Aaron Spelling (Dallas, April 22, 1923 – Los Angeles, June 23, 2006) was an American television producer, film producer and actor who holds the world record as the most prolific television producer.
Spelling was born in Dallas, Texas, to Russian Jewish parents and attended Forest Avenue High School. At age 8, due to teasing from racist classmates, he was forced to stay home from school due to a nervous breakdown. In those days he began reading romance novels, which he said taught him a lot about his future work.
From 1942 to 1945, he participated in World War II serving in the United States Army Air Forces, from which at the end of his enlistment he would earn a Bronze Cross and a Purple Heart, a decoration reserved for those wounded in combat. He later enrolled at Southern Methodist University and graduated in 1949.
Spelling sold his first script for the Jane Wyman Theater series in 1954. He continued by writing subjects for the series The Dick Powell Show, Playhouse 90, and Wagon Train to the West, then moved on. He later found work as an actor, starring in the western series Gunsmoke and taking part in films such as Criminals Against the World, The Unknown Lover and They Killed Vicki, Spelling also appeared in episodes of the series Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Dragnet. After scripting the films Thunder on the Timberland and One Foot in Hell, he devoted himself full-time to production, where he would reap his greatest successes. Thanks to the series Burke”s Law and Mod Squad, Greer”s Boys, he entered ABC, where his productions ended up dominating the schedules. Between 1960 and 1980 he produced such series as Heart and Stroke, Love Boat, Starsky & Hutch, Charlie”s Angels, Fantasiland, the soap opera Dynasty, and In the Lawrence House, which won several Emmy Awards.
In the late 1980s she turned to young audiences and, together with Darren Star, created Beverly Hills 90210, a series that was the springboard for her daughter Tori Spelling. Given its success, he also created a similar series dedicated to a more adult target audience, Melrose Place. In 1972, together with colleague Leonard Goldberg, he founded the production company Aaron Spelling Production, which from 1986 took the name Spelling Entertainment, and later Spelling Television. From 1997 to 1999 he produced the soap opera Sunset Beach for NBC, which with no less than 751 episodes beat Beverly Hills 90210 (292) and Love Boat (241) in longevity, and where Spelling himself appeared as a guest star in two episodes. He appeared in more than 27 television programs between 1992 and 2005, although after the turn of the new century, he rarely gave interviews. After relinquishing control of Spelling Television to his business colleagues, in 2004, Spelling was played by Dan Castellaneta in the NBC film Behind the Camera, The Unauthorized Story of Charlie”s Angels. From the mid-1990s until his death in 2006, Spelling produced other successful series, including Witches and Seventh Heaven, which, with its eleven seasons, held the record as the longest-running series Spelling produced.
In his career Spelling produced more than 100 films including Devilish School for Girls and War on the Virus (for television), the former starring Shannen Doherty, and the latter starring Richard Gere, and for film Charlie”s Angels, Soap Bubbles, California Poker, and The Infiltrators. He also directed ten plays. With a total of more than 200 productions, he covered more than 5,000 hours of television airtime. Many actors he cast included John Travolta, Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts, whom Spelling produced in the film Unbridled Females (1988), Heather Locklear, Shannen Doherty and Joan Collins. Some fictional characters had a second life on the big screen, thanks to the films Charlie”s Angels, Starsky & Hutch and S.W.A.T. – Special Crime Squad. His prominence as a producer earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
From 1953 to 1964 he was married to actress Carolyn Jones. In 1968 he married writer Candy Spelling, by whom he had two children, Tori (1973) and Randy (1978), who began acting as teenagers, including in their father”s productions, most notably Beverly Hills, 90210. In 1996 he wrote his autobiography, entitled A Prime Time Life.
His Los Angeles mansion, consisting of 123 rooms and built on rollers (to avoid seismic tremors), was built for $47 million and called The Manor, The Manor House. The building, which contains among other things an entire wing reserved for his wife”s wardrobe, a skating and bowling alley, a special studio for gift wrapping, and a swimming pool, is considered the largest in Hollywood. It is in fact larger than the Taj Mahal but smaller than the Pentagon. It is located in the prestigious Holmby Hills area at 594 South Mapleton Drive, not far from the mansions of, among others, Playboy creator Hugh Hefner, producer and former Paramount Pictures chairman Frank Mancuso Sr. and producer and entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine.
The entire building was officially put up for sale in early 2009 by his wife Candy, for a sum of $150 million. More than two years after it was put up for sale, the entire complex was bought by model Petra Ecclestone, daughter of Formula 1 patron Bernie Ecclestone, for $85 million.
Sickness, controversy and death
In 2001 he was diagnosed with cancer. On January 28, 2006, he was sued by his nurse, who accused him of sexual abuse, discrimination, assault and intentional infliction of stress.
On June 18, 2006, Spelling suffered a heart attack at his residence in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California. He died five days later, on June 23, 2006, from complications resulting from the heart attack, at the age of 83. After the funeral, held in a strictly private manner, he was buried in a crypt in a mausoleum at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.
His assets, valued at around $500 million, went to his wife Candy (primary beneficiary), children Tori and Randy, and siblings.
He won 2 Emmys, one for the miniseries And the bed played on and one and for the film Day one. His series have won the following Telegatti awards: