“If you want a sense of what America is like, you’ll watch the Oscars.” Gilbert Cates
American movie director and television producer Gilbert Cates, brother to the late producer-director Joseph Cates, is perhaps widely-known to the public for producing many of the annual Academy Awards shows on television. He made a name for himself in the early 1970s for directing the Academy Award nominated movies I Never Sang For My Father (1970) and Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973) and was noted for his work on TV movies and specials such as The Affair (1973), After the Fall (1974), Consenting Adult (1985, nabbed an Emmy nomination), Do You Know the Muffin Man (1989, earned an Emmy nomination), Call Me Anna (1990, received DGA nomination) and Absolute Strangers (1991, netted an Emmy nomination).
Outside of his hands-on filmmaking activities, Emmy winner Cates has actively participated in many organizations. He served as the President of the Directors Guild of America from 1983 to 1987 and the Dean at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television from 1990 to 1997. He also was the Secretary/Treasurer of DGA in 2001 and the Producing Director of the Westwood Playhouse (later the Geffen Playhouse) in Los Angeles.
On a more private note, Cates is the former husband of Jane Cates and has one son with her. He is now married to Dr. Judith Reichman. Cates has four children and five grandchildren.
Childhood and Family:
In New York, New York, Gilbert Katz, professionally known as Gilbert Cates, was born on June 6, 1934. He was educated at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York, New York, and graduated in 1953. He also attended Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, from which he received a B.A degree in 1955 and a MA degree in 1965. Gilbert has a sister, Kit Adler, and a brother, producer-director Joseph Cates. He is the uncle of prominent actress Phoebe Cates.
Gilbert was married to Jane Cates. The couple split up after having a son, Gil Cates Jr. He is currently married to Dr. Judith Reichman and has four children and two stepchildren. He is the grandfather of five.
Producer of Oscar Telecasts
Gilbert Cates got his start as an NBC page and in 1957, he moved to theater as the stage manager of the Broadway production of “Shinbone Alley.” Cates joined his producer-director brother in producing “Spoon River Anthology” on Broadway and in London and several TV game shows like “I’ve Got a Secret” (CBS, 1952-67), “Mother’s Day” (ABC, 1958-59) and “Haggis Baggis” (NBC, 1958-59). He also produced, created and directed the music series “Hootenan” (1962). In 1967, Cates went into business with Jack Farren (later producer of “Days of Our Lives”) and the two produced the Broadway production of “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running.” On his own, Cates produced Robert Anderson’s play “I Never Sang For My Father” in 1968. However, he did not make his stage directorial debut until 1971 with “The Price,” which he followed a year later with his Broadway directorial debut, “Voices.”
Cates already had experience with directing movies (the short film The Painting, 1962, and his motion picture debut, Rings Around the World, 1966) when he received his huge breakthrough as producer and director of the 1970 big screen version of the Broadway hit I Never Sang For My Father. Starring Melvyn Douglas, Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons, the drama nabbed three Oscar nominations. After directing Bill Cosby in the made-for-TV film To All My Friends on Shore (CBS, 1972), where Cates also served as producer, he once again scored success with his fine directing in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973), which collected two Academy Award nominations. The film starred Joanne Woodward as a woman in mid- life.
Next, Cates helmed such motion pictures as One Summer Love (1976), The Promise (1979), The George Segal and Natalie Wood vehicle The Last Married Couple in America (1980), the installment Oh! God Book II (1980, again starred George Burns), and Backfire (1987). During that same period, Cates also found himself working on numerous dramatic specials, serving as director and often producer. 1973’s The Affair had him direct Nathalie Wood and Robert Wagner, and in 1974’s After the Fall, he directed Faye Dunaway and Christopher Plummer. He earned two Emmy nominations for his bright directing in Consenting Adult (1985) and Do You Know the Muffin Man (1989), which focused on child molestation. Other credits include CBS’s Johnny, We Hardly Knew Thee (1977), The Kid from Nowhere (1982), Country Gold (1982), Hobson’s Choice (1983), Burning Rage (1984), Child’s Cry (1986), Fatal Judgement (1988) and My First Love (1988).
Kicking off the 1990s, Cates enjoyed another TV achievement by taking home a Directors Guild of America nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials after directing Patty Duke in 1990’s Call Me Anna, the TV film version of Patty/Anna’s autobiography. Cates and Patty rejoined for 1991’s Absolute Strangers, from which the director nabbed his next Emmy nomination. Cates’ subsequent television movies included Confessions: Two Faces of Evil (1994), Innocent Victims (1996), James Agee’s A Death in the Family (2002) and Collected Stories (PBS, 2002).
It was also in the early 1990s that Cates began producing the Academy Awards’ telecast, which he did six consecutive years from 1990 to 1995. In order to make the shows attractive, he brought in big names like Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, and David Letterman as hosts and Debbie Allen as choreographer. For his significant effort, Cates won a 1991 Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program and was next nominated for every return commitment. After a year of hiatus, he made his return to the awards for the 1997 to 1999 seasons and returned again in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006.