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Daryl Duke – Biography

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Daryl Duke – Biography
by Staff

(March 8, 2021 – Toronto, ON) Vancouver-born Daryl Duke was an Emmy Award-winning director whose career spanned a wide range of accomplishments in feature films, television drama, documentary and TV specials. A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Duke began his career as a film editor, writer and director for the National Film Board of Canada. In addition to directing, he often served as producer and/or executive producer on many of his productions. In the decades before the 500+ channel universe, Duke spent more than 50 years working for the CBC, then CTV and for all three of the main U.S. networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) as well as for most of the major studios in Hollywood.

In fact, Duke originated the very first television show from the CBC’s station in Vancouver, CBUT, which went on the air in the early Fifties. While at the Vancouver studios of the CBC Duke produced and directed variety programs, a classical music series, dramas and several public affairs documentaries for west coast audiences and for the CBC network.

After moving to Toronto, he produced and directed episodes for the CBC public affairs series Close Up and Explorations. For documentary series Close Up, Duke filmed in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East. The series focused on a wide range of subjects, people, and countries. Duke’s work for this series featured profiles of authors such as Lawrence Durrell, Evelyn Waugh, Rebecca West, James Thurber, Aldous Huxley, philosopher Bertrand Russell, political leaders like President Nasser of Egypt, President Tito of Yugoslavia and others.

As executive producer and director of the CBC series Quest, Duke’s productions included documentaries, music and comedy shows as well as dramatic programming. Designed to highlight performers and personalities like Bob Dylan, works by James Baldwin, Budd Schulberg, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller as well as authors from South America, England and Europe. The Toronto Star named Duke, “Entertainment Star of the Year” for his work on Quest. He also served as executive producer for the prime time CBC series Sunday. That series featured international figures such as Martin Luther King, singer Otis Redding and poet Allen Ginsberg as well us a wide-ranging array of political, economic and entertainment leaders.

Daryl Duke also directed episodes of the popular CBC television drama series, Wojeck starring John Vernon, Quentin Durgens, M.P. starring Gordon Pinsent, Corwin and The Manipulators. He also produced episodes of the groundbreaking public affairs series, This Hour Has Seven Days.

In the United States, Duke produced the Steve Allen Show for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company in Hollywood and later the Les Crane Show for ABC in New York. Meanwhile, he continued his work on documentaries and dramas for both the Canadian and America television networks.

Among is many television credits, Duke directed the 10-hour mini-series The Thorn Birds, which was at the time one of the most-watched television dramas ever broadcast in the United States and Canada. He was honoured with an Emmy for his direction of The Day The Lion Died, which was an episode of The Senator television series for NBC, starring Hal Holbrook. His production of I Heard The Owl Call My Name, a 90-minute drama for CBS and filmed on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It starred British actor Tom Courtenay and earned Duke a Christopher Award, which was established in 1949 by Father James Keller to salute media that “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.

Daryl Duke, The Silent Partner poster,
Scanned from an original in the Northernstars Collection.
His film and television assignments took him to South America, China, many of the countries of Southeast Asia and India, as well as the Middle East, Yugoslavia, Europe and England. His work screened at many festivals including the famous Cannes where his American movie, Payday, was an entry in The Director’s Fortnight category. It was also honoured with a National Society of Film Critics Special Award in New York. During the time of the Canadian Film Awards, his feature The Silent Partner was named Best Picture and Duke picked up a Best Director award. He also directed the feature Tai-Pan. Based on the 1966 best selling novel by James Clavell, it was the first western feature film to be shot in The People’s Republic of China and starred Joan Chen und Bryan Brown. Released in 1986, it was not a success. The project’s producer, Raffaella de Laurentiis, detailed the problems in a New York Times article. Duke, summed up his take on the film by letting it be known he felt a mini-series might have made for a more satisfactory development of the characters in the book as well as making fuller use of the pictorial opportunities of filming in China.

In the mid-1970s, Duke founded the independent Vancouver television station CKVU-TV. He was the station’s first President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board. Under his stewardship, CKVU-TV became one the highest rated stations in the Vancouver area. In 1988 he sold his ownership in CKVU in order to devote his full time to his international film and television career.

In 1997, Daryl Duke was inducted into the “Starwalk” and the B.C. Entertainment Hall of fame at Vancouver’s famous Orpheum Theatre. In 1999 Duke was the first recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award given at the British Columbia Film Industry’s annual Leo Awards ceremony. He was a member of the Board of Directors of BC Film, and was for several years a member of the Steering Committee of The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. In the fall of 2000 Duke was invited to give the annual Spry Foundation’s Lecture on Broadcasting at the Université de Montréal and at Simon Fraser University inVancouver. The Spry Lecture was named for Graham Spry who helped found the CBC in the l930s. Also, in November of 2000, he was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Broadcast Hall of Fame. In 2004 he was honoured with the coveted John Drainie Award.

Daryl Duke was 77 when he died from pulmonary fibrosis in 2006.

Also see: Daryl Duke’s filmography.

Northernstars, logo, imageThe biography has been adapted by Northernstars in 2021 from a 2000 media handout and other sources.