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Veteran Oscar producer Gilbert Cates dead at 77

FILE - In this March 3, 2006 file photo, Oscars show producer Gil Cates takes questions from the press during a news conference outside of the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Cates, 77, who produced a record 14 Academy Awards telecasts and founded the Geffen Playhouse and the School of Theater Film and Television at UCLA, has died. The Directors Guild of America confirmed the death Tuesday. FILE - In this March 3, 2006 file photo, Oscars show producer Gil Cates takes questions from the press during a news conference outside of the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Cates, 77, who produced a record 14 Academy Awards telecasts and founded the Geffen Playhouse and the School of Theater Film and Television at UCLA, has died. The Directors Guild of America confirmed the death Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, file)
By Sandy Cohen
AP Entertainment Writer / November 1, 2011

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LOS ANGELES—Producer and director Gilbert "Gil" Cates, who oversaw a record 14 Academy Awards ceremonies and founded the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, has died. He was 77.

Cates collapsed on the UCLA campus Monday evening. Emergency personnel responded but were unable to revive him, officials said Tuesday. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Cates last produced the Oscar telecast in 2008, when the ceremony was almost sidelined by the Writers Guild strike.

He was comfortable at the helm of the show, calling it "an absolutely great job." He produced more Academy Awards telecasts than anyone else and brought in comedians such as Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart and Steve Martin to host the show.

Martin tweeted his condolences Tuesdsay. "So sorry to hear Gil Cates has died," Martin wrote. "He helmed two Oscar shows I hosted. He was delightful, wise, canny and unperturbed. A great fellow."

Singer Josh Groban also shared his thoughts on Twitter, writing, "So sad to hear of the passing of legendary tv producer Gil Cates. He gave me many great opportunities and was always extremely kind. RIP."

Academy President Tom Sherak said Cates was a colleague, friend and a "consummate professional."

Cates "gave the academy and the world some of the most memorable moments in Oscar history," Sherak said in a statement. "His passing is a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry, and our thoughts go out to his family."

Cates founded the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA. He was its dean from 1990 to 1998 and remained on the faculty as a professor.

Teri Schwartz, dean of the School of Theater, Film and Television, cited Cates as a "beloved mentor, colleague and friend."

"Today we mourn our great loss but also celebrate Gil's extraordinary vision and countless contributions, not only to (the school) 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," she said in a statement.

Cates twice served as president of the Directors Guild of America and was on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Directors Guild president Taylor Hackford said Cates embodied his organization.

"Through his decades of service, he guided the Guild gently and charismatically and with great wisdom, and perhaps more importantly, he established what it meant to be a leader of this organization and the entertainment community," Hackford said in a statement. "He was a fierce friend, an even fiercer negotiator and somebody you always hoped was on your side but respected even if he wasn't."

The Writers Guild of America, West, said Cates "will be remembered as a highly skilled producer and director; as a dedicated leader of the DGA; and as a man of wit, intelligence, and heart."

Cates produced and directed films, television shows and plays on and off Broadway. His film credits include 1970's "I Never Sang for My Father" with Gene Hackman, and 1980's "Oh God! Book II" with George Burns.

He produced and directed plays at the Geffen Playhouse, where he was regarded as "our founder, our leader and our heart," according to a statement Tuesday.

"Gil has always referred to the staff of the Geffen Playhouse as his second family," said board chairman Frank Mancuso. "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. As my dear friend Gil would no doubt say, `onward and upward with the arts.'"

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