|Born||Gene Curtis Harrington
September 17, 1926
Los Angeles, California
|Died||May 6, 2007
Hollywood Hills, California
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.
Harrington was born in Los Angeles on September 17, 1926, and 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 before graduating 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 associate 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? (1972) 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 such popular television series as Baretta, Dynasty, Wonder Woman, The Twilight Zone and Charlie's Angels.
Harrington was the driving force in locating the original James Whale production of The Old Dark House (Universal Pictures, 1932). 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 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 no profit motive). Harrington was an advisor on Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters, about the last days of director James Whale, since 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 an unreleased film he did while in high school, Fall of the House of Usher. His casting of Nikolas and Zeena Schreck in his updated version of Edgar Allan Poe’s ”Fall of the House of Usher” is in keeping with the magical thread that runs through the film-maker’s career. Financing of the film was partly accomplished through the Shreck's brokering of the sale of Harrington's signed copy of Crowley's The Book of Thoth.
He died on May 6, 2007, of complications from a stroke he had suffered in 2005. He is interred in the Cathedral Mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
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)
- 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 (1975-1976) - 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
- Glitter (1984) - 1 episode
- Dynasty (1983-85) - 6 episodes
- 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". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- Obituary for Curtis Harrington in Fortean Times
- 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.
- Toscano, Mark (2013). Conversations in the Back of the Theatre: Preserving the Short films of Curtis Harrington (DVD Booklet). Drag City/Flicker Alley.