On this Day in Movie History, June 28, 1975: Rod Serling Dies

It was on this day, June 28, 1975, American screenwriter, novelist, television producer, and narrator best known for his live television dramas of the 1950s and his science fiction anthology TV series, The Twilight Zone, Rod (Rodman Edward) Serling (born December 25, 1924) died. Being admitted to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY after a second heart attack, and elective surgery performed on June 26, Serling suffered a heart attack on the operating table and died two days later. He was 50 years old. His funeral took place on July 2.

A memorial was held in Cornell University’s Sage Chapel on July 7, 1975. Speakers at the Memorial included his daughter, Anne, and the Reverend John F. Hayward.

As newspapers began spreading word of his death, it was common to mention that he had been a heavy smoker for years and was angry and stressed most of his life.

Although this was all true, interviews with his wife in later years mentioned that both his father and grandfather had also died in their 50s of heart problems. On the other hand, his older brother, Robert Jerome, lived to the age of 92.

Serling was active in politics, both on and off the screen and helped form television industry standards. He was known as the “angry young man” of Hollywood, clashing with television executives and sponsors over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism, and war.

The Twilight Zone had been on television five years (the first three seasons presenting half-hour episodes, the fourth season having hour-long episodes and the fifth season returning to the half-hour format). It won many TV and drama awards, and it drew much critical acclaim for Serling and his co-workers.

While having a loyal fan base, The Twilight Zone never had very high audience numbers, and it was canceled twice, only to be revived. After five years and 156 episodes, ninety-two of them written by Serling himself, he grew weary of his TV series. In 1964, he decided to let its third cancellation be final.

1902 – Richard Rodgers (Academy Award-winning composer: It Might as Well be Spring [1945]; half of Rodgers and (Lorenz) Hart and Rodgers and (Oscar) Hammerstein: The Sound of Music, Love Me Tonight, My Funny Valentine, The Lady is a Tramp, Oklahoma!, State Fair, The King and I, You’ll Never Walk Alone, Carousel, Getting to Know You, Some Enchanted Evening; died Dec 30, 1979)

1926 – Mel Brooks (Kaminsky) (director, actor: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, The Producers; comedy writer: Your Show of Shows, Get Smart; Broadway producer: The Producers)

1932 – Pat (Noriyuki) Morita (actor: Happy Days, Karate Kid, Babes in Toyland, Thoroughly Modern Millie; died Nov 24, 2005)

1946 – Bruce Davison (actor: Widow�s Kiss, It�s My Party, Six Degrees of Separation, Longtime Companion, The Ladies Club, The Gathering, Mother, Jugs and Speed, Mame, Ulzana�s Raid, Last Summer, Hunter, Harry and the Hendersons)

1946 – Gilda Radner (Emmy Award-winning comedienne, actress: Saturday Night Live [1977-78]; Haunted Honeymoon [w/husband Gene Wilder]; died May 20, 1989)

1948 – Kathy Bates (Academy Award-winning actress: Misery [1990]; Fried Green Tomatoes, Home of Our Own, Prelude to a Kiss)

1954 – Alice Krige (actress: Star Trek: First Contact, Joseph, Sharpe’s Honour, Sleepwalkers, Barfly, Chariots of Fire, A Tale of Two Cities, In the Company of Spies)

1966 – John Cusack (actor: Money for Nothing, The Player, True Colors, Bullets over Broadway, The Grifters, Say Anything)

1966 – Mary Stuart Masterson (actress: Kate Brasher, Heaven�s Prisoners, Radioland Murders, Funny About Love, Benny & Joon, Fried Green Tomatoes, Heaven Help Us)

1967 – Gil Bellows (actor: The Shawshank Redemption, Ally McBeal)

1969 – Danielle Brisebois (actress: All in the Family, Knots Landing, Annie, Mom, the Wolfman and Me)

1971 – Tichina Arnold (actress: Little Shop of Horrors, Martin, Big Momma’s House)

1973 – Alessandro Nivola (actor: Jurassic Park III, Face/Off, Timecode)


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