November 1, 2011 / 6:29 PM / 7 years ago

Oscar producer Gil Cates dies, age 77

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Film, television and Broadway producer and director Gil Cates, who ran the show for 14 Oscar ceremonies and was an entertainment industry leader, has died at age 77.

Cates died on Monday evening at the University of California Los Angeles where he was the founding dean of the School of Theater, Film and Television, the school said.

A cause of death has yet to be determined, pending an investigation by the Los Angeles County coroner. Cates, who was the uncle of actress Phoebe Cates, was found in his car in one of UCLA’s parking structures. Emergency personnel tried to revive him but could not, UCLA said.

He was dean of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television from 1990-1998, and served two terms as president of the Directors Guild of America in the 1980s. He most recently produced the Academy Awards in 2008, marking his 14th time at the helm of the film industry’s top honors for which he received several awards and nominations over the years.

“He was a consummate professional who gave the Academy and the world some of the most memorable moments in Oscar history. His passing is a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry,” Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement.

Director Steven Spielberg called Cates “the most liked person I knew,” and said of his time at the Motion Picture Academy and Directors Guild, that Cates “set a remarkable standard for dedication and excellence.”

Directors Guild president Taylor Hackford said, “there was no greater champion of the creative and economic rights of directors and their teams and no truer friend to membership, board and staff of the DGA.”

Cates was born June 6, 1934 in New York City where he got his start producing and directing plays on and off Broadway. Some of his early stage work included “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running,” “I Never Sang for My Father,” “Voices,” and “Tricks of the Trade.”

He moved his career to film in 1970 when he produced and directed the big screen version of “I Never Sang for My Father,” which earned three Academy Award nominations.

Cates also directed Joanne Woodward and Sylvia Sidney in the 1973 film “Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams,” which received two Oscar nominations. Other film directing credits include: “The Promise,” “One Summer Love,” “The Last Married Couple in America,” “Oh! God Book II” and “Backfire.”

Cates also distinguished himself as the director and/or producer of a number of television specials.

He is only the third person to receive the Presidents Award from the Director’s Guild of America, which represents film and TV directors in entertainment. In 2005, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Cates is survived by his wife, Dr. Judith Reichman, four children, two stepchildren and six grandchildren.

Editing by Jill Serjeant

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