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Dan Curtis

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Curtis, Dan
Dan Curtis Producer-Director of Television Mini-Series and Dark Shadows Creator. Veteran television and film producer-director Dan Curtis, 78, passed away on March 27, 2006 at his home in Brentwood, California, following a four-month battle with cancer. Best-known for spearheading the landmark mini-series The Winds Of War and War And Remembrance as well as creating the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, Curtis' diverse career in entertainment spanned five decades. Born Daniel Mayer Cherkoss in Bridgeport, Connecticut on August 12, 1927, Curtis graduated with a liberal arts degree in sociology from Syracuse University in 1950. He entered television as a program salesman with NBC-TV and, later, MCA, selling syndicated fare such as Union Pacific and Princess Grace In Monaco. After creating Challenge Golf featuring Gary Player and Arnold Palmer for ABC-TV in 1962, Curtis, a lifelong golfing enthusiast, formed his own company and in 1963 launched The CBS Match Play Golf Classic, which ran for a decade and won an Emmy for Achievement in Sports for the 1965-66 season. In 1965, Curtis approached programming executive Leonard Goldberg at ABC-TV with an idea for a Jane Eyre-flavored drama series and on June 27, 1966 Dark Shadows premiered as a daytime soap opera. Though the supernatural serial initially met with low ratings, Curtis salvaged the show in April of 1967 with the introduction of a sympathetic vampire named Barnabas Collins, played by Jonathan Frid. The series quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon, giving the network a strong presence in daytime by attracting a devoted youth audience along with infatuated housewives. Ceasing production in 1971 after 1,225 episodes, Dark Shadows remains a cult favorite, spawning two M-G-M feature films (House of Dark Shadows, 1970, and Night of Dark Shadows, 1971) directed by Curtis and a 1991 NBC-TV nighttime remake starring Ben Cross. Curtis' primetime producing debut came in 1968 with The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, starring Jack Palance, for ABC. Produced in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Curtis' version of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic earned multiple Emmy nominations, including Best Dramatic Program, and is considered by many critics to be the definitive interpretation. Moving from New York to Hollywood in the early 1970s, Curtis established himself as one the industry's leading independent producers during the heyday of television movies. Many of Curtis' projects during this period were rooted in the mystery and horror genres and were written by frequent collaborator Richard Matheson, beginning with The Night Stalker in 1972. Starring Darren McGavin as hard-nosed reporter Carl Kolchak, the program achieved the highest ratings ever for a television film when it originally aired. A 1973 sequel, The Night Strangler, was followed by The Norliss Tapes, Scream Of The Wolf, The Turn Of The Screw and Dracula. The latter, starring Jack Palance, ranks as the first faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. One of Curtis' most indelible offerings remains the 1975 telefilm Trilogy of Terror in which Karen Black, starring in multiple roles, is attacked by a ferocious Zuni warrior fetish doll. Curtis returned to the big screen in 1976 with Burnt Offerings for United Artists. A haunted house thriller based on Robert Marasco's novel, the film starred Black, Oliver Reed and Bette Davis. Also known as a nostalgic storyteller, Curtis mounted a pair of semi-autobiographical telefilms based on his childhood days in Bridgeport: When Every Day Was The Fourth Of July (1978) and The Long Days Of Summer (1980), both starring Dean Jones. Curtis' passion for period pieces was also on display in a trio of tongue-in-check action projects; the 1930s gangster capers Melvin Purvis, G-Man (1974) and The Kansas City Massacre (1975), followed in 1979 by his sole western, The Last Ride Of The Dalton Gang. It was in the 1980s, however, that Curtis reached his career pinnacle when he was chosen by Paramount television head Barry Diller to produce, direct and co-write the screenplay for the 1010
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Mar. 29, 2006
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