Gene Curtis Harrington
September 17, 1926
|Died||May 6, 2007 (aged 80)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
|Alma mater||University of California, Los Angeles|
Gene Curtis Harrington (September 17, 1926 – May 6, 2007) was an American film and television director whose work included experimental films, horror films, and episodic television. He is considered one of the forerunners of New Queer Cinema.
Life and career
Harrington was born on September 17, 1926 in Los Angeles, the son of Isabel (Dorum) and Raymond Stephen Harrington. He grew up in Beaumont, California. His first cinematic endeavors were amateur films he made while still a teenager. He attended Occidental College and the University of Southern California, then graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a film studies degree.
He began his career as a film critic, writing a book on Josef von Sternberg in 1948. He directed several avant-garde short films in the 1940s and '50s, including Fragment of Seeking, Picnic, and The Wormwood Star (a film study of the artwork of Marjorie Cameron). Cameron also co-starred in his subsequent film Night Tide (1961) with Dennis Hopper. Harrington worked with Kenneth Anger, serving as a cinematographer on Anger's Puce Moment and acting in Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) (he played Cesare, the somnambulist). Harrington had links to Thelema shared with his close associates Kenneth Anger and Marjorie Cameron who frequently acted in his films. One of Harrington's mentors was avant-garde film pioneer Maya Deren, an initiated voodoo priestess.
Roger Corman assigned Harrington to direct two American films and use Russian science fiction film footage in both; the result was Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) and Queen of Blood (1966), which then led to further films such as Games.
He also directed Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) with Shelley Winters, What's the Matter with Helen? (1971) with Winters and Debbie Reynolds, and Killer Bees (1974) with Gloria Swanson in one of her last film roles.
Harrington had a cameo role in Orson Welles's unfinished The Other Side of the Wind (1970-1976). Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Harrington directed episodes of popular television series such as Baretta, Dynasty, Wonder Woman, The Twilight Zone and Charlie's Angels.
Harrington was the driving force in rediscovering the original James Whale production of The Old Dark House (1932, Universal Pictures). Even though the rights had been sold to Columbia Pictures for a remake, he got George Eastman House to restore the negative. On the Kino International DVD, there is a filmed interview of Harrington's explaining why and how this came about (the contract stipulated that they were allowed to save the film only, not release it, essentially to prove that there was no profit motive). Harrington was an advisor on Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters, about the last days of director James Whale, because Harrington had known Whale at the end of his life. Harrington also has a cameo in this film.
Harrington's final film, the short Usher, is a remake of Fall of the House of Usher, an unreleased film he did while in high school. His casting of Nikolas and Zeena Schreck in his updated version of Edgar Allan Poe's ”The Fall of the House of Usher” is in keeping with the magical thread that runs through the filmmaker's career. Financing of the film was partly accomplished through the Shrecks' brokering of the sale of Harrington's signed copy of Crowley's The Book of Thoth.
House of Harrington, a short documentary about the director's life, was released in 2008. It was directed by Jeffrey Schwarz and Tyler Hubby and filmed several years before Harrington's death. It includes footage of his high school film Fall of the House of Usher.
The Academy Film Archive has preserved several of Curtis Harrington's films, including Night Tide, On the Edge, and Picnic.
- Fall of the House of Usher (1942)
- Fragment of Seeking (1946)
- Picnic (1948)
- On the Edge (1949)
- The Assignation (1952)
- Dangerous Houses (1952) – unreleased
- St. Tropaz (1952) – unfinished
- The Wormwood Star (1956) - documentary about Marjorie Cameron
- The Four Elements (1966) - industrial short
- Usher (2000)
- Night Tide (1961, not released widely until 1963)
- Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)
- Queen of Blood (1966)
- Games (1967)
- What's the Matter with Helen? (1971)
- Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971)
- The Killing Kind (1973)
- Ruby (1977)
- Mata Hari (1985)
- How Awful About Allan (1970)
- The Cat Creature (1973)
- Killer Bees (1974)
- The Dead Don't Die (1975)
- Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)
- The Legend of Jessie James (1966) - 2 episodes
- Baretta (1975–76) - 2 episodes
- Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected (1977) - 1 episode ("A Hand For Sonny Blue")
- Logan's Run (1978) - 1 episode
- Lucan (1978) - 1 episode
- Sword of Justice (1978) - 1 episode
- Vega$ (1978) - 1 episode
- Charlie's Angels (1978–79) - 2 episodes
- Wonder Woman (1979) - 1 episode
- Darkroom (1981) - 2 episodes & opening credits
- Hotel (1983–84) - 2 episodes
- Dynasty (1983–85) - 6 episodes
- Glitter (1984) - 1 episode
- The Colbys (1985–87) - 5 episodes
- The Twilight Zone (1987) - 1 episode
- The Fall of the House of Usher (1942)
- Fragment of Seeking (1946)
- Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)
- Ironside (1967) – episode ("Let My Brother Go")
- The Other Side of the Wind (1972)
- Gods and Monsters (1998)
- Usher (2002)
- Martin, Douglas (May 10, 2007). "Curtis Harrington, Director Of Horror Films, Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- Glbtq.com Archived 2006-05-10 at the Wayback Machine
- Obituary for Curtis Harrington in Fortean Times Archived 2007-11-01 at the Wayback Machine
- Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 19968-19969). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Bell, Nathanial (August 13, 2013). "Negotiating the Dangerous Compromise: Curtis Harrington's 'Nice Guys Don't Work in Hollywood'". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
- "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
- Harvey F. Chartrand (2005). "Curtis Harrington: Living in Dangerous Houses". DVD Drive-In. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
- Toscano, Mark (2013). Conversations in the Back of the Theatre: Preserving the Short films of Curtis Harrington (DVD Booklet). Drag City/Flicker Alley.