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Dan Curtis

Dan Curtis

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Also Known As: Daniel Meyer Curtis Died: March 27, 2006
Born: August 12, 1927 Cause of Death: Brain Tumor
Birth Place: Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA Profession: producer, director, screenwriter, film sales representative

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Producer-director Dan Curtis began his showbiz career as a salesman at NBC and later MCA. In the early 1960s, the Bridgeport, CT native founded his own production company and also became the owner and executive in charge of the Emmy-winning sports program "CBS Golf Classic" (1963-73). Curtis then moved into daytime TV as the creator of the drama serial "Dark Shadows" (1966-71). At its premiere, the show had a Gothic tone to it as it centered on an orphaned governess who goes to work for a wealthy family. Ratings were low and the network threatened cancellation. Taking an anything goes approach, the writers introduced a character of a vampire and the show swiftly became a must-see. "Dark Shadows" was somewhat campy in its day but it also appealed to a rabid fan base that continues to the present. While its roster of performers boasted such figures as Joan Bennett, Oscar nominee Grayson Hall and Jonathan Frid as the vampire Barnabas Collins, it also introduced future TV and film players ranging from Marsha Mason (who had a bit role) to Kate Jackson, Emmy-winner John Karlen and David Selby, among others. Eschewing typical soap opera stories, the series mined many of the popular themes found in sci-fi...

Producer-director Dan Curtis began his showbiz career as a salesman at NBC and later MCA. In the early 1960s, the Bridgeport, CT native founded his own production company and also became the owner and executive in charge of the Emmy-winning sports program "CBS Golf Classic" (1963-73). Curtis then moved into daytime TV as the creator of the drama serial "Dark Shadows" (1966-71). At its premiere, the show had a Gothic tone to it as it centered on an orphaned governess who goes to work for a wealthy family. Ratings were low and the network threatened cancellation. Taking an anything goes approach, the writers introduced a character of a vampire and the show swiftly became a must-see. "Dark Shadows" was somewhat campy in its day but it also appealed to a rabid fan base that continues to the present. While its roster of performers boasted such figures as Joan Bennett, Oscar nominee Grayson Hall and Jonathan Frid as the vampire Barnabas Collins, it also introduced future TV and film players ranging from Marsha Mason (who had a bit role) to Kate Jackson, Emmy-winner John Karlen and David Selby, among others. Eschewing typical soap opera stories, the series mined many of the popular themes found in sci-fi and horror literature (e.g., time travel, the Frankenstein and Wolf Man myths, etc.) but did not neglect the romance of the genre. If for nothing else, Curtis could be recalled for pushing the boundaries of daytime drama storytelling. He segued to the big screen with features based on the mythology of the show. "House of Dark Shadows" (1970) recast the original story and was more graphically violent that TV would allow. A second spin-off film "Night of Dark Shadows" (1972) proved less successful as did Curtis' attempt to revive the series in primetime for NBC in 1991.

Curtis continued in the horror genre for much of the late 60s and early 70s in a series of small screen remakes of classics like "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (ABC, 1968), "Frankenstein" (ABC, 1973) and "Dracula" (CBS, 1974). He served as producer of the pilots "The Night Stalker" (ABC, 1972) and "The Night Strangler" (ABC, 1973) which introduced audiences to Darren McGavin in his signature role of Carl Kolchak (although Curtis was not involved in the subsequent ABC series). "Trilogy of Terror" (ABC, 1975) was another memorable foray in the genre, with Karen Black headlining separate segments, the best-known featuring her pursued by a fetish doll. The actress also headed the cast (alongside Bette Davis and Oliver Reed) of Curtis' big screen haunted house story "Burnt Offerings" (1976).

By the late 70s, however, Curtis was moving away from genre fare mining his childhood for the above average "When Every Day Was Fourth of July" (NBC, 1978), about an attorney (Dean Jones) who represents an accused murderer at the behest of his nine-year-old daughter. "The Long Days of Summer" (ABC, 1980) was a sequel-cum-series-pilot with Jones reprising his role of a crusading attorney. For much of the 80s, though, Curtis concentrated on his dream project, producing and directing a miniseries adaptation of Herman Wouk's massive novel "The Winds of War" (ABC, 1983). This 16-hour miniseries, filmed over a 13-month period at a cost some $40 million (making it the then-most expensive program in the medium's history), fictionalized events leading up to America's entry into WWII and proved a critical and ratings winner. Most of the cast, including leads Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen and John Houseman, were singled out for praise. The inevitable follow-up was longer (close to 30 hours) and more expensive (in excess of $100 million) but it brought Curtis a well-deserved Emmy as the Outstanding Miniseries of 1988-89.

By the 90s, Curtis' output slowed a bit. He wrote, executive produced and directed "Me and the Kid" (1993), a low-budget feature knock-off of the then-popular "Home Alone" films. On the small screen, Curtis was executive producer and director of the miniseries "Intruders" (CBS. 1992), purportedly based on the recollections of UFO abductees. (A film documentary "In Advance of the Landing" followed in 1993.) In 1996, he revisited one of his more famous TV-movies with "Trilogy of Terror II" (USA Network) with Lysette Anthony subbing for Karen Black. More recently, Curtis was in the director's chair for the underrated "The Love Letter" (CBS, 1998), a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation adapted from a Jack Finney short story about a 20th Century man who carries on an unlikely correspondence with a Civil War-era woman.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Our Fathers (2005)
2.
3.
  Love Letter, The (1998) Director
4.
  Trilogy of Terror II (1996) Director
5.
6.
  Me and the Kid (1993) Director
7.
  Johnny Ryan (1990) Creator
8.
9.
  Mrs. R's Daughter (1979) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Intimate Portrait: Jane Seymour (1998) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Connecticut
1952:
Worked as head of sales in the film division of NBC
:
Was network television program sales representative at MCA
1962:
Founded Dan Curtis Productions
:
Was owner and producer of the Emmy-winning sports program "CBS Golf Classic"
1966:
Created, directed, and executive produced the ABC daytime soap "Dark Shadows"
1968:
First primetime TV production, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (ABC); starred Jack Palance
1970:
Feature debut as producer and director "House of Dark Shadows," loosely based on the popular TV show
1971:
Provided the story for and produced and directed "Night of Dark Shadows", a second film loosely based on the TV show
1972:
Introduced the character of Carl Kolchak in the ABC TV-movie "The Night Stalker"
1973:
Produced the ABC miniseries "Frankenstein"
1974:
Directed and produced the ABC miniseries "The Turn of the Screw," starring Lynn Redgrave
1974:
Produced and directed the CBS TV-remake of "Dracula," starring Palance
1975:
Directed and produced the memorable thriller "Triology of Terror" (ABC); all three stories starred Karen Black
1976:
Penned the screenplay adaptation, produced and directed "Burnt Offerings," starring Black and Bette Davis
1978:
Provided story, directed and produced the autobiographical TV-movie "When Every Day Was the Fourth of July" (NBC)
1979:
Executive produced and directed episodes of the short-lived series "Supertrain" (NBC)
1980:
Directed and executive produced the autobiographical "The Long Days of Summer" (ABC), a sequel to "When Every Day Was the Fourth of July"
1983:
Served as producer and director of the epic 18-hour ABC miniseries "The Winds of War," based on the book by Herman Wouk
1988:
Directed and executive produced the 12-part sequel miniseries "War and Remembrance" (ABC)
1990:
Executive produced "Johnny Ryan" (NBC), a pilot for a drama series that was not picked up by the network
1991:
Revived "Dark Shadows" (ABC) as a primetime serial; executive produced, wrote and directed miniseries version; executive produced and directed episodes of the short-lived series
1992:
Directed and co-executive produced the CBS miniseries "Intruders," purportedly based on true cases of UFO abductions
1993:
Last feature to date "Me and the Kid"; produced, scripted and directed
1996:
Executive produced, directed, and co-wrote (with William F. Nolan) two segments of the sequel "Trilogy of Terror II" (USA Network)
1998:
Helmed and produced "The Love Letter," a CBS "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation
2000:
In January, announced plans to co-author and co-direct a Broadway musical based on "Dark Shadows" with music by Robert Colbert and lyrics by Rupert Holmes
2005:
Directed final two TV-movies, "Saving Milly" (CBS) and "Our Fathers" (Showtime)
2005:
Produced a pilot episode for a reboot of "Dark Shadows" (The WB)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Bridgeport: Bridgeport , Connecticut - 1947
Syracuse University: Syracuse , New York - 1950
Center For Advanced Film Studies, American Film Institute: - 1991

Notes

"Horror stories are the most difficult type of things to do because you need imagination and humor, and you can never make a mistake. The first screw-up, you lose all credibility and you're dead with the audience ... A logic lapse or the wrong kind of laugh can sink you. Every single word is a deathtrap." --Dan Curtis quoted in Cinefantastique, Volume 28, No. 4-5.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Norma May Klein. Mother Dorothy Daniels.
wife:
Norma May Klein. Married on June 22, 1952.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Edward Philip Curtis. Has five.
mother:
Mildred Bernice Cherkass. Cohn, Catherine Perry. Survived her.
daughter:
Cathy Curtis. Divorced.
daughter:
Tracy Curtis. Had one other; survived him.
daughter:
Tracy Curtis. Producer, former actor.
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