Dan Curtis


Director, Producer

About

Also Known As
Daniel Meyer Curtis
Birth Place
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA
Born
August 12, 1927
Died
March 27, 2006
Cause of Death
Brain Tumor

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 pr...

Family & Companions

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

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.

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.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Saving Milly (2005)
Director
Our Fathers (2005)
Director
The Love Letter (1998)
Director
Trilogy of Terror II (1996)
Director
In Advance of the Landing (1993)
Director
Me and the Kid (1993)
Director
Johnny Ryan (1990)
Creator
The Long Days of Summer (1980)
Director
The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang (1979)
Director
Mrs. R's Daughter (1979)
Director
When Every Day Was the Fourth of July (1978)
Director
Dead of Night (1977)
Director
Curse of the Black Widow (1977)
Director
Burnt Offerings (1976)
Director
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
Director
The Kansas City Massacre (1975)
Director
Dracula (1974)
Director
The Great Ice Rip-Off (1974)
Director
Melvin Purvis, G-man (1974)
Director
Scream of the Wolf (1974)
Director
The Norliss Tapes (1973)
Director
The Night Strangler (1973)
Director
Night of Dark Shadows (1971)
Director
House of Dark Shadows (1970)
Director

Writer (Feature Film)

Dark Shadows (2012)
Source Material
Trilogy of Terror II (1996)
Screenplay ("The Graveyard Rats") ("He Who Kills")
Me and the Kid (1993)
Screenwriter
When Every Day Was the Fourth of July (1978)
From Story
Burnt Offerings (1976)
Screenplay
Night of Dark Shadows (1971)
Story

Producer (Feature Film)

Saving Milly (2005)
Executive Producer
Our Fathers (2005)
Executive Producer
The Love Letter (1998)
Producer
Trilogy of Terror II (1996)
Executive Producer
Me and the Kid (1993)
Executive Producer
In Advance of the Landing (1993)
Producer
Johnny Ryan (1990)
Executive Producer
The Long Days of Summer (1980)
Executive Producer
The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang (1979)
Executive Producer
Mrs. R's Daughter (1979)
Executive Producer
When Every Day Was the Fourth of July (1978)
Producer
Curse of the Black Widow (1977)
Executive Producer
Burnt Offerings (1976)
Producer
The Kansas City Massacre (1975)
Producer
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
Producer
The Great Ice Rip-Off (1974)
Producer
Scream of the Wolf (1974)
Producer
Dracula (1974)
Producer
Melvin Purvis, G-man (1974)
Producer
The Norliss Tapes (1973)
Producer
The Night Strangler (1973)
Producer
The Night Stalker (1972)
Producer
Night of Dark Shadows (1971)
Producer
House of Dark Shadows (1970)
Producer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

House of Dark Shadows (1970)
Company

Cast (Special)

The AMC Project: Hollywood and the Holocaust (2003)
Interviewee
Intimate Portrait: Jane Seymour (1998)
The 41st Annual Emmy Awards (1989)
Performer
War and Remembrance: A Living History (1988)

Producer (Special)

Angie, The Lieutenant (1992)
Executive Producer
The Big Easy (1982)
Executive Producer

Director (TV Mini-Series)

Dark Shadows (1991)
Creator

Writer (TV Mini-Series)

Dark Shadows (1991)
Screenplay
War and Remembrance (1988)
Screenplay

Producer (TV Mini-Series)

Intruders (1992)
Executive Producer
Dark Shadows (1991)
Executive Producer
War and Remembrance (1988)
Executive Producer
The Winds of War (1983)
Producer
Turn of the Screw (1974)
Producer
Frankenstein (1973)
Producer
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973)
Producer

Life Events

1952

Worked as head of sales in the film division of NBC

1962

Founded Dan Curtis Productions

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)

2012

Feature adaptation of "Dark Shadows" released posthumously, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins

Videos

Movie Clip

Night Of Dark Shadows (1971) -- (Movie Clip) Open, You Wouldn't Have Liked Me Opening with the approach to the Lyndhurst Estate near Tarrytown, NY, where the first feature based on the TV vampire-soap opera was also filmed, introducing series alums David Selby as Quentin and Kate Jackson as bride Tracy, with Grayson Hall as Carlotta, in Night Of Dark Shadows 1971.
Night Of Dark Shadows (1971) -- (Movie Clip) You Must Die As A Witch! On their first night at his family’s ancestral estate, aspiring artist Quentin Collins (David Selby) and ingenuous wife Tracy (Kate Jackson) snuggle up, and director Dan Curtis brings in nightmare business (with Lara Parker and Christopher Pennock) probably outside the range of the TV show, in the second feature based on the culty soap opera, Night Of Dark Shadows, 1971.
House Of Dark Shadows (1970) -- (Movie Clip) Thank You, Daphne After an eventful credit sequence, Daphne (Lisa Richards), secretary to Elizabeth (Joan Bennett), leaves "Collinwood" on foot, is attacked, then rescued by Jeff (Roger Davis), in House Of Dark Shadows, 1970.
House Of Dark Shadows (1970) -- (Movie Clip) A Cousin From England Subjective camera introducing presumably benign Barnabas (Jonathan Frid), who meets Collins cousins (Joan Bennett, Louis Edmonds, Nancy Barrett) and doctor friends (Thayer David, Grayson Hall), early in House Of Dark Shadows, 1970, the first of two features based on the ABC daytime soap opera.
House Of Dark Shadows (1970) -- (Movie Clip) What He Thought Would Be Eternity Ancient vampire Barnabas (Jonathan Frid) explaining affairs to reluctant aide Willie (John Karlen), interrupted by jealous new vampire Carolyn (Nancy Barrett), dying for the first time, in House Of Dark Shadows, 1970.
Burnt Offerings (1976) -- (Movie Clip) Damn It I Won't! Marian (Karen Black) assures Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis) that it's okay for her to take a nap, but leads to a surprise, in director Dan Curtis' Burnt Offerings, 1976.
Burnt Offerings (1976) -- (Movie Clip) Open, Underprivileged Child The opening, Oliver Reed as the English guy helming the station wagon, with spouse Karen Black and son Lee Montgomery, from Burnt Offerings, 1976, also starring Bette Davis.
Burnt Offerings (1976) -- (Movie Clip) You Float Like A Rock! Having just prepared the pool at the summer house, Ben (Oliver Reed) goes a bit overboard with son David (Lee Montgomery), Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis) observing, in director Dan Curtis' Burnt Offerings, 1976.
Burnt Offerings (1976) -- (Movie Clip) Our Mother Roz (Eileen Heckart) introduces brother Arnold (Burgess Meredith), who helps raise the subject of their mother, to potential renters Ben and Marian (Oliver Reed, Karen Black) in Burnt Offerings, 1976.
Burnt Offerings (1976) -- (Movie Clip) Memories Of A Lifetime This from Dan Curtis, creator of Dark Shadows, Marian (Karen Black) arriving at the summer rental, with Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis), and checking on said-to-be ancient Mrs. Allardyce, in Burnt Offerings 1976.

Trailer

Family

Edward Philip Curtis
Father
Has five.
Mildred Bernice Cherkass
Mother
Cohn, Catherine Perry. Survived her.
Cathy Curtis
Daughter
Divorced.
Tracy Curtis
Daughter
Had one other; survived him.
Tracy Curtis
Daughter
Producer, former actor.

Companions

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

Bibliography

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.