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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 ... producer director screenwriter film sales representative
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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 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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