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About Gilbert Cates
Director and producer Gilbert Cates is probably best known for producing numerous Academy Awards shows and for directing such feature films as "I Never Sang For My Father" (1970) and "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams" (1973) and numerous TV-movies and specials. In 2005, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Motion Picture category.
He was born Gilbert Katz on June 6, 1934 in New York City, the son of Nina (née Peltzman) and Nathan Katz, who was a dress manufacturer. Cates attended DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City. He is the uncle of noted actress Phoebe Cates and a brother of the producer and director Joseph Cates, with whom he collaborated from time to time.
Cates began his career as an NBC page before moving to the theatre as stage manager of the Broadway production of "Shinbone Alley" (1957). He also went into business with his brother, producer-director Joe Cates. The brothers produced "Spoon River Anthology" on Broadway and in London and for TV, such game shows as "I've Got a Secret" (CBS, 1952-67), "Mother's Day" (ABC, 1958-59) and "Haggis Baggis" (NBC, 1958-59). He also created, produced and directed the music series, "Hootenany" (1962). In 1967, Cates joined Jack Farren (later the producer of "Days of Our Lives") in producing "You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running" on Broadway, and, on his own, Cates produced Robert Anderson's play, "I Never Sang For My Father" in 1968. It was not until 1971 with "The Price" that Cates began directing for the stage (at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT). He made his Broadway directorial debut in 1972 with "Voices."
Although Cates had directed the short film "The Painting" (1962), and the feature "Rings Around the World" (1967), 1970's "I Never Sang for My Father" became his first feature film of note; it starred Gene Hackman as an adult man whose relationship with his father (Melvyn Douglas) has not matured and is strained. In 1973, Cates directed something of a flipside with "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams", starring Joanne Woodward as a woman in mid-life. 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", the sequel with George Burns reprising the title role. Cates often produced his features as well.
Cates began directing TV movies in 1972 with CBS' "To All My Friends on Shore", which starred Bill Cosby and was the first network drama to focus on sickle cell anemia. (Cates also produced). He directed "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Thee" (CBS, 1977), about John F. Kennedy and the "All About Eve" send-up, "Country Gold" (CBS, 1982). In 1985, Cates directed "Consenting Adult" (ABC), one of the first TV-movies to focus on homosexuality, this one from the perspective of parents trying to understand their son's sexuality. In 1989, Cates directed "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" (CBS) about child molestation, and in 1990, he helmed "Call Me Anna" (ABC), the biopic of actress Patty Duke adapted from her memoirs. He received Emmy nominations for "Consenting Adult" and "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" His subsequent telepics included "Confessions: Two Faces of Evil" (1994), "Innocent Victims" (1996), "Collected Stories" (2002) and "A Death in the Family" (2002).
He has also produced, executive produced and/or directed variety specials, these usually in tandem with brother. In 1978, they produced two "Country Night of Stars" for NBC, and another in 1979. With Joe Cates, he was executive producer of "Elvis Remembered: Nashville to Hollywood" (1980), as well as "Fifty Years of Country Music" (1981). He directed three Johnny Cash specials, one per year from 1983-85 for CBS. In 1989, Cates became producer of the Academy Awards telecasts, which he handled six consecutive times through 1995. He brought Billy Crystal (widely considered one of the finest Oscar hosts in history), Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman in as hosts and Debbie Allen as choreographer and earned an Emmy in 1990 for his efforts and was subsequently nominated for each return engagement. He returned after a year's sabbatical and helmed the awards from 1997-1999, and returned again in 2001, 2003 and 2005, continuing to bring in new hosts such as Steve Martin and Chris Rock to shake up the sometimes staid status quo.
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 (formerly the Westwood Playhouse), one of the most well-attended centers of new productions in the Los Angeles.