Jerome “Jerry” Courtland, one of two producers of the partly animated 1977 Disney movie Pete’s Dragon, died Thursday of heart disease in the Santa Clarita Valley, California. He was 85.
Courtland was a producer at Walt Disney Studios and Screen Gems for over 25 years. He had been an actor before turning to producing and directing. In 1959, he narrated the Disney short Noah’s Ark, nominated for an Oscar the following year for Best Short Subject (Cartoon).
He worked on such feature films as Escape to Witch Mountain, Ride a Wild Pony and Return From Witch Mountain. Before he left Disney in the early 1980s, he produced the live-action movie The Devil and Max Devlin.
In 1957, Courtland had the title role in the seven-episode miniseries The Saga of Andy Burnett, part of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.
He produced such series as Here Come the Brides, The Flying Nun, The Partridge Family and The Interns, as well as such TV-movies as Gidget Grows Up, Hog Wild and The Million Dollar Dixie Deliverance.
In the 1980s, Courtland collaborated Lorimar to direct episodes of Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Fantasy Island, Love Boat, Hotel and The Colbys. In addition, he directed episodes of Knots Landing. Courtland was a guest actor on both Knots Landing and L.A. Law in the early 1990s.
He was born Courtland Jourolman Jr. in Knoxville, Tennessee on December 27, 1926.
At 17, he attended a Hollywood party with his mother, a professional singer. There, he met Charles Vidor, who invited him for a screen test at Columbia; soon, he was signed to a seven-year contract. Making his feature debut in Vidor’s Together Again, Courtland made several more films at Columbia before joining the the United States Army. He did his Second World War service in the Pacific.
After returning from service, Courtland resumed his show business career, appearing in the original Broadway production of Flahoohey. Starring opposite 17-year-old Shirley Temple in the movie Kiss and Tell, he received notice for roles in The Man From Colorado (1948), Battleground (1949), The Palomino (1950), The Barefoot Mailman (1951) and Take the High Ground (1953).
Courtland first appeared on TV in the 1950s; he was seen on episodes of The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and The Rifleman. He had his hair and beard dyed blonde in the early 1960s to star in the series Tales of the Vikings. Later, he made guest appearances on Death Valley Days and The Virginian.
The musical O sole mio, Queen of the Seas and Cafe Oriental were among his 1960s films.
Film credits during the 1960s include
He moved to the Chicago area in 1997, becoming a Columbia College professor. For five years, he taught acting and directing for the camera for five years. He retired to Florida, where he wrote and illustrated children’s books.
For over 30 years, Courtland was a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Actress Polly Bergen was the first of his three wives.
Jerome Courtland is survived by Marlene, his wife of 32 years; four sons; three daughters; 16 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
A memorial service celebrating his life is planned for March 31.