Actor and “Monster” producer was 91

Mark Damon, who starred in Vincent Price’s horror classic House Usher and spaghetti westerns before revolutionizing the foreign distribution and distribution film business and producing feature films 9 1/2 weeks, Monster And Sole survivor, has died. He was 91.

Damon died of natural causes in Los Angeles on Sunday, said his daughter Alexis Damon Ribaut The Hollywood Reporter.

Damon spent the first 20 years of his career as an actor, including about a dozen starring in Italian action films, before moving into business.

As an executive producer, he had early success with two films written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen: the German-language drama about the Second World War The boat (1981), which received six Oscar nominations, and the never ending Story (1984), a big-budget fantasy film that featured a score by Giorgio Moroder, commissioned by Damon, for a non-German audience.

He shared an Independent Spirit Award with director Patty Jenkins and others Monster (2003) starring Charlize Theron in an Oscar-winning role as real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

Damon has produced or executive produced approximately five dozen feature films throughout his career, including Adrian Lynes 9 1/2 weeks (1986), John Badhams Short circuit (1986), Joel Schumacher The Lost Boys (1987), Stalingrad (1993), The jungle Book (1994), Trey Parker’s Orgazmo (1997), A dog of Flanders (1999), The top of anger (2005), Baltasar Kormákurs 2 pistols (2013), Peter Bergs Sole survivor (2013), The last full measure (2019) and Willy’s Wonderland (2021).

Damon was born Alan Harris on April 22, 1933 in Chicago. He attended Fairfax High School and UCLA in Los Angeles, studied acting with Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner, and lived with Jack Nicholson.

He had a big year as an actor in 1956 when he appeared on CBS. Alfred Hitchcock presents and in the films In Detroit, Screaming eagles and Richard Fleischers Between heaven and hell.

He achieved the status of a leading actor with Young and dangerous (1957) and The party crashers (1958) – both opposite Connie Stevens – plus Life begins at 17 (1958), This rebel race (1960) and then AIPs House Usher (1960), by producer and director Roger Corman.

For his performance as the fiancée of a woman (Myrna Fahey) whose insane brother (Price) desperately tries to stop her from marrying, Damon won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer.

At the age of 28 he went to Italy and was cast in western films. “I was surprised because I had never ridden a horse in my life,” he said in a 2014 interview. “Cowboys had to be tall and blonde, and I’m not that tall. I had very dark hair at the time, but they said, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ You’re American.’ I said OK and learned to ride.”

In Italy he played the main role in Sergio Corbucci’s film The shortest day (1963), Mario Bavas Black Sabbath (1963), The son of Cleopatra (1964), Secret Agent 777 (1965), Ringo and his golden pistol (1966), Johnny Yuma (1966), A train to Durango (1968), The young, the bad and the wild (1968), Pistol-packing preacher (1971), Crypt of the Living Dead (1973) and Bang and the angels sing (1974).


Mark Damon in 1966’s Ringo and His Golden Gun

Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Realizing he was being pigeonholed and Western films were becoming stale, Damon gave up acting to do something else, taking a job at an Italian film distributor in 1975 that paid him $1,000 a month. “They really wanted me because they thought I knew everyone in Hollywood and could get them bigger pictures,” he said.

At the time, the major U.S. studios handled foreign sales, but he felt that local companies could generate more box office revenue from the films.

“An independent distributor abroad who puts their own money into a film will fight much harder, not only in the main cities but also in the provinces, to make that film happen, because it is their own money at stake.” He told producer/podcaster Matthew Helderman in 2020, “The majors have their employees who are only interested in their paychecks.”

Damon said it took him about seven years to finally prove that independent films could do better than the studios.

In 1977 he returned to the USA and founded the production and distribution company Producers Sales Organization. Below The boat And the never ending StoryPSO handled foreign sales for Martin Scorsese The King of Comedy (1982) and ‘s Once Upon a Time in America (1984).

After PSO’s bankruptcy, he, Jon Peters and Peter Guber founded Vision International in 1987, which was eventually sold to Credit Lyonaisse. In 1993, Damon founded the manufacturing, sales and distribution company MDP Worldwide, which went public. A decade later, it became Media 8 Entertainment, then filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

In 1980 he was one of the founders of the American Film Marketing Association, now known as the International Film & Television Alliance, and published a book: From cowboy to mogul to monster: The never-ending story of film pioneer Mark Damonin 2008.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his second wife, actress Margaret Markov, whom he married in October 1976 – they met for the first time when she starred in the film The arena (1974), which he produced with Corman – his son Jonathan; and his son-in-law Mathieu.

“My claim to fame will be the fact that I basically come from an acting background and have become what is called the godfather of independent films. The one who invented the foreign sales business. “The one who invented ways to finance movies,” Damon said in Luke Ford’s 2004 book: The Producers: Profiles in Frustration.

“How did anyone do what I did? Because I didn’t know any better. I came in with such a new perspective because I was an actor and I knew nothing.”