Gilbert Cates


Director, Producer

About

Also Known As
Gilbert Cates Sr., Gilbert Katz, Gil Cates, Gilbert Lewis Katz
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
June 06, 1934
Died
October 31, 2011
Cause of Death
Natural Causes

Biography

As a prolific director and producer, Gilbert Cates largely became known to the public at large for producing 14 Academy Awards telecasts in an 18-year span, as well as for directing such feature films as "I Never Sang for My Father" (1970), "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams" (1973) and "Oh, God! Book II" (1980), and numerous TV movies and specials. But it was his long reign as a director and...

Family & Companions

Betty Jane Dubin
Wife
Married on February 9, 1957; divorced.
Judith Reichman
Wife
Gynecologist, TV correspondent, author. Born c. 1945; married on January 25, 1987; has two children Ronit and Anat, from first marriage; appeared on "Today" show; in March 2000, disclosed she had undergone a mastectomy.

Notes

"Cates has produced a leaner, swifter-paced [Oscar] show, coming up with themes that the production numbers and presentations are packaged with."--Jack Matthews in New York Newsday, March 30, 1992.

Designated honorary lifetime member of the DGA (1991)

Biography

As a prolific director and producer, Gilbert Cates largely became known to the public at large for producing 14 Academy Awards telecasts in an 18-year span, as well as for directing such feature films as "I Never Sang for My Father" (1970), "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams" (1973) and "Oh, God! Book II" (1980), and numerous TV movies and specials. But it was his long reign as a director and producer of the yearly Academy Awards program that cemented his legacy; a gig Cates began in 1990 and carried through for most broadcasts over the next two-plus decades. Cates began the stint at a time when the awards show's popularity was waning and was noted for shaking up the status quo by infusing new blood with hosts Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman. Of course, some of his decisions - particularly Letterman and Goldberg - were widely criticized, but he nonetheless helped return the Oscars to prominence, and in the process, became the show's most successful producer and that behind-the-scenes rarity - a household name.

Born on June 6, 1934 in New York City, Cates was raised by his father, Nathan, a dress manufacturer, and his mother, Nina. He had two siblings: sister Kit and brother Joe, who would later father actress Phoebe Cates. After studying acting at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, Cates earned his bachelor's degree from Syracuse University, where he also served as an instructor in speech and drama. His career started in earnest when he worked as a page for NBC before moving to the theater as stage manager of the Broadway production of "Shinbone Alley" (1957). He also went into business with his brother, producer-director Joe Cates, producing "Spoon River Anthology" on Broadway and in London's West End. He moved into television as the producer of such game shows as "I've Got a Secret" (CBS, 1952-1967), "Mother's Day" (ABC, 1958-59) and "Haggis Baggis" (NBC, 1958-59). Cates also created, produced and directed the music series, "Hootenany" (1962), while stepping into the filmmaking world by directing his first short, "The Painting" (1962). A few years later, he became a feature director with his debut movie, "Rings Around the World" (1967).

In 1967, Cates joined Jack Farren in producing "You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running" on Broadway, while branching out on his own to produce Robert Anderson's play, "I Never Sang for My Father" (1968). He adapted the play two years later for the same-titled 1970 drama starring Gene Hackman as an adult man whose relationship with his father (Melvyn Douglas) remains exceedingly strained. The following year, Cates began directing for the stage with "The Price" (1971), which he put on at the Long Wharf Theatre in Connecticut, and soon after made his Broadway directorial debut with "Voices" (1972). In 1973, Cates directed something of a flipside with "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams," starring Joanne Woodward as a woman suffering a midlife crisis. He went on to direct the bleak romantic drama, "One Summer Love" (1976), starring Beau Bridges and Susan Sarandon, and made a return to television as the executive producer of specials like "Country Night of the Stars" (NBC, 1978), "Stubby Pringle's Christmas" (NBC, 1978) and an adaptation of Arthur Miller's comedy "Fame" (NBC, 1978), not to be confused with the hit musical feature from 1980.

Meanwhile, Cates' later features were less critically acclaimed and included "The Last Married Couple in America" (1980), with George Segal and Natalie Wood as a couple who feel there must be something wrong with them because all their friends are getting divorced. Also the same year came the release of "Oh, God! Book II" (1980), the sequel with George Burns reprising the title role to lesser effect than its predecessor. Turning back almost exclusively to television, Cates directed the "About Eve" send-up, "Country Gold" (CBS, 1982), and a few years later helmed "Consenting Adult" (ABC, 1985), one of the first TV-movies to focus on homosexuality; the film earned him his first Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Director. In 1989, Cates received a second Emmy nod for Outstanding Director for "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" (CBS), a stark drama about child molestation, and the following year directed "Call Me Anna" (ABC, 1990), a biopic of actress Patty Duke adapted from her memoirs.

