Jerome Courtland, 85, was “Pete’s Dragon” producer

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Jerome Courtland

Jerome Court­land

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.

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