Dennis Ross Azzarella was born January 6, 1940, probably in the state of New Jersey. He lived with parents Louis and Antoinette in an apartment on Marion Place, Mt. Carmel Parish. He was a 1957 graduate of William L. Dickinson High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, and earned an undergraduate degree from Fordham University (New York City in 1961). He served as a writer, director and producer for CBS in the mid-1960s on at least two films.
He briefly worked with producer John Barnes directing the film Freedom of Religion (1967), probably the first film made by Azzarella that was distributed on a national scale. He went on to form his own company, Azzarella Unlimited, and from 1970-1971 made four films for Bill Deneen’s Learning Corporation of America. They were exceptionally written, casted and directed by him. The Andrew Jackson films (see below), in particular have delightful plot twists and the actors are magnificent (they’re uncredited, too, possibly due to a handshake agreement with the Screen Actors Guild that he could pay them below-standard ages, provided they didn’t receive screen credits).
Azzarella directed, wrote, and produced films for David Wolper, all of which were shown on television as National Geographic specials, several of which were distributed in 16mm format to public schools, including the remarkable Last Tribes of Mindanao (1971), profiling the work of industrialist/activist Manuel Elizalde.
According to veteran producer Nicholas Clapp, Azzarella voiced a premonition that he wouldn't live past the age of 35, so attempted to complete as many films as he could prior to reaching that age. On March 13, 1974, Azzarella, his girlfriend Irene Bunde, and his film crew were killed in the crash of a Sierra Pacific Airlines Convair CV-440. All 36 individuals aboard lost their lives, and Azzarella died at tjhe age of 34. The reason the craft, chartered by Wolper Productions for the team making a film in the 'Primal Man' series, never cleared the ridge was never determined. The film on which he was working was dedicated to him in the credits.
The name Dennis Azzarella still occasionally comes up, 40 years after his death. But not nearly enough. His work was compelling and he was loved by people who worked with him (both John Barnes and Bill Deneen remembered him fondly).
His filmography on this page consists of fewer than 20 films. Possibly there were more. He merits this page because the quality and breadth of his work, indicative of a filmmaker whose promise was never fulfilled.
The Day the Guns Stopped Firing (Aired March 21, 1965, part of CBS 'World War I' series) dir/w; narrated, with John Sharnik
LSD: The Spring Grove Experiment (Aired May 17, 1966, part of CBS 'CBS Reports' series), prod. John Sharnik & Harry Morgan. Azzarella was Associate Producer.
Freedom of Religion (1967) dir (produced by John Barnes)
The Industrial Revolution: Beginnings in The United States
(1968) co-dir (produced by John Barnes)
For Learning Corporation of America (Azzarella Unlimited productions)
Galileo: the Challenge of Reason (1970) prod/dir/w
Jackson Years, The: The New Americans (1971) prod/dir/w
Jackson Years, The: Toward Civil War (1971) prod/dir/w
Haunted West, The (1973), w (dir. Nicholas Clapp)
Last Tribes of Mindanao, The (1971), prod/dir/w
Violent Earth, The (1973), prod/dir/w
Wolper ‘Primal Man’ specials
Battle for Dominance, The (1974) dir/w
Human Factor, The (1974) dir
Killer Instinct, The (1973) dir/w
Struggle for Survival, The (1974) dir