs. Bentel said.
An intense young man, Serling didn’t hesitate. “My God, Mrs. Bentel, you know I want to write.”
“When Rod first discovered I was a radio writer, he’d be standing there with a new armload of scripts whenever I’d come to visit,” Mrs. Bentel said.
She predicted then: “Rod, you’ll be making $5,000 within a year; double that by the end of the second year, and after that, you’ll be able to name your own price for anything you write.”
Long before the five years he could write his own ticket, the Pittsburgh woman mused with pride. Then she chuckled.
“He told me he was the 13th writer to be approached to do the script for the film, Cleopatra. he turned down $100,000.”
All the other members of the seminar that ended last week knew of Mrs. Bentel was that she wrote novels for teenagers and had known Serling years before. That plus the fact that she was a grandmother of four and a tall woman, full of unflagging vitality.
Her own career had begun as continuity director at radio station WSW in Pittsburgh.
Bill Cullen, then a struggling young announcer, appeared as the leading character in a serial of 13 half-hour play she wrote.
Heeding advice to write what she knew, she based her first book for teenagers on a young girl’s career in radio. It was a Junior Literary Guild selection.
Her next novel, “I’ll Know My Love,” is a story about the courage of the Finns when Russia gobbled up a thick slice of Finland. It is based on the experiences of a young Finnish drama student at the Playhouse in Pittsburgh whom Mrs. Bentel came to know.
At present, the Pennsylvanian is working on a sequel to her latest novel, “Freshman at Large,” the story about a young girl’s first years at a college similar to Antioch.
This week Mrs. Bentel is settling back into routine at her home in Glenshaw, Pa.
Odds are one of her next books will deal with a seminar for writers—with a slim, dark young man at the helm.
The seminar that started it all for Mrs. Marshall
Rod Serling, celebrated author and television writer, launched his first adult seminar session, "Drama in the Mass Media," on November 7, 1962 at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Jeanne Marshall sits fourth from left in the front row. She remembers fondly: "At our last seminar meeting in 1963, Rod cried while saying goodbye to all of us. He told us we would all be together again sometime, somewhere."