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The Face Of The Unknown: Meet Rod Serling

January 9, 2019

 

Before Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff became the faces of black and white cinema there was another face sending shivers down the spines of terrified viewers. You may know him, or you may be oblivious to him, but Rod Serling was the narrator that really got you thinking about the horrors of the unknown world with his science-fiction anthology series The Twilight Zone.

 

I'm a little in love with Rod Serling. He's voice is as smooth as silk and he could sell ice to eskimo with his well-rounded pronunciations - he certainly has me sold on smoking Chesterfields! Known as an American screenwriter, playwright, television producer and narrator, Rod Serling  was born on Christmas Day in 1924 and was active in politics, raising television industry standards and clashing with television executives over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism, and war. With a reputation as a social activist, Serling joined the American military in 1943 and trained as a paratrooper, receiving many different medals of honor including the Purple Heart.

 

Rod's combative history affected him deeply as he saw constant casualities throughout his time in the military. He suffered from PTSD, nightmares, and he had flashbacks for the rest of his life. His time in combat became a staple point for his writing, in order to lift the strongholds of war off his chest. Recovering from his wounds he turned to education and recieced a Bachelor of Arts degree and worked in the University radio station. His forray into radio broadcasting allowed him to start scriptwritings and get a job working in radio. He came up with many radio program stories that significantly showcased Serling's take into the horror world and his reactions from war. This was similar to what could be found in Orson Wells' The War of the Worlds radio broadcast.

 

Jumping into scriptwriting for television, Serling started to make a name for himself as he created one controversial script after another. He eventually fought for creative control over The Twilight Zone, his classic series they debuted on October 2nd 1959. Serling drew on his own experiences of life for many of the episodes, frequently focusing on boxing (a sport he partook in during his military days) military life and airplane pilots. Eventually the science fiction show incorporated his social views on racial relations as well as his view on gender roles.

 

After five years and 156 spooky episodes, Serling ceased production on The Twilight Zone and sold the rights. He evntually went on to produce a new TV show similar to The Twilight Zone called Night Gallery. Set in a dimly lit museum after hours, Serling played the curator who introduced three tales of the macabre based on paintings in the museum., focusing on the horror and suspense that made The Twilight Zone so popular.

 

Serling continued to live a full life with his writing, producing and his family. Eventually on May 3, 1975 Serling had a minor heart attack and was hospitalised. Once stable he was released where two weeks later he had another heart attack, forcing open-heart surgery. The procedure took ten hours, but on June 26th Serling had a third heart attack on the operating table and died two days later due to the compilications. He was 50 years old, but apparently the main artery to his heart had all but disintergrated. Rod Serling was well-known for smoking up to five packets of cigerattes a day (each packet holding about 20 cigerattes) so many say the heart attacks were caused by his smoking.

 

Rod Serling has left behind a legacy synonomous to the horror science fiction world. The Twilight Zone was by far his most recognisable piece of work and is the highlight of all things unexplainable. He left behind a substantial piece of the horror world and will never be forgotten.

 

"No one could know Serling, or view or read his work, without recognizing his deep affection for humanity ... and his determination to enlarge our horizons by giving us a better understanding of ourselves."   —Gene Roddenberry

 

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