Dan Curtis
Original Series Creator, Executive Producer, Director
 

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House of Dark Shadows: Producer and Director; Night of Dark Shadows: Story Co-Writer, Producer and Director; Dark Shadows 1991 Revival Series: Series Creator, Executive Producer, Director, Writer

Dan Curtis was born on August 12 1927 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he spent his youth. By the 1950s, he had set his sights on a career in television production, and began as a sales executive for NBC televison and MCA. He eventually moved into production, investing his money to form Dan Curtis productions as a vehicle for his ambitions. He initially devised and produced CBS Golf Classic, entertaining his keen interest in golf, and won an Emmy in the process.

In 1965, he began negotiations with ABC televison to produce a daytime drama. Dark Shadows was the result, which he claims was borne of a dream of a girl on a train. A year later, with an overall format provided by writer Art Wallace, the mysterious girl became Victoria Winters, beginning the journey of Dark Shadows from humble daytime soap to pop culture phenomenon. Curtis would be the show's executive producer.

After Art Wallace withdrew from the role of Dark Shadows story creator (a role nowadays referred to as story editor), Curtis took on the role uncredited, indulging a relish for ghost stories and gothic horror that would form a major part of the show's heyday. In 1968, he directed an episode of the show, and despite a self-professed shaky start, gradually proved to be a dynamic and stylish director on the show.

Concurrently, Curtis developed a desire to produce feature-length entertainment, beginning with producing an acclaimed production of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde for CBC, Canada in 1967. It was nominated for six Emmy awards, including Best Dramatic Programme. He soon began negotiations with MGM, to produce and direct a Dark Shadows feature film. In spring 1970, production began on House of Dark Shadows, a massive box office hit, which Curtis followed with Night of Dark Shadows the following year.

In 1972, Curtis introduced the world to detective Kolchak, with the television movie, The Night Stalker. Both it and its sequel, The Night Strangler, remain amongst the highest rated television movies ever produced.

Curtis' other works in the horror genre include the MGM movie Burnt Offerings along with numerous acclaimed television movies, including Trilogy of Terror, Dead of Night, Frankenstein, The Norliss Tapes, Scream of the Wolf and Dracula, which was released abroad as a big screen feature.

His repetoire also includes the semi-autobiographical films The Long Days of Summer and When Every Day Was the Fourth of July, along with diverse productions such as Mrs R's Daughter, The Great Ice Rip Off and Me and the Kid.

During the 1980s, Curtis oversaw two epic television miniseries, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, based on Herman Wouk's original novels. Curtis co-wrote, produced and directed both productions, which remain some of the most ambitious television ever conceived, with their huge casts, sweeping storytelling and worldwide locations. The productions netted him an Emmy, a Golden Globe award, a People's Choice award and a DGA award, amongst others.

1990, Curtis returned to his roots to produce, write and direct a new, primetime version of Dark Shadows for NBC. The following year he directed the miniseries Intruders. Other recent productions have included Trilogy of Terror II and the acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie The Love Letters. In 2004, Dan co-produced an unsuccessful Dark Shadows pilot for the WB. His final works as director were the television movies Saving Milly and Our Fathers in 2005.

Dan Curtis died on 27 March 2006 in Brentwood, California of a brain tumour. He was 78. In 2001, he made a rare public appearance to discuss Dark Shadows at its 35th anniversary celebration at the Museum of Television and Radio in Los Angeles, commenting:

"I'd show up at this place, [the Dark Shadows studio] and it felt like home. I'd go and eat the donuts and take everyone out to dinner and everyone would get drunk and [have] a great time... The show became this gigantic hit. It stayed on for a long time; we all had a great time, and who would have ever thought we'd still be here today."

To view this site's tribute to Dan's life and work, click here.

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