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Michael Dann, Network Programmer, 94, Of Chappaqua

Michael Dann
Michael Dann Photo Credit: Legacy

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- Michael Dunn, a resident of Chappaqua and prominent television executive, died Friday, May 27. He was 94.

He was born on Sept. 11, 1921, in Detroit, where his father, Moe, ran a scrap-iron business. His mother, the former Dorothy Bobroff, was a homemaker.

After earning a degree in economics from the University of Michigan in 1941, he enlisted in the Army. A childhood case of polio had left him with a limp, and he was unfit for combat duty. Instead, he wrote for the armed forces newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

On leaving the military, he tried his hand as a comedy writer for radio shows of Louis Nye and Jack Albertson. He worked briefly in public relations for the New Haven Railroad before joining NBC’s publicity department in 1948. Over the next decade he worked as the network’s supervisor of specials and head of programming, playing an important creative role in developing “Ding Dong School” and “Matinee Theater.”

Known as one of the most powerful and effective programmers in network television in the 1950s and 1960s, began his television career at NBC, where he worked alongside Pat Weaver as he transformed the network and created such innovative programs as “Today” and “Tonight.”

At CBS, where he rose to become head of programming in 1963, he proved an astute judge of audience appeal, a master of scheduling and a shrewd marketer. He brought some of the most well-known shows “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “60 Minutes,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and many more to the network.

In 1957, Dann left NBC to become president of Henry Jaffe Enterprises, a leading television production company, but was soon hired by CBS to head its programming on the East Coast.

In 1966, when all three networks faced a drought of feature films to broadcast, he bought the old Republic Pictures lot and created CBS Studio Center to make movies for television, a move that NBC and ABC copied.

He is survived by his wife, the former Audrey Kline; daughter Patty, and daughter, Priscilla Dann-Courtney; sister, Barbara Berry; son, Jonathan; and four grandchildren.

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