Daniel Melnick

Daniel Melnick (April 21, 1932 – October 13, 2009) was an American film producer and movie studio executive who started working in Hollywood as a teenager in television and then became the producer of such films as All That Jazz, Altered States and Straw Dogs. Melnick's films won more than 20 Academy Awards out of some 80 nominations.[1]

Daniel Melnick
Born(1932-04-21)April 21, 1932
New York City, New York, United States
DiedOctober 13, 2009(2009-10-13) (aged 77)
OccupationFilm producer, studio executive
Notable work
All That Jazz
Straw Dogs
Spouse(s)Linda (1955–1971)

Early life and educationEdit

Melnick was born on April 21, 1932, in New York City, the son of Celia and Benjamin Melnick, Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was killed in a car crash when Melnick was a child. His mother remarried. Melnick attended the High School of Performing Arts.[2] After high school, Melnick attended New York University.[1] He served in the United States Army during the 1950s, where he produced entertainment for troops while stationed at New Jersey's Fort Dix and in Oklahoma.[2]

Television, film and theaterEdit

After relocating to Hollywood as a 19-year-old, he became CBS Television's youngest producer, and then shortly thereafter was hired by ABC, where he worked on the development of such programs as The Flintstones and The Fugitive.

Talent AssociatesEdit

After a stint in the army, Melnick returned to New York City in the late '50s, becoming a partner in Talent Associates, a production company founded several years earlier by David Susskind and Leonard Stern. Among other productions, TA created the Emmy Award winning secret agent satire Get Smart that ran from 1965 to 1970 on CBS and NBC, as well as the police drama N.Y.P.D. that ran on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) from 1967–69.[1] Melnick's role in Get Smart was to hire Mel Brooks and Buck Henry to create a half hour sitcom addressing in Melnick's words "the two biggest things in the entertainment world today – James Bond and Inspector Clouseau".[3] ABC paid for a pilot episode, but did not purchase the series, so Melnick turned to Grant Tinker at NBC, who had Don Adams under contract and were looking for a project for the comedian.[3][4]

Talent Associates produced the Emmy Award-winning TV productions aired on CBS, with Ages of Man starring John Gielgud in 1966, which included readings from William Shakespeare's works ranging from Romeo and Juliet to Richard II, with critic Jack Gould of The New York Times calling it "a viewing occasion to be treasured".[5] In 1967 they presented Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, starring Lee J. Cobb, a production that Jack Gould of The Times described as one "that will stand as the supreme understanding of the tragedy of Willy Loman."[6] The firm, Talent Associates, was bought out by Norton Simon, Inc. in August 1968 for an undisclosed price, with the commitment that the unit would operate independently and the principals would stay on in senior positions to manage the company.[7]

Together with Joseph E. Levine of Embassy Pictures, Susskind and Melnick produced the Broadway theatre musical comedy Kelly, by Eddie Lawrence and Mark Charlap.[8] Promotion for the play included an event on the Brooklyn Bridge with a series of chorus girls.[9] The play, a story about the 1886 incident of Steve Brodie who (claimed to have) jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and survived, opened on February 16, 1965.[10] The play lasted only one performance on Broadway, which was later described by Melnick's son as "not his favorite moment in history", but nonetheless one he wore with grace.[1]

The 1971 psychological thriller Straw Dogs was his first feature film.

Head of MGMEdit

He was hired by MGM as head of production in February 1972.[11] It was a time of decline for MGM with the studio pulling back on production[12] but while there his films included the 1975 Neil Simon comedy The Sunshine Boys and the 1976 production of Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay for Network, directed by Sidney Lumet, a satire of television production that was credited with boosting the studio's financial performance.[1] He also mined the studio's archives to create the That's Entertainment! series of compilation films.[2]


He was hired by Columbia Pictures as its president in June 1978 to replace David Begelman, who had resigned in the wake of an embezzlement scandal. There he oversaw the development of the 1978 picture Midnight Express and the 1979 films Kramer vs. Kramer and The China Syndrome.[1][2]

In 1980, he moved to 20th Century Fox where he completed Bob Fosse's All That Jazz, with Fox paying for filming that Columbia would not finance. That same year he produced Altered States with Warner Brothers, an adaptation of a Chayefsky novel that Columbia was unwilling to fund.

Later yearsEdit

Melnick's later films included the 1987 Steve Martin comedy Roxanne, an adaption of the classic play Cyrano de Bergerac, and the 1999 action comedy Blue Streak (1999), which was his final film credit.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

He married Linda Rodgers, the daughter of Richard Rodgers and his wife, Dorothy Feiner, in February 1955, at the Manhattan home of her parents.[13] Their son, Peter Rodgers Melnick,[14] became a composer. After he and Linda Rodgers divorced in 1971, Melnick fathered a daughter.[2]

Melnick was known for personal elegance and refined tastes in art, dress, and architecture. A thinker, he often offered sage advice, once telling a young assistant that "the best contracts are written not in the thrall of a new marriage but with the possibility of a divorce in mind."

