Before Rod Serling was immortalized as the creator, main writer, and host of The Twilight Zone, he contributed teleplays to several of the “live” and filmed anthologies of the 1950s that defined the “Golden Age of Television.” Among his most significant teleplays were ones he wrote for Playhouse 90, a ninety-minute anthology series that is often considered the best of its kind. Serling wrote ten Playhouse 90 scripts, including “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “The Comedian,” and “The Velvet Alley.”
Also among Serling’s work for Playhouse 90 was “A Town Has Turned To Dust.” The story was based on the real-life murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi on August 28, 1955— one of the catalysts for the Civil Rights Movement. The sensitivity of the crime led to censorship of Serling’s script.
Last month, Ithaca College, where Rod Serling taught in the last several years of his life, presented a reading of Serling’s original script. Serling originally wrote the story for The U.S. Steel Hour and eventually it was watered down and shown as “A Town Has Turned To Dust” on Playhouse 90 on June 19, 1958, changing the setting from Mississippi to a town in Mexico.
Playhouse 90 script editor Del Reisman was interviewed by the Archive and talked about Serling’s “A Town Has Turned to Dust” a few minutes into part six of his interview.