Dan Curtis, a prolific television producer and director who was best known for shepherding two of the most ambitious mini-series ever made, "The Winds of War," and "War and Remembrance," onto ABC in the 1980's, died in Los Angeles. He was 78.
The cause was brain cancer, his family said. His wife passed away from heart disease little more than a week before him.
Mr. Curtis worked in television for more than four decades on a variety of projects, including westerns, horror movies and golf coverage. He also produced or directed an unusual number of cult television classics, ranging from the memorable, like the original "Dark Shadows" soap opera in the 1960's and the film "The Night Stalker," to the forgettable, like one of the most infamous flops of all time, the 1979 NBC series "Supertrain."
Mr. Curtis's most recent work came just last year, when he produced and directed two movies: "Saving Milly," based on the columnist Morton Kondracke's memoir about his wife's battle with Parkinson's disease, and "Our Fathers," which examined the sexual abuse scandal among priests in the Boston Archdiocese.
He began his career in television in 1950 as a salesman for syndicated shows. A golf lover, he created "Challenge Golf" with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player in the early 1960's, and later "The CBS Match Play Golf Classic," which ran for a decade. He moved into the creative side of television in 1966, when he came up with the idea for "Dark Shadows," a daytime soap opera on ABC featuring vampires and other gothic characters.
The show became an enormous hit, and in the early 1970's Mr. Curtis directed two feature films based on the characters. He continued working in the horror genre by often teaming up with the "Twilight Zone" writer Richard Matheson. The two men collaborated on the original "Night Stalker" movie with Darren McGavin.
Mr. Curtis and Mr. Matheson also worked together on a project for ABC called "Trilogy of Terror," which was remembered by a generation of fans for the Zuni Fetish doll that left viewers limp with fright.
Barry Diller, then running the Paramount Studio, brought him in to direct and produce an 18-hour adaptation of the Herman Wouk bestseller "The Winds of War," starring Robert Mitchum and Ali McGraw. The film, which traced the origins of World War II, set ratings records for ABC. "He was full-throated, full-bodied, sure of himself, commanding — a great general," Mr. Diller said.
Mr. Curtis followed that success with an even bigger mini-series, an adaptation of Mr. Wouk's sequel, "War and Remembrance." Lasting 30 hours, it remains the longest mini-series ever made for network television. Mr. Curtis won an Emmy Award for the production.
[Thanks to the New York Times for that obit.]
Here is a list of Dan Curtis' work as a director and/or producer in TV:
Our Fathers (2005) (TV)
Saving Milly (2005) (TV)
The Love Letter (1998) (TV)
Trilogy of Terror II (1996) (TV)
Me and the Kid (1993)
Intruders (1992) (TV)
"Dark Shadows" (1991) TV Series
Dark Shadows (1990) (TV)
"War and Remembrance" (1988) (mini) TV Series
"The Winds of War" (1983) (mini) TV Series
The Long Days of Summer (1980) (TV)
The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang (1979) (TV)
Mrs. R's Daughter (1979) (TV)
"Supertrain" (1979) TV Series
Express to Terror (1979) (TV)
When Every Day Was the Fourth of July (1978) (TV)
Curse of the Black Widow (1977) (TV)
The Great Ice Rip-Off (1976) (TV)
The Kansas City Massacre (1975) (TV)
Trilogy of Terror (1975) (TV)
The Turn of the Screw (1974/I) (TV)
Melvin Purvis G-MAN (1974) (TV)
Scream of the Wolf (1974) (TV)
The Norliss Tapes (1973) (TV)
The Night Strangler (1973) (TV)
Dracula (1973/I) (TV)
The Invasion of Carol Enders (1973) (TV) (uncredited)
Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon (1969) (TV)
"Dark Shadows" (1966) TV Series
TV RELATED THEATRICAL FILMS
Night of Dark Shadows (1971)
House of Dark Shadows (1970)
[Thanks to the IMDb.com]