In 1989, Cates was chosen as the producer of the Academy Awards telecasts, which he handled six consecutive times through 1995 and ultimately 14 times throughout the remainder of the next two decades. He was largely responsible for returning the Oscars to their prominence by tapping comic actor Billy Crystal for MC duties, widely considered to be one of the best Academy Awards hosts in history. Proving this fact, Cates won an Emmy for the 1991 telecast hosted by Crystal. However, he also brought aboard several highly criticized Oscar hosts, most notably David Letterman, whose disastrous 1995 show was the source of long-running jokes and undoubtedly led to a decline of interest in the show for several years. Cates was also responsible for other controversial hosts like Chris Rock and John Stewart, who were brought on to shake up the status quo, which on that level was a big success despite an overall dip in the ratings. After a year's sabbatical in 1996, he returned to the awards from 1997-1999, left again in 2000 and subsequently produced shows on and off until 2008. A former president of the Directors Guild of America, which honored him with its prestigious President's Award in 2005, Cates served from 1990 to 1997 as Dean of the School of Theatre, Film and Television at UCLA, and also was the producing director of the Geffen Playhouse, one of the most well-attended centers of new productions in the Los Angeles. Sadly, it was while he was teaching at UCLA that Cates' body was found in a parking lot at 5:50 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2011. Paramedics were called to the scene and were unable to revive him, though the cause of death remained uncertain. He was 77 years old.

By Shawn Dwyer

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Confessions: Two Faces of Evil (1994)
Director
Absolute Strangers (1991)
Director
Call Me Anna (1990)
Director
Do You Know the Muffin Man? (1989)
Director
Fatal Judgment (1988)
Director
My First Love (1988)
Director
Backfire (1988)
Director
Child's Cry (1986)
Director
Consenting Adult (1985)
Director
Burning Rage (1984)
Director
Hobson's Choice (1983)
Director
Country Gold (1982)
Director
Oh God! Book II (1980)
Director
The Promise (1979)
Director
The Last Married Couple In America (1979)
Director
Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye (1977)
Director
Dragonfly (1975)
Director
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973)
Director
To All My Friends on Shore (1972)
Director
I Never Sang for My Father (1970)
Director
Rings Around the World (1966)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Spent (2000)
Mr Walsh
50 Years of Action! (1986)
Himself

Producer (Feature Film)

Confessions: Two Faces of Evil (1994)
Executive Producer
In My Daughter's Name (1992)
Executive Producer
Absolute Strangers (1991)
Executive Producer
Call Me Anna (1990)
Producer
Child's Cry (1986)
Producer
Burning Rage (1984)
Producer
The Kid From Nowhere (1982)
Producer
Country Gold (1982)
Producer
Oh God! Book II (1980)
Producer
The Last Married Couple In America (1979)
Executive Producer
Fame (1978)
Executive Producer
Dragonfly (1975)
Producer
To All My Friends on Shore (1972)
Producer
I Never Sang for My Father (1970)
Producer
Rings Around the World (1966)
Producer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

50 Years of Action! (1986)
Other

Director (Special)

Collected Stories (2002)
Director
A Death in the Family (2002)
Director
The 10th Anniversary Johnny Cash Christmas Special (1985)
Director
Johnny Cash: Christmas on the Road (1984)
Director
JOHNNY CASH: CHRISTMAS (1983)
Director
Circus Lions, Tigers and Melissas Too (1977)
Director
After the Fall (1974)
Director

Cast (Special)

Intimate Portrait: Pam Dawber (2002)

Producer (Special)

