Sunday, October 18, 2009

Television & Film Producer Daniel Melnick Passes On

Television and film producer Daniel Melnick passed on October 13 at the age of 77. He had been suffering from lung cancer. Melnick had helped launch the classic TV show Get Smart and produced the movie Straw Dogs, among others.

Daniel Melnick was born on April 21, 1932 in New York City. He attended the New York City School of Performing Arts and New York University. Afterwards he served in the United States Army. He began his career in television in 1954 with CBS as a staff producer. It was in the late Fifties that he moved to ABC, where he scheduled such shows as 77 Sunset Strip, The Untouchables, The Flintstones, and The Fugitive. He partnered with David Susskind and Leonard Stern in  the production company Talent Associates. According to Buck Henry, it was while Melnick was with Talent Associates that Melnick suggested that the company capitalise on "...the two biggest things in the entertainment world today" — James Bond and Inspector Clouseau." The result of this request was the series Get Smart. While Melnick was with Talent Associates, the company also produced East Side/West Side, Mr. Broadway, He & She, and NYPD. It was while he was with Talent Associates that he produced his first feature film, Sam Peckinpah's controversial motion picture Straw Dogs.

It was in 1972 that Melnick joined MGM. By 1974 he was the studio's head of production. While Melnick was the head of production of MGM, the studio produced such films as Network and The Sunshine Boys. Melnick moved from MGM to Columbia, where the studio produced such films as The China Syndrome, California Suite, and Midnight Express. He served as a producer on All That Jazz and  Altered States, before forming IndieProd Productions, which produced such films as Roxanne, Punchline, Mountains of the Moon, and Blue Streak.

Both as a television producer and a film producer, Daniel Melnick was known for intelligent, often daring entertainment. On television he was the impetus for the creation of Get Smart and one of the producers of He & She. In film he produced such films as Straw Dogs, All That Jazz, and Midnight Express. Both the television shows and the feature films he produced were well done and literate, much more intelligent than most other TV series and movies. In 1990 he told The New York Times, "What I try to do is identify and work with the most talented people I can get." Looking at his career, it would seem he did exactly that.

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