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Aaron Spelling - Biography

Aaron Spelling (April 22, 1923 – June 23, 2006) was an American film and television producer. As of 2009, Spelling's eponymous production company Spelling Television holds the record as the most prolific television writer, with 218 producer and executive producer credits. Forbes ranked him the 11th top-earning dead celebrity in 2009.

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Early life

Spelling was born in Dallas, Texas, to Pearl (née Wald) and David Spelling (originally Spurling), a tailor, who were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland, respectively. Spelling had a brother, Daniel Spelling (died 2009), who lived in San Francisco, and who appeared on daughter Tori Spelling's television show Tori And Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood.

At the age of 8, Spelling lost the use of his legs psychosomatically, due to trauma caused by constant bullying from his schoolmates, and was confined to bed for a year. During this time, he read a vast number of books, which stimulated his imagination.

Spelling attended Forest Avenue High School, served in the United States Armed Forces, and later attended Southern Methodist University, graduating in 1949, where he was a cheerleader. He married actress Carolyn Jones in 1953, and they moved to California. They divorced in 1964. With his second wife, Candy Gene (née Marer), whom he married in 1968, he had two children, Randy Spelling and Tori Spelling.

Hollywood career and life

Spelling sold his first script to Jane Wyman Presents in 1954. That same year, he guest starred as a dogcatcher in the premiere episode of the CBS situation comedy, Willy, starring June Havoc as a young lawyer in New Hampshire, who later relocates to New York City to represent a vaudeville troupe.

Spelling went on to write for Dick Powell, Playhouse 90, and Last Man, among others. Later, he also found work as an actor. Between 1956 and 1997 he played screen parts in twenty-two programs, including the first Brian Keith series, Crusader, a Cold War drama, as well as I Love Lucy and Gunsmoke. During the 1950s, Spelling joined Powell's Four Star Productions, through which he created Lloyd Bridges's anthology series, The Lloyd Bridges Show.

After Powell's death, Spelling left Four Star Television in 1966, forming Thomas-Spelling Productions with Danny Thomas. Their first success was with the television show The Mod Squad. In total, he wrote for fourteen television productions between 1957 and 1974, including several series with multiple episodes to his credit. Spelling and Thomas produced two 1960s series for Walter Brennan, both on ABC: The Tycoon; and The Guns of Will Sonnett. He also began a collaboration at that time with associate producer Shelley Hull, who, aside from Mod Squad, worked with Spelling on The Rookies and Charlie's Angels. Hull also worked with Spelling in 1976 on the successful ABC movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, starring a young John Travolta. Spelling directed only once, on "The Conchita Vasquez Story," a 1959 episode of Wagon Train.

Spelling divorced Jones in 1965. In 1968, he married Carole Gene Marer, who took his name as Candy Spelling. He fathered Victoria Davey Spelling and Randall Gene Spelling, both of whom became actors as teenagers, as Tori and Randy Spelling, respectively. They appeared in several of their father's works, most notably on Beverly Hills, 90210.

In 1969, Spelling created Spelling Television (then called Aaron Spelling Productions), and, three years later, formed another co-production company with Leonard Goldberg. Spelling took his own company public in 1986 as Spelling Entertainment, later buying the Taft Entertainment Company from Taft Broadcasting (except for the two animation studios part of the group), and George A. Romero's Laurel Entertainment. Spelling also produced the NBC daytime soap opera Sunset Beach from 1997 to 1999, and in one of his few acting roles after the 1960s, played one of Bette's (Kathleen Noone) ex-husbands for one day in 1997.

Spelling continued expanding his entertainment holdings, buying Republic Pictures in 1994 - by the time his company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Viacom, it had five main operating units: Republic Pictures served as the home video arm (though distribution was actually farmed out to other companies worldwide) and copyright holder for all the feature films in the Spelling library, TV production companies Spelling Television and Big Ticket Entertainment (the latter created in 1994 primarily to expand Spelling's output from just dramas), TV syndication distributor Worldvision Enterprises, and film production company Spelling Films.

Spelling also appeared as himself on 27 programs between 1992 and 2005. After 2000, Spelling rarely gave interviews, although he remained active as CEO and continued to give notes on productions. Daily control of the Spelling Television company was handled by his longtime producing and business partner E. Duke Vincent and company president Jonathan Levin.

In the late 1980s, Spelling bought the home and lot of Bing Crosby's former Los Angeles house. He demolished the property, and built a 123-room home, known as "The Manor", for the cost of US$11,000,000, which has of floor space and is the largest single-family dwelling in Hollywood (34°4'23"N 118°25'41"W). Spelling's widow listed the home in 2004 for $150,000,000. As of June 2011, the house is in contract to be sold to 22-year-old heiress Petra Ecclestone.

In 2004, Spelling was portrayed by Dan Castellaneta in the NBC TV movie Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Charlie's Angels. The following year, he was portrayed by Nicholas Hammond in the ABC TV movie Dynasty: The Making of a Guilty Pleasure.

On April 4, 2007, it was announced that 7th Heaven's series finale on May 13, 2007 would be dedicated to Aaron Spelling. Every episode from Season 11 displayed these words at the beginning of the closing credits: "In memory of Aaron Spelling".

When 7th Heaven ended its run, it was touted by the network as being Spelling's longest-running series and the longest-running "family drama" (i.e., suitable for family viewing) in US television history.

Notable works

Spelling worked in some capacity on almost 200 productions beginning with the Zane Grey Theatre in 1956. His most recognizable contributions to television include Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, Starsky and Hutch, Family, Hotel, The Rookies, Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Vega$, Hart to Hart, The Colbys, T.J. Hooker, Nightingales, Kindred: The Embraced, Sunset Beach, 7th Heaven, Burke's Law, Honey West, The Mod Squad, S.W.A.T. and Charmed. His company also co-produced the David Lynch series Twin Peaks (although Spelling himself was not directly involved in its production).

He also produced the HBO miniseries And the Band Played On, based on Randy Shilts's bestseller. The miniseries won an Emmy Award, Spelling's first.

Illness and death

In 2001, Spelling was diagnosed with oral cancer.

On June 18, 2006, Spelling suffered a severe stroke at The Manor, his estate in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, California. He died there on June 23, 2006, from complications of the stroke, at the age of 83. A private funeral was held several days later, and Spelling was entombed in a mausoleum in Culver City's Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery.

On August 27, 2006, Spelling was honored at the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards by former employees Joan Collins, Stephen Collins, Heather Locklear, Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith.


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