CBS at 75: A Primetime Celebration (2003)
Executive Producer
The 75th Annual Academy Awards (2003)
Producer
Oscar Countdown 2003 (2003)
Executive Producer
An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre (2003)
Executive Producer
An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre (2003)
Producer
Collected Stories (2002)
Executive Producer
An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre (2002)
Executive Producer
An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre (2002)
Producer
A Death in the Family (2002)
Producer
Oscar Countdown 2001 (2001)
Executive Producer
An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre (2001)
Executive Producer
The 73rd Annual Academy Awards (2001)
Producer
An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre (2001)
Producer
An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre (1999)
Executive Producer
Sunday at the Oscars (1999)
Executive Producer
An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre (1999)
Producer
The 71st Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1999)
Producer
The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998)
Producer
To Life! America Celebrates Israel's 50th (1998)
Executive Producer
The 69th Annual Academy Awards (1997)
Producer
The 67th Annual Academy Awards (1995)
Producer
The 66th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1994)
Producer
The 65th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1993)
Producer
The 64th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1992)
Producer
The 63rd Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1991)
Producer
The 62nd Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1990)
Producer
Fifty Years of Country Music (1981)
Executive Producer
Elvis Remembered: Nashville to Hollywood (1980)
Executive Producer
Country Stars of the '70s (1979)
Executive Producer
Skinflint (1979)
Executive Producer
Country Night of the Stars I (1978)
Executive Producer
Country Night of the Stars II (1978)
Executive Producer
Stubby Pringle's Christmas (1978)
Executive Producer
Circus Lions, Tigers and Melissas Too (1977)
Producer
Off Campus (1977)
Producer
Have I Got a Christmas For You! (1977)
Executive Producer
After the Fall (1974)
Producer

Producer (TV Mini-Series)

Tom Clancy's NetForce (1999)
Producer
Tom Clancy's NetForce (1999)
Executive Producer
Innocent Victims (1996)
Executive Producer

Life Events

1952

Served as one of the producers of the game show "I've Got a Secret" (CBS, Syndicated)

1955

Was instructor of speech and drama at Syracuse University

1957

Worked as stage manager for Broadway production of "Shinbone Alley"

1961

Made television directing and producing debut with the game show "Camouflage" (ABC)

1962

Made first short film, "The Painting"

1964

Co-produced with brother Joseph the Broadway production of "Spoon River Anthology"; also produced in London

1966

Directed first feature, the documentary "Rings Around the World"; also produced

1970

Made feature directorial debut with "I Never Sang for My Father," starring Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas

1972

Produced and directed TV-movie "To All My Friends on Shore" (CBS)

1973

Directed the film "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams," which garnered Academy Award nominations for stars Joanne Woodward and Sylvia Sidney

1977

Executive produced several episodes of "Hallmark Hall of Fame" series

1980

Directed George Burns in the comedy feature "Oh, God! Book II"; also produced

1985

Directed the ABC TV-movie "Consenting Adult"; earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series or a Special

1989

Helmed the CBS TV-movie "Do You Know the Muffin Man?"; nominated for an Emmy Award in 1990 for Outstanding Directing in a Miniseries or a Special

1990

Produced his first Academy Awards telecast (ABC)

1990

Directed Patty Duke's autobiographical drama "Call Me Anna" (ABC), which chronicled the actress' battle with mental illness

2000

Made rare acting appearance in the drama feature "$pent"; film directed by son Gil Cates Jr.

2002

Directed screen adaptation of James Agee┬┐s "A Death in the Family" (PBS)

2005

Executive produced first "Oscar Countdown" special (ABC), returned as executive producer in 2006 and 2008

2005

Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Motion Picture category)

2008

Executive produced the 80th Annual Academy Awards telecast (ABC)

Family

Nathan Katz
Father
Dress manufacturer. Died on November 16, 1974 at age 80.
Nina Katz
Mother
Died on May 5, 1979 at age 86.
Joseph Cates
Brother
Producer. Died on October 10, 1998 at age 74.
Kit Adler
Sister
Melissa Beth Cates
Daughter
Mother, Betty Jane Dubin; married to Roger Claman; mother of Evan Nathaniel, born on October 14, 1997 and Jordan Matthew, born on April 28, 2000.
Jonathan Cates
Son
Film editor. Mother, Betty Jane Dubin.
David Cates
Son
Music editor. Mother, Betty Jane Dubin.
Gilbert Cates Jr
Son
Director, screenwriter, former actor. Born c. 1970; mother, Betty Jane Dubin; wrote and directed "Spent".
Phoebe Cates
Niece
Actor. Father, Joe Cates.

Companions

Betty Jane Dubin
Wife
Married on February 9, 1957; divorced.
Judith Reichman
Wife
Gynecologist, TV correspondent, author. Born c. 1945; married on January 25, 1987; has two children Ronit and Anat, from first marriage; appeared on "Today" show; in March 2000, disclosed she had undergone a mastectomy.

Bibliography

Notes

"Cates has produced a leaner, swifter-paced [Oscar] show, coming up with themes that the production numbers and presentations are packaged with."--Jack Matthews in New York Newsday, March 30, 1992.

Designated honorary lifetime member of the DGA (1991)