Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Daniel Melnick


Melnick had a prolific career in both film and television. The movies he produced and/or developed won over two dozen Oscars, out of 80 or so nominations. Straw Dogs, The Sunshine Boys, Network, Midnight Express, Kramer vs. Kramer, The China Syndrome, the list goes on and on.

At a time when movie musicals were considered dead on arrival, he produced Footloose and All That Jazz. He worked with Steve Martin on Roxanne and L.A.Story, and broke ground with the first studio film to attempt to realistically depict homosexuality, Making Love.

He attended the High School of the Performing Arts and NYU, and spent some time in the armed forces, after which he headed to Hollywood. Melnick was one of the youngest producers in CBS history, and at ABC, he helped develop The Flintstones and The Fugitive, among other programs. He formed a production company with David Susskind, and won Emmys for John Gielgud's Ages of Man and Lee J. Cobb's Death of a Salesman. But his most successful contribution to television was Get Smart, created in the mid-60s as a spoof of spy thrillers. He told his writers Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, "James Bond and Inspector Clouseau are the biggest hits out there. Take a hint."

Melnick held several high-powered positions in Hollywood over the years, and is credited with saving MGM from bankruptcy when he raided the studio's musical catalogue and created the That's Entertainment franchise. He did not have the same luck with stage productions; his one and only Broadway producing credit was the notorious flop Kelly, which opened and closed on the same night in 1965. (It was a musical about a guy jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge.)
Daniel Melnick married one of Richard Rodgers's daughters, and is survived by his son, composer Peter Melnick. He died last week from lung cancer complications.