Birthplace: Dallas, TX
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: Stroke
Remains: Buried, Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City, CA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Film/TV Producer, Screenwriter
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Beverly Hills 90210
Military service: US Army Air Force
As a young boy in a whitebread neighborhood of Dallas, Aaron Spelling was so severely taunted by his classmates for being Jewish, he was rendered psychosomatically unable to walk for more than a year. He spent that time in bed reading the novels of Mark Twain and short stories of O. Henry, and decided that he would be a writer.
Spelling majored in journalism, and served as a war correspondent for Stars and Stripes during World War II, but found writing for theater more interesting than reporting the news. He wrote plays, but they were rarely produced, and instead Spelling found work as an actor in off-Broadway plays. He made his film debut in 1953, with a crucial role in a generally forgotten noir piece, Vicki with Jeanne Crain and Richard Boone (a remake of the far superior I Wake Up Screaming with Betty Grable and Victor Mature). He still wanted to be a writer, though, and as an actor, Spelling's career had a reverse trajectory -- his roles got progressively smaller, from Three Young Texans with Mitzi Gaynor and Jeffrey Hunter to Black Widow with Ginger Rogers and Van Heflin, where Spelling was hardly more than an extra. He also appeared on episodes of Dragnet, Gunsmoke, and I Love Lucy.
He fell in love with a then-unknown actress named Carolyn Jones, and they married and moved to Hollywood together. Within a few years, he was selling scripts to Wagon Train and Jane Wyman Presents, and writing and producing for Zane Grey Theater. He even wrote two big-screen westerns that starred Alan Ladd, Guns of the Timberland based on a Louis L'Amour novel, and an original story by Spelling, One Foot in Hell.
Jones found stardom in The Bachelor Party, How the West Was Won, and The Addams Family, but Spelling's career began to taper off. He wrote and produced for The Dick Powell Show, but that job ended with Powell's death in 1963. Spelling reportedly grew depressed with his career and gloomy about his wife's success, and she divorced him. Friends have suggested Spelling never fully recovered, and he seemed to lose interest in writing. For the 40-plus years remaining in his long career, he had only two more credits as writer. Instead, he worked almost exclusively on the business side of filmmaking.
In the mid-to-late 1960s he produced Burke's Law, Daniel Boone, and Honey West, but his career really took off with The Mod Squad, beginning in 1968. The show's premise had three teenagers in trouble -- a car thief, a pretty runaway, and a young black man arrested at a riot -- recruited to become undercover cops. The program presented TV's first vaguely realistic counterculture characters, so of course it made them narcs and informants, but The Mod Squad appealed to both young and older audiences, drew huge ratings, and gave Spelling serious Hollywood clout. Over subsequent decades, Spelling was behind many of the highest rated, longest-running television series of his time, including S.W.A.T., Starsky and Hutch, The Rookies, Family, Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Vega$, Hart to Hart, Dynasty, T.J. Hooker, Hotel, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, 7th Heaven, and Charmed.
He produced a few low-budget theatrical films, the better of which include Robert Altman's California Split, 'Night, Mother with Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft, Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton, and Soapdish with Sally Field and Kevin Kline. He also made more than 100 TV movies, including such schlock as Satan's School for Girls, The Girl Who Came Gift-Wrapped, The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch, and The Making of a Male Model, and occasionally much better works, including the thriller In Broad Daylight with Suzanne Pleshette, the John Travolta tearjerker The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, the Manhattan Project story Day One, and the AIDS drama And the Band Played On.
In 1999, Spelling was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most prolific producer of television drama. According to Guinness' calculations, by that time Spelling had produced 3,842 hours of television -- enough to fill about 3½ years of prime time seven nights a week without any reruns. Spelling won two Emmys in his career, and of all his projects, he said he was proudest of 7th Heaven with Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks, for its presentation of a family he describes as "not at all dysfunctional".
Spelling married his second wife Carol Jean Marer in 1968, just weeks after The Mod Squad debuted. Their children, Tori Spelling and Randy Spelling, are both actors who worked frequently in their father's projects. Spelling's Hollywood mansion was the largest single-family dwelling in California, and reportedly had 123 rooms, a gymnasium, a bowling alley, a screening room, and indoor parking for up to eight limousines.
In December 2005, Spelling sued his former nurse, Charlene Richards, claiming she had threatened to publicly accuse him of sexual harassment if he did not pay to keep her quiet. She responded by suing him the following month, claiming she had been hired to provide care for the increasingly frail Spelling, but that he had demanded more services than she had offered.
On 18 June 2006, Spelling suffered a stroke, and died five days later.
Father: David Spelling (worked at Sears-Roebuck)
Mother: Pearl Spelling (homemaker)
Brother: Samuel Spelling
Brother: Maxwell Spelling
Brother: Daniel Spelling
Sister: Rebecca Spelling ("Becky")
Wife: Carolyn Jones (actress, m. 10-Apr-1953, sep. 1963, div. 1964)
Wife: Carol Jean Marer ("Candy", Los Angeles Parks Commissioner, m. 23-Nov-1968, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Tori Spelling (actress, b. 16-May-1973)
Son: Randall Gene Spelling ("Randy", actor, b. 9-Oct-1978)
High School: Forest Avenue High School, Dallas, TX
University: BA Journalism, Southern Methodist University (1945)
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Hillary Rodham Clinton for US Senate Committee
Stars and Stripes
Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6667 Hollywood Blvd (television)
Risk Factors: Aviophobia
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Black Widow (28-Oct-1954)
Alaska Seas (27-Jan-1954)
Three Young Texans (Jan-1954)
Author of books:
Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life (1996)
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