Rod Serling was known as one of America’s pioneering television screenwriters, producers and narrators of the 1950’s, especially in the famous television series The Twilight Zone. Since Serling was a young child, he had shown an exclusive interest in the entertainment field, even writing some original works. However, as the United States involved itself in the Second World War, he decided he would enlist into the Army and help the cause, as he viewed that being more important than his hobbies. After his unit was transitioned to Leyte Island in the Philippines in 1944, he would witness nothing but death, shaping his writing for the rest of his life. In Hollywood he was also known as the ‘angry young man,’ constantly confronting various executives over the issues more relevant to the day, such as warfare, racism and censorship.
Rodman Edward Serling was born to a Jewish family Syracuse, New York, on December 25, 1924. His parents were Esther Cooper and Samuel Lawrence Serling, and one older brother, Robert. After moving to Binghamton 70 miles south of Syracuse in 1926, Rod’s parents saw his talent potential, and encouraged him to become a performer. In fact, his Sam Serling had created a stage in the basement of their home, and Rod would put on various plays, sometimes with the neighbors’ children as well. In school, Serling was viewed as the class clown, and most of his teachers left him alone, believing he was a lost cause from the start. However, in the seventh grade, his English teacher had encouraged him to take on public speaking classes, as she saw potential in him. After high school he was accepted into college, but as the War was progressing, he enlisted after graduating in 1943.
Serling was sent to Georgia to train as a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division. While he was there, he took up boxing along with his fellow comrades in arms. On April 25, 1944, his unit, being combat-ready, was moved to the Philippines. Although Serling had wanted to contribute to the war effort, he was not combat-fit. Other soldiers reported that Serling would often venture into the jungle for exploration purposes, only to get lost.
After the war was over, he had resumed his interest in radio and then television interest, appearing as a writer. In 1955, his name became known as one of his pieces was featured on the Kraft Television Theatre, the episode called ‘Patterns.’ After more successful work, the first episode of The Twilight Zone, created by Serling, aired on October 2, 1959. Although it is one of the most famous shows in television history, The Twilight Zone didn’t receive enough popularity, and was cancelled twice during its five years of airing. By the third and final time it was cancelled in 1964, Serling was done writing the show anyway, and that was the end of the series. In 1975, Serling died at 50 years old due to complications of a heart attack.