He once said to the same assistant that, when facing a business dilemma, he would sometimes ask himself what the 17th-century French statesman Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu, whose genius for intrigue he admired, might do in a similar situation.

During Melnick's days on the 20th Century-Fox lot, some of his staffers would affectionately refer to him (albeit privately) as Mel Nick. The inspiration for the name arose when deliverymen arrived in front of the unmarked Indieprod building with a wardrobe box of clothes from Ralph Lauren – on which someone had scrawled in large letters MEL and below it NICK. Not knowing who he was or where to find him, one shouted loudly, "We're looking for a Mel Nick! There a Mel Nick around here?"

In regard to producing films, Melnick once reminded one of his assistants, whom he thought was working too hard, that "this business is supposed to be fun."

His regular poker games would include such Hollywood notables as Johnny Carson, Chevy Chase, Barry Diller, Steve Martin, Carl Reiner and Neil Simon.[1]

Melnick died at the age of 77 on October 13, 2009, at his home in Los Angeles of lung cancer. He was survived by a son, a daughter, and two grandchildren.[1]

Select CreditsEdit

All films, he was producer unless otherwise noted.


Year Film Credit Notes
1971 Straw Dogs
1979 All That Jazz Executive producer
1980 First Family
Altered States Executive producer
1982 Making Love
1984 Unfaithfully Yours Executive producer
Footloose Executive producer
1986 Quicksilver
1987 Roxanne
1988 Punchline
1990 Mountains of the Moon
Air America
1991 L.A. Story
1999 Universal Soldier: The Return Executive producer
Blue Streak Executive producer
2004 Air America: Operation Jaguar Executive producer Direct-to-video
Final film as a producer
As Head of MGM
Year Film
1972 They Only Kill Their Masters
1973 The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing
1975 The Sunshine Boys
1976 Network
Year Film Notes
1998 Smoke Signals Thanks


Year Title Credit Notes
1953 The Bob Crosby Show Associate producer
1963 The DuPont Show of the Week Executive producer
1963−64 Hootenanny Executive producer
1964 East Side/West Side Executive producer
Mr. Broadway Executive producer
1966 Ages of Man Television film
Death of a Salesman Television film
ABC Stage 67
Run, Buddy, Run Executive producer
1967 Good Company Executive producer
The Desperate Hours Television film
1967−68 He & She
1968 Penelope Beware! Television film
1967−69 N.Y.P.D. Executive producer
1968−69 The Generation Gap Executive producer
1989 Get Smart, Again! Executive producer Television film
Year Title Notes
2004 American Masters Thanks
2013 Special Collector's Edition In memory of


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Martin, Douglas. "Daniel Melnick, Hollywood Producer, Dies at 77", The New York Times, October 16, 2009. October 18, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e Nelson, Valerie J. "Daniel Melnick dies at 77; film and TV producer helped launch 'Get Smart,' 'Network,' 'Kramer vs. Kramer'", Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2009. Accessed October 18, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Bergan, Ronald (October 21, 2009). "Daniel Melnick obituaryImaginative Emmy winning film and TV producer with an impressive list of hits". The Guardian. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  4. ^ Britton, Wesley Alan (January 30, 2004), Spy Television, Praeger, p. 165, ISBN 978-0275981631, retrieved April 17, 2017
  5. ^ Gould, Jack. "TV: Gielgud Excels in Shakespeare; C.B.S. Gives Adaptation of 'Ages of Man' Readings Range From Romeo to Richard II", The New York Times, January 24, 1966. Accessed October 18, 2009.
  6. ^ Gould, Jack. "TV: 'Death of a Salesman'; New Interpretation Tops Stage Version-- Miss Dunnock and Cobb Repeat Roles", 'The New York Times, May 9, 1966. Accessed October 18, 2009.
  7. ^ Dallos, Robert E. "Susskind Concern Bought by Norton Simon, Inc.; Talent Associates Agrees to Become Subsidiary – Plans Expansion ", The New York Times, August 20, 1968. Accessed October 18, 2009.
  8. ^ Zolotow, Sam. "New Group Plans To Put On 'Kelly'; Levine, Susskind, Melnick Will Produce Musical", The New York Times, April 17, 1964. Accessed October 18, 2009.
  9. ^ Staff. "City Lends the Brooklyn Bridge To Show Girls and Press Agent; City Lends the Brooklyn Bridge To Show Girls and Press Agent", The New York Times, October 28, 1964. Accessed October 18, 2009.
  10. ^ Staff. "'Kelly' Opens Here February 16", The New York Times, December 17, 1964. Accessed October 18, 2009.
  11. ^ Melnick Confirmed as New Metro VP Haber, Joyce. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 10 Feb 1972: i16.
  12. ^ MGM Studios: Now Less Than Ever By Tom Zito. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 19 Sep 1973: B5.
  13. ^ Staff. "Linda Rodgers Becomes Bride; Daughter of Composer Wed to Dan Melnick of Army in Home of Her Parents", the New York Times, February 20, 1955. Accessed October 18, 209.
  14. ^ Petermelnick.com

External linksEdit