Aaron Spelling was an American producer, writer and actor, best known as the successful producer of dramatic series and made-for-television films. Born to Jewish parents, he was diagnosed with psychosomatic illness in his childhood and took a year out of school which he spent reading literary works of Mark Twain and O Henry. It was this phase of his life which kindled in him an intense love of fiction writing and he decided to pursue a career in entertainment industry. After graduation, he fled to Hollywood to pursue his lifelong dream and started out as an actor, then a writer, and finally received major success on becoming a producer. He produced numerous successful television dramas and made-for-television movies concerning a variety of social issues ranging from family values and militant youth, to discrimination against women, racism and homophobia. But he is best known for the escapist nature of his productions in which he always concentrated on style and attention to detail. He is considered a brilliant filmmaker whose individual style and complete control over all the elements of production gave films a personal and unique stamp. He was an energetic and tireless person whose life and works continue to entertain and inspire the audience. He is rightfully accredited with the title of being television's most prolific producer.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on April 22, 1923 in Dallas, Texas, U.S. to David Spelling, a tailor and his wife, Pearl Spelling, a homemaker. He had a sister, Rebecca, and three brothers, Samuel, Maxwell and Daniel.
He received his early education from the Forest Avenue High School, Dallas, Texas. He was traumatized due to bullying when he was eight and psychosomatically lost the use of his legs. After being confined to bed for a year, he recovered from it.
After high school, he joined the US Air Force and served as a war correspondent during World War II, from 1942 to 1945. Then he attended the Southern Methodist University and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1949.
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In 1953, he moved to Hollywood, California to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. He made his debut as an actor in a generally forgotten noir piece, ‘Vicki’ (1953). He also acted in some other movies such as ‘Three Young Texans’ (1954), ‘Alaska Seas’ (1954) and ‘Black Widow’ (1954).
In 1954, he started his writing career when he sold his first script to the Jane Wyman Theatre. He wrote for television series such as Dick Powell’s ‘Zane Grey Theatre’ (1956–61); ‘Playhouse 90’ (1956–61) and ‘Wagon Train’ (1957–65).
From 1956 to 1965, he worked at Four Star Studio Productions and gradually became a producer. Some of the early shows made under his productions were ‘The Lloyd Bridges Show’ (1962–63), ‘Burkes Law’ (1963) and ‘Honey West’ (1965).
After leaving Four Star, he worked almost exclusively on the business side of filmmaking and created Thomas-Spelling Productions, along with Danny Thomas. The company produced the successful ABC TV detective series ‘The Mod Squad’ (1968–73), which became an instant hit.
In 1972, he formed Spelling-Goldberg Productions in collaboration with Leonard Goldberg, a fellow producer, and served as its co-president. It produced hit television shows such as ‘The Rookies’ (1972), ‘Starsky and Hutch’ (1975) and ‘S.W.A.T.’ (1975).
In 1977, he formed his own production company, Aaron Spelling Productions, and served as its president. His company produced television dramas such as ‘Fantasy Island’ (1978), ‘Vega$’ (1978), ‘Hart to Hart’ (1979), ‘Dynasty’ (1981), ‘T.J. Hooker’ (1982), ‘Hotel’ (1983); ‘Hollywood Wives’ (1985) and ‘Nightingales’ (1989).
His production company also made television films such as ‘The Best Little Girl in the World’ (1981), ‘Mr. Mom’ (1983), ‘Night Mother (1986)’, ‘Surrender’ (1987), ‘Cross My Heart’ (1987), ‘Soapdish’ (1991) and ‘And the Band Played On’ (1993).
During the 1990s, his company continued producing television series which include ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ (1990), ‘Melrose Place’ (1992); ‘Winnetka Road’ (1994), ‘Savannah’ (1995), ‘7th Heaven’ (1996) and ‘Charmed’ (1998).
The weekly hour-long drama ‘Family’ (1976) is considered by many as one of his best production works in television series. His other notable productions were ‘The Mod Squad’ (1968) and ‘Dynasty’ (1981).
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Among his major works in made-for-television films include ‘Day One’ (1989) about the building of the atomic bomb, and ‘And the Band Played On’ (1993) about the discovery of AIDS.
Awards & Achievements
In 1965, he was awarded the ‘Writers Guild of America Award’.
In 1978, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 1989, he won his first Emmy award for ‘Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special’ for television film ‘Day One’.
In 1994, he received his second Emmy award for ‘Outstanding Made for Television Movie’ for the television film ‘And the Band Played On’.
In 1996, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
In 1999, he received the BAFTA Britannia Award for Television. Next year, he won the Producers Guild of America David Susskind Lifetime Achievement in Television Award.
In 2006, he was posthumously honored at the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1953, he married Carolyn Jones, an Academy award winning actress. The couple separated in 1963 and was eventually divorced in 1964.
In 1968, he married Carole Jean Marer, Los Angeles Parks Commissioner. The couple was blessed with two children: a daughter Tori Spelling and a son Randall Gene Spelling.
He died on June 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California, U.S. from complications following a stroke. He was interred in a mausoleum in Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City, California.