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|The Rod Serling Timeline
see TZ Directory paragraphs at bottom
From TZ Directory
When he graduated High School he enlisted in the U.S Army 11th Airborne Division Paratroopers. He took up boxing as a way to make extra pay and proved to be pretty good, only losing one of his eighteen fights. In 1945, while he was serving in the Pacific his father died of a heart attack at the age of 52. It was during this time, far away from his home and family, that many of the ideas and emotions of "The Twilight Zone" took seed. He suffered from shrapnel wounds in the leg and wrist and found himself very bitter after his discharge from the military. He took up writing as a way to "vent" his frustrations.
He enrolled in Antioch College in Yellow Springs Ohio in 1946. He started working toward a major in Physical Education, but he soon found his need for self expression pushing him toward language and literature. He soon found himself penning scripts for the Antioch Broadcasting System radio workshop. He felt that a future in radio was for him.
In that same year of 1946 Rod met Carolyn Louise Kramer. She was a seventeen year old education major. Things warmed up between them and by the summer of 1948 they were married. It was a marriage that would last Rod Serling the rest of his life.
On March 16, 1949 Rod got his first break when his script, "To Live A Dream," had won second prize in a national radio script writing contest. The contest paid five hundred dollars and an all expense paid trip to New York. That same year Rod sold two radio scripts and his first television script. Upon graduation he took a job at radio station WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was a junior staff writer.
He found himself writing minor bits of copy and "dramatized" testimonials that left him feeling unsatisfied. He tried to juggle this paying gig with writing stories for "spec." During these tough times he collected over 40 rejection slips. He knew that he needed to focus on the job of creative writing, but the security of the radio job was just too important.
Fortunately, 1951 saw a turn for the better for Rod. He was able to sell enough scripts to popular anthology programs to earn 5000 dollars. He was able to build a reputation as a television writer with promise. He left the radio station and started writing teleplays full time. Then, in January of 1955, Rod saw his seventy-second television script produced. It was a play called "Patterns."
"Patterns" dramatized the struggle for power in a large American corporation. It was a smash hit at was hailed by critics as a milestone in television's evolution. It is currently recognized by television historians as one of the high points of the "golden age" of television. It won Serling the first of his six Emmy awards.
After "Patterns" Rod was overcome by a clamor for his skills. Unfortunately, most of his scripts did not rise to the level of "Patterns." Then in 1956, he scored another hit. This time, it was The Playhouse 90 presentation of "Requiem for a Heavyweight." It was a huge critical success, winning Serling another Emmy, the Television-Radio Writer's Annual Award for Writing Achievement, the Sylvania Award, and the George Foster Peabody Award.
Serling had the Midas touch after that. His work was met again and again with positive critical reviews, and the money kept rolling in. But there was something that was bothering Serling. Something that would lead him to "The Twilight Zone.".
Time and time again, Serling's scripts were changed by
Some scripts saw the removal of key words that the sponsor thought were too close to the names of rival products. One time, a New York skyline had the Chrysler Building painted out because the show was paid for by the Ford Motor Company. As time went by sponsors demanded more and more control over all aspects of the broadcasts. If the play happened in current times, the sponsors felt compelled to tear apart the script to protect themselves from public relations problems. This is when Serling came across an idea.
Serling figured that if he could set his plays in a world disconnected from current reality, then his scripts would be left alone. Sponsors wouldn't be worried about spacemen, other planets, robots, ghosts or goblins....so he could write about just about whatever he wanted.
So in 1957, Serling pulled a script he had written shortly after graduating college. He expanded it to an hour and called it:
"The Twilight Zone"
The Time Element
From this start, The Twilight Zone was born.
Soon the CBS television network would launch Cayuga Production's show, which would run five seasons and 156 episodes. Serling found that he could write about the human condition, political issues, life and death, just about anything...and the sponsors would leave him alone. He also wrote some of the finest scripts television has ever seen.
After the Twilight Zone went off the air, Serling plowed into more television and movie projects. He attempted a television western called "The Loner." It's unconventional scripts were met with critical acclaim, but the network didn't like it...it lasted only one half season.
He found that his face and voice had become a way to make money. He narrated the early "Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau" specials, voiced several projects dealing with UFOs and ancient astronauts, and was spokesperson for many commercial products.
On November 8, 1969 "The Night
Gallery" made for television movie aired on NBC.
This trilogy of Serling stories soon gave birth to the television series, which Serling hosted and contributed scripts. Serling was unhappy because the show soon degenerated into shock stories with little depth, yet he was contractually bound to "front" each show, even if it was not his script. The show bumped along with a few critically acclaimed shows. It went off the air in 1972.
During the late 60s and early 70s Serling taught writing and traveled the lecture circuit. He was known as a man of passion and convictions, committed to whatever he did.
In May of 1975 he was hospitalized with a mild heart attack. A month later Serling underwent a coronary bypass. There were complications during the surgery and Rod Serling died on June 28, 1975 in Rochester, New York. His father's history of heart disease, his mother's high blood pressure and a 4 pack a day smoking habit all contributed to the death of a powerful force in the history of television.
Zicree's book contains a quote from Serling during an interview shortly before his death:
"I just want them to remember me a hundred years from now. I don't care they they're not able to quote a single line that I've written. But just that they can say, 'Oh, he was a writer.' That's a sufficiently honored position for me."