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Made possible by the John H. Mitchell Television Programming Endowment

Rod Serling: “It’s Mental Work”

Rod Serling
June 3, 2021 - 4:00 pm


This is a one-time live screening.

Anne Serling, author of As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling, will join Television Archivist Mark Quigley for a post-screening conversation.

Television icon Rod Serling won his sixth and final Emmy for his teleplay adaptation of John O’ Hara’s short story “It's Mental Work,” which aired as an installment of the anthology series Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre in 1963. Best remembered for his immortal creation The Twilight Zone, Serling wrote hundreds of teleplays during his career that were produced outside of that beloved series, with many offering further insight into the issues and ideals that mattered most to the self-described humanist. To that point, “It's Mental Work” is no exception, as Serling compassionately illuminates the small, unobtainable dreams of a trio of lives on the margins amid a monumental convergence of mortality and betrayal at a shabby corner bar.

Airing on NBC during Twilight Zone’s final season on CBS, the unjustly obscure “It’s Mental Work” marked Serling’s triumphant return to the type of hard-edged character dramas (“Patterns” and “Requiem for a Heavyweight”) that auspiciously launched his career at the dawn of the “Golden Age of Television.” Featuring a stellar cast including Lee J. Cobb, Gena Rowlands, Harry Guardino, and former boxing champion Archie Moore.

Special thanks to James Hardy, Hope Enterprises; Bill DiCicco and Ian Marshall, Retro Video; Nora Bates, Jenni Matz, Laurel Whitcomb, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; Anne Serling. Program curated and notes written by Mark Quigley, John H. Mitchell Television Archivist.

Rod Serling—Station Editorial

10/30/1966

Serling speaks on behalf of incumbent candidate for Lt. Governor of California, Glenn M. Anderson, and free higher education for all Californians.

Courtesy of Retro Video.

B&w, 3 min. Network: KNXT.

16th Annual Emmy Award Ceremony [excerpt]

5/25/1964

Rod Serling accepts an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama—Adaptation” for Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre: “It’s Mental Work.”

Courtesy of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

B&w, 2 min. Network: NBC.

Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre: “It's Mental Work”

12/20/1963

Teleplay focuses on the fate of a shabby corner bar as its weary owner (Lee J. Cobb) rails against unexpected forces of mortality and betrayal. Gena Rowlands co-stars as a sensitive, hard-luck hat check girl.

B&w copy of program produced in color, 50 min. Network: NBC. Producer: Dick Berg. Director: Alex North. Screenwriter: Rod Serling. With Lee J. Cobb, Harry Guardino, Gena Rowlands, Archie Moore.

Total program duration including discussion: 90 min.