Daniel Petrie, director, writer, producer, actor, (b at Glace Bay, NS 26 Nov 1920; d at Los Angeles 22 Aug 2004). Daniel Petrie achieved a Bachelor of Arts in communications at Nova Scotia's St Francis Xavier University before completing a masters in adult education at Columbia. He began his career teaching at Northwestern University and Creighton University, where he was head of the theatre department until 1950. Although Petrie stopped teaching, he maintained a strong relationship with the academic world throughout his career, holding a faculty position at the American Film Institute, where he also acted as deputy chairman from 1986 to 1987.
Petrie's focus on human strength through struggle distinguished him in the world of feature films. Though he achieved only mixed critical success over the course of his career, Petrie was recognized for dealing openly and compassionately with taboo subjects: racism in A Raisin in the Sun (1961), adolescent sex in Buster and Billie (1974), mental illness in the TV special Sybil (1976), and religious belief systems in Resurrection (1980).
Acting was where Petrie's lifelong relationship with show business began; his work included the Broadway production of Kiss Them for Me. He then moved on to direct for the stage. His most notable endeavours in this media include the Obie Award-winning production of Who'll Save the Ploughboy and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. Although his passion for working behind the camera remained, Petrie appeared in, among other films, Six Pack (1982) and Into the Night (1985).
Throughout the 1950s, Petrie directed episodes of some of the decade's most distinguished television shows, including Omnibus and The U.S. Steel Hour. He continued to direct for TV for the remainder of his life, contributing to such projects as Ironside (1967), Macmillan and Wife (1971), and Inherit the Wind (1999). He won two Emmy awards for his work on the ABC specials Eleanor and Franklin (1976) and Eleanor and Franklin: the White House Years (1977). In 1992 he was honoured with another Emmy, this time for his work on the television special Mark Twain and Me (1991).
Petrie directed over 15 feature films, including the autobiographical feature The Bay Boy (1984). The film, starring Keifer Sutherland and Liv Ullman, won multiple Genie awards in 1984 and represented Petrie's interest in creating films of international value, while maintaining a Canadian identity.
It was for his adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun that Petrie won the greatest acclaim. The film dealt candidly with the problem of racism and earned Petrie renown as a socially conscious director, an image he maintained with such later productions as The Dollmaker (1984), which tackled the issue of women as financial providers. A Raisin in the Sun won the Gary Cooper Award for Human Values at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival and garnered its director nominations from both the Director's Guild of America and the New York Film Critics Circle. Other socially conscious films were The Assistant (1997), Monday After the Miracles (1998) and Walter and Henry (2001).