A very, very good director who made at least two 'classics', Robbery and Bullitt. RIP sir.
English film director and producer and 4-time Oscar nominee Peter Yates -- who helmed such celebrated anddissimilar films as Bullitt, The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, Breaking Away, Suspect, and The Dresser -- has passed away in London after a long illness. He was 82.
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he was a stage actor before working as an assistant director for Tony Richardson. Yates' feature directorial debut was the early 1960s low-budget Summer Holiday (1963) with Cliff Richard And The Shadows.
He soon graduated to the 1967 crime thriller Robbery, a fictionalized version of Britain's The Great Train Robbery. It was a short jump to his first American film, Bullitt (1968), starring Steve McQueen in one of the definitive cop movies of all time thanks to that car chase through the streets of San Francisco.
Other films he directed included John and Mary (1969), Murphy's War (1971), The Hot Rock (1972), For Pete's Sake (1974), The Deep (1977), Eyewitness (1981), The Dresser
(1983), Krull (1983), Eleni (1985), Suspect (1987), The House on Carroll Street (1988), An Innocent Man (1989), Year of the Comet (1992), Roommates (1995), and Curtain Call (1999).
He earned two Oscar nominations (director and producer) for Breaking Away, and another two (director and producer) for The Dresser.
A very, very good director who made at least two 'classics', Robbery and Bullitt. RIP sir.
RIP Pete - could handle action and acting equally well. Did a great job on The Dresser
A real shame, Robbery is a particular favourite of mine. He also directed a few early episodes of The Saint and Dangerman as well. RIP.
Can we have a url/link for this news please?
He had quite a range; from Summer Holiday to Bullitt.
Personally I thought the bleak The Friends of Eddie Coyle was his best film.
Peter Yates directed some great episodes of The Saint and Danger Man and Robbery is a superb film. I'm sad to hear of his death.
Assistant Director on The Entertainer, A Taste Of Honey and The Guns Of Navarone where he meet his wife Virginia. They lived for nearly 30 years in a flat at 16 Ennismore Gardens Knightsbridge. Their appartment was just a short walk from the No9 bus route which was the number of the bus in Summer Holiday his first film.
Respect....and thanks for your work....
A very fine and versatile director, from the light musical of Summer Holiday to the gritty thrillers of Robbery and Bullitt, two of the best films of the sixties. Peter also directed several of the best early Saint episodes including The Noble Sportsman with Anthony Quayle.
The director Peter Yates, who has died aged 81, helped Steve McQueen achieve iconic status with the cop movie Bullitt (1968), enjoyed a massive box-office success with The Deep (1977) and made one of the most beguiling of all youth movies in Breaking Away (1979). He maintained a steady career throughout five decades, initially in the theatre and then in mainstream cinema, but he suffered the critical neglect so often accorded those who tackle a variety of subjects and genres and become known, somewhat disparagingly, as journeyman directors.
Pauline Kael described him as a competent director "with a good serviceable technique for integrating staged movie action into documentary city locations". David Thomson suggested that, in America, Yates had "done nothing more profound than send hubcaps careering around corners". Bullitt's famous San Francisco car chase (later revived by Ford as part of an advertising campaign) became one of cinema's most influential action sequences.
The movie itself was a tribute to Yates's consummate professionalism. He was born in Aldershot, Hampshire, to Colonel Robert Yates and his wife, Constance. After attending Charterhouse school, Surrey, he opted for Rada. His notions of acting were soon forsaken for theatre direction, first in the regions, and then at the Royal Court in London, where he directed plays including The American Dream and The Death of Bessie Smith (both 1961).
He gained valuable film experience in the dubbing studios in Wardour Street, central London, and worked as an assistant director on films as varied as Cover Girl Killer (1959), Sons and Lovers (1960), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and A Taste of Honey (1961). In 1960 he married the film publicist Virginia Pope. Later that decade he gained experience in television, directing episodes for the series The Saint and Danger Man.
He made his debut as a film director with the amiable Cliff Richard musical Summer Holiday (1963), which was unfortunately sandwiched between two better-choreographed Richard vehicles and the arrival of the Beatles on screen in A Hard Day's Night (1964). Undeterred, he returned to his theatrical origins to film NF Simpson's One Way Pendulum in 1964. The play's nonsense humour, which had delighted audiences at the Royal Court, failed to engage film audiences increasingly used to a diet of realist drama.
Years of graft and a period Yates had spent as a racing driver gave him the break he needed when he was hired to direct Robbery (1967). The heart-stopping opening car chase and climactic action sequence made the film, which was inspired by the great train robbery, a turning point in his career. It brought box-office success, critical plaudits and an invitation to Hollywood. Nudging 40, Yates was offered Bullitt, starring McQueen as a cool, laconic cop. The film launched a busy career on both sides of the Atlantic as both director and producer.
In a move characteristic of his career, Yates next directed an oddly simple charade, John and Mary (1969), starring Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow as a couple who meet in a Manhattan singles bar, have sex and find love, then in the film's closing moments discover each other's name.
He then tackled a second world war movie, Murphy's War (1971), with Peter O'Toole as a zestful Irishman who revamps an old fighter plane and uses it to destroy a German U-boat in the last days of the conflict. With its Orinoco river locations, eccentric hero and Siān Phillips as a plucky doctor, it gave a passing nod to The African Queen (1951) and proved commercially successful.
After the engaging, if overlong, 1972 crime caper The Hot Rock (also known as How to Steal a Diamond in Four Uneasy Lessons), Yates made his best thriller, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973). This crime story was as low-key and realistic as its predecessor had been capricious. Robert Mitchum, wonderfully laconic as a small-time hood, headed a brilliant cast. The gritty script, Boston locations and authentic details made it a classic of the genre.
His next films lacked individuality, suggesting a director for hire. The lumpen comedy For Pete's Sake (1974) starred an ill-at-ease Barbra Streisand, while Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976) made the best of an indifferent screenplