The son of an immigrant Russian tailor, Aaron Spelling grew up in the Jewish ghetto of Dallas. Traumatized by constant bullying from his WASP schoolmates, Spelling psychosomatically lost the use of his legs at age eight and was confined to bed for a year. He spent his solitude with the written works of Mark Twain, O. Henry, and other masters, developing his own storytelling skills in the process. After wartime service with the Army Air Force, Spelling attended Southern Methodist University, then headed to New York, hoping to find work as an actor and writer. No one was interested in his writing, though he did eventually secure a few good film and TV roles (he was the squirrelly murderer in Vicki, the 1952 remake of 1941's I Wake Up Screaming). He then moved to California in the company of his wife, actress Carolyn Jones. While her career flourished, his dreams of becoming a great writer dwindled, and he reluctantly returned to acting. Spelling's writing skills finally came to the attention of actor/production executive Dick Powell, who hired Spelling as a scripter and producer for Powell's Four Star Productions. Spelling's strong suit during this period was the ability to woo TV-shy film actors into the Four Star fold by writing the sort of parts they'd like to play, but had never been permitted to by the Hollywood typecasting system. After Dick Powell died, Spelling became aligned with comedian/TV mogul Danny Thomas, for whom Spelling produced the hit series The Mod Squad in 1968. His new-found industry clout permitted Spelling to produce one TV hit after another: The Rookies, Starsky & Hutch, S.W.A.T., Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, among others. Whenever accused of merely turning out "schlock," Spelling could point with pride to his highly regarded weekly drama Family, and, much later, to his Emmy win for Day One, a 1989 TV movie about the wartime Manhattan Project. After several years of indifferent projects, Aaron Spelling once more became the king of youth-oriented television with his 1990 series Beverly Hills 90210 (which co-starred his daughter, Tori) and the equally popular follow-up, Melrose Place. Spelling's name continued to grace the credits of numerous youth-oriented soaps on the fledgling WB and UPN networks right up until his death in June of 2006.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II.
- Was a cheerleader in college.
- He and his second wife, Candy, bought Bing Crosby's house in L.A.'s Holmby Hills and knocked it down to build a 123-room estate.
- Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- In 1999, was awarded the Guinness World Record for Most Prolific TV Drama Producer, for 3842 hours of television shows since 1956.
- Remakes of two of his most popular '90s shows, 90210 and Melrose Place, debuted in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
- His estate has remained profitable following his death in 2006: Spelling was named to Forbes' list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities in 2009.