Gilbert "Gil" Cates, founding dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and founder and producing director at the Geffen Playhouse, died Monday, Oct. 31. He was 77.
Cates, an entertainment industry leader, was perhaps best known for producing 14 Academy Award television broadcasts between 1990 and 2008. He was credited with boosting the ratings of Hollywood's biggest annual awards show by hiring well-received hosts such as Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Martin.
Cates also produced and directed feature films, television specials and Broadway and off-Broadway plays. During his career, he received 16 Emmy nominations, winning once, for the 1991 Academy Awards ceremony, according to press reports.
He was secretary–treasurer and past president (1983–87) of the Directors Guild of America.
Cates served as dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) from 1990 to 1998 and was a distinguished professor on the school's faculty.
"Our entire TFT community is overwhelmingly saddened by the loss of our beloved mentor, colleague and friend," said Teri Schwartz, dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. "Today we mourn our great loss but also celebrate Gil's extraordinary vision and countless contributions, not only to TFT as founding dean and distinguished professor but to the entertainment and performing arts industries and the education of our students, who benefited from his remarkable talent, insights, generosity, experience and wisdom. Our deepest condolences and love go out to Gil's beloved family at this very difficult time."
At the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, Cates was "our founder, our leader and our heart," according to a statement from the playhouse, which is immediately adjacent to campus.
"Gil has always referred to the staff of the Geffen Playhouse as his second family," Geffen Playhouse chairman of the board Frank Mancuso said. "And it is as a family that we mourn this tremendous loss. Gil built this theater and he will forever be at the center of it — we honor his life by continuing the fulfillment of his dream."
Many other prominent entertainment industry organizations and individuals in Hollywood issued statements.
"He was a consummate professional who gave the Academy and the world some of the most memorable moments in Oscar history," said Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "His passing is a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry, and our thoughts go out to his family."
Said Taylor Hackford, president of the Directors Guild of America: "There are few people in the history of the Guild who have matched Gil's vision and influence on the organization and our industry. There was no greater champion of the creative and economic rights of directors and their teams."
Emergency medical personnel responded to a call on campus at about 5:50 p.m. Monday but were unable to revive Cates. The Los Angeles County coroner is investigating the cause of death.
Additional details about Cates' career are available on the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television website.