Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Academy Producer and a Former Governor Gil Cates Dies

Gilbert "Gil"Cates

Word came today from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that Gilbert "Gil" Cates, Emmy winning producer of the Academy Awards (Oscars), and two-term president of the Director's Guild, died yesterday at age 77. I did not know Mr. Cates personally, but my late friend Robert Wise introduced us, and for a few years we exchanged some friendly e-mail about things at the Academy.

As a matter of fact, it was Cates who reconciled Wise and Orson Welles after years of animosity over the editing of Citizen Kane (1941). It was at the Director's Guild in 1984. Wells was known for having a hard time with finishing a movie, and for an explosive temper.

Robert Wise told me personally that after months of inaction on Citizen Kane, he confronted Welles about the delay. Welles, following a few words with Wise, threw up his hands and said to Wise, "I hired you as my editor. You edit the (expletive) thing. I do not care to ever look at this (expletive) movie again!" Welles walked out.

Wise did edit the rolls and rolls of film Welles had shot, and from chaos pieced together a masterpiece. That story has been corroborated by others. The movie faded from view soon after it's release, but its reputation was restored, initially by French critics, one of them being my late friend Francois Truffaut. It had an American revival in 1956.

Many film critics consider Citizen Kane to be the greatest film ever made. Roger Ebert quipped in 2008: "So it's settled: Citizen Kane is the official greatest film of all time."* It has topped many critical "best" lists.

Cates, whose real name was Gilbert Lewis Katz recently underwent heart surgery. He was born in New york and was found collapsed in a parking lot on the campus of UCLA. According to a UCLA spokesperson, "Emergency medical personnel responded to a call on campus at about 5:50 p.m. Monday but were unable to revive him. 

Cates produced the Academy Awards 14 times in 18 years, more than any other individual. He was responsible for first bringing hosts Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart to Oscar's stage.

Cates served three consecutive terms as a governor of the Academy's Directors Branch, from 1984 to 1993. He returned to the board for another term beginning in 2002, and held the post of vice president from 2003 to 2005.


He directed feature films and a number of TV movies. Two feature films were nominated for Oscars: I Never Sang for My Father (1970), and  Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973).

He was innovative, cheerful, helpful, friendly, and I think he was one of the best, if not the best producer that the Academy Awards has ever had. R.I.P., Gil **.
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* Ebert, Roger (4 September 2008). "What's your favorite movie?".   Roger Ebert's Journal (Chicago Sun-Times). Quoted from Wiki, and retrieved by them January 6, 2010. See:
Wikipedia, Citizen Kane

** Gil Cates' Obituary in The Wrap. 

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