The Way of the Word

12. January 2011

RIP Peter Yates

Filed under: Commentary,general,movies,review,RIP,Uncategorized — jensaltmann @ 10:51
Tags: , , , , , ,

Peter Yates (born July 24, 1929 in Aldershot, Hampshire, UK) died on January 9, 2011 in London at the age of 81.

Yates was a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He spent a few years working as an actor, director and stage manager at the theater.  He did some time as a race car driver, before he finally ended up doing movies in 1950. There, he initially worked as a dubbing assistant, then became an assistant director for Tony Richardson.

His first movie directing credit was Summer Holiday in 1963, a vehicle for the popular singer Cliff Richard.  He also directed some episodes of the original Saint series (with Roger Moore) and the Danger Man revival Secret Agent (with Patrick McGoohan).

His most famous movie was Bullit, starring Steve McQueen as a hardboiled cop. The movie’s fame stems mostly from its car chase, the first such in modern movies. In the years that followed, Yates showed his abilities in various genres. He did war (Murphy’s War, 1971), fantasy (Krull, 1983), thriller (The Deep, 1977), crime drama (The Friends of Eddie Coyle, 1973) and comedy (Mother, Jugs and Speed, 1976). His 1979 movie Breaking Away, which he also produced, was nominated for five Oscars, including best director and best picture. He was nominated again for The Dresser, his 1983 drama.

The 1998 romantic comedy Curtain Call was Yates’s last movie for the big screen, but he continued to work for television.

Yates was one of those rare beasts: a person whose career included almost no known failures. Granted, The Deep and Krull didn’t set the world on fire (actually, both were and still are critically derided and ridiculed), but even those became popular or at least fan favorites because their quality was a notch above the average. And every time you see a car chase in a movie, you need to give thanks (or blame) Peter Yates, because he was the first to go there.


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