Lawrence Curtin admits he’s had problems. For starters, there’s the bitter divorce and child support battle with his first wife, Susan Connaughton, still winding through the courts after 16 years. Curtin also allows that he’s had drug problems—”I moved to Miami and fell into a pile of cocaine”—and in 1985 he was temporarily committed by his second wife, Kim Krogen, to a mental facility. He says he once tried suicide and admits that relations with his family (his sister is Kate & Allie Star Jane Curtin) are strained. Many people would look at that life and see a mess; Lawrence looked at it and saw a movie. The result, One Minute to Midnight—written, directed by and starring Lawrence Curtin—premiered Jan. 22 at the Grove Cinema in Coconut Grove, Fla. He’s negotiating to book the film elsewhere.
“I had to extricate from myself all the hurt that’s been going on in my life,” says Curtin, 44, who regards the tragicomic movie as cathartic. As depicted in Midnight, Curtin is the misunderstood victim of bad luck, bad marriages and a bungling legal system, a perception not shared by everyone who knows him. Larry thinks “he’s right and everybody else is wrong,” says second wife Kim, 33. The two are now estranged, but Curtin says he remains faithful to her. Lawrence’s sister, Jane, refuses to comment on his movie or his life. He says he’s not surprised: “She’s basically as cold as ice.”
Critics have been only lukewarm to Curtin’s effort, with the Miami News declaring that he “shows the humor” of his dilemma but “challenges the tolerance level of his audience.” Still, the remarkable thing about the 98-minute film—as Samuel Johnson said in comparing a woman’s preaching to a dog walking on its hind legs—is not that it was done well but that it was done at all. The second eldest of four children, Curtin grew up well-to-do in Wellesley, Mass. He says that he was “the typical problematic, alone kid,” and never fit in with his family’s “lowbrow copy of the Kennedys” life-style. Prior to making Midnight, he had worked for his father’s insurance company, sold stock and invented lighting circuitry for billboards. After reading dozens of books on filmmaking, he raised the project’s $400,000 cost through a public offering that attracted 237 investors.
So far, Midnight has been a financial loser, but Curtin hopes to make a killing in video. “There are 15 million divorced people in the U.S.,” he says, “all of whom are potential viewers.”