Thorn Birds director Daryl Duke dies

Canadian Daryl Duke, who directed the blockbuster miniseries The Thorn Birds, has died from pulmonary fibrosis at his Vancouver home at age 77.

Daryl Duke, who directed the popular 1983 miniseries The Thorn Birds, has died at age 77 whileat home in Vancouver.

Duke’s family announced Sunday the Vancouver native passed away Saturday after a battle with pulmonary fibrosis.

A family statement released on Duke’s website hailed him as a “magnanimous and generous human being[who] always asserted his excellent opinions, beliefs and sense of humour on any matter whether business or personal, from which we all benefited.”

In his 50-year career, Duke produced and directed dramas, documentaries, variety programs and classical music series.

He won an Emmy Award in 1971 for The Day The Lion Died, an episode of NBC’s The Senator television series starring Hal Holbrook. Other awards include a Genie, then known as the Canadian Film Awards, for best film for The Silent Partner (1978) starring Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer and Susannah York.

He garnered Emmy and Directors Guild nods for The Thorn Birds, starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. The nine-part series was the second-highest-rated miniseries on American television at the time, behind Roots.

A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Duke began his career as a film editor and writer for the National Film Board of Canada before moving on to the CBC in 1953, directing a wide variety of programs in Vancouver.

Directed current affairs, dramas

Duke made his mark at the CBC as producer and director of the documentary series Close-Up and Explorations. Close-Up featured profiles of authors, political leaders and philosophers.

He also produced episodes of the acclaimed current affairs show This Hour Has Seven Days as well as dramas such as Wojeck and Quentin Durgens, MP.

Duke crossed the border often to direct in the U.S. In 1964, he produced both The Steve Allen Show in Hollywood and The Les Crane Show in New York.

He went on to helm a major motion picture in 1985, Tai-Pan, based on a novel by James Clavell. According to Duke’s website, it was the first Western feature film to be shot in China. It starred Joan Chen and Bryan Brown.

In the mid-1970s, he founded the independent television station CKVU-TV in Vancouver and became the station's first president and CEO. He sold his ownership in the station in 1988.

Duke was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2000 and three years later, the Directors Guild of Canada bestowed a lifetime achievement award.

In 2004, he received a doctorate from B.C.’s Simon Fraser University and a John Drainie Award from ACTRA (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), for his contributions to broadcasting.

Duke is survived by his wife, two sons, a stepson and nine grandchildren.