Obituaries

MEMORIES OF DAN CURTIS

By • Mar 28th, 2006 •

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My memories of Dan Curtis began like everyone else on this board with ‘Dark Shadows’. The first time I ever remember seeing his name was at the end crawl of each episode “A Dan Curtis Production”

This was back in 1966, and I was a freshman in high school. By the time HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS hit the big screen I was already in College. My best friend and I went to the drive -in (where most horror films wound up in those days) to see how all those weeks of viewing a plot revealed in 20 minute segments would translate to a 90 minute movie. We were not disappointed, even though Jonathan Frid had just appeared on the Dick Cavett show complaining about the violence. Frid did say he thought “It was a pretty decent horror film.”

By now we all knew it was a Dan Curtis Production. Throughout the seventies Dan Curtis was the “Man” when it came to Gothic horror and vampires on television.

When I finally moved to Los Angeles in 1976 I would connect with Dan Curtis in a much more personal way then I would have ever imagined as a fan of ‘Dark Shadows’ in my youth.

By 1977 I had become a theatrical agent with an office in Century City. Among my clients was Barbara Steele. We have been friends ever since then. In 1980, James Poe, the screenwriter and Barbara’s last husband, died leaving her at very loose ends. A mutual friend, British ICM agent Maggie Abbott, suggested that a producer over at Paramount named Dan Curtis was looking for someone to look at WWII stock footage for a mammoth series called “The Winds of War”. Barbara has been part of Dan Curtis Productions’ team ever since.

Thanks to her I saw a post ‘Dark Shadows’ Dan Curtis. The two WWII mini-series became his crowning achievement as a producer/director. It won Emmys for both Barbara and Dan and went on to be the highest rated show of its kind as well as the longest. I vividly recall sitting in a small screening room with Barbara and Dan watching the rushes of John Gielgud on his way to the gas chambers in “War and Remembrance.” When the lights went up Dan stood up and raised his fist heavenward: “Steven Spielberg eat your heart out!!” Dan loved every frame of that show. I will never forget him saying in that very screening room before we left “You know, when I die, even if this show wins a truckload of Emmys, they will end up saying Dan Curtis, creator of daytime television’s ‘Dark Shadows,’ died today…..” then he laughed out loud at the thought of it. Dan was never far off the mark!

I always admired Dan even though at times he could be tough as nails when needed. Dan Curtis had a big heart and he loved Show-business with every bit of it!

During this time it was best to leave ‘Dark Shadows’ out of the conversation with Dan. He had certainly moved on to bigger and better things. It was easier to get him to talk about filming TURN OF THE SCREW in London then to wax nostalgic about ‘Dark Shadows’ in those days.

The fact that ‘Dark Shadows’ has had this never-ending fan life has always been an enigma to Dan. This is probably why he never felt the need to attend the convention aspect of it to any degree. When he was younger, doing ‘DS’ live in New York, I am sure he was full of passion and fire pushing the envelope with daytime television as he was now for ‘Winds’ and ‘Remembrance’ taking the mini series to the limit of its possibilities.

In 1994 Barbara and I traveled to New York to co-produce a ‘Dark Shadows’ anniversary video. Before leaving we met with Dan in his offices to plan what our approach would be, interviewing fans at the hotel in costume, as well as a trip out to the late Grayson Hall’s last home where her husband Sam still lived. Even though he was pre-occupied with his current projects he still kept his hand in the franchise that would remain his lasting legacy.

A few years later Dan would host a full scale tribute at the directors guild for ‘Dark Shadows’ with all the surviving cast members save for Frid. For one magic evening he basked in the afterglow of Collinwood. This is the way I will always wish to remember him, smiling and laughing with old friends who were his family….his ‘Dark Shadows’ family.


The ‘Dark Shadows’ DVD collection, as well as WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, are available from MPI Video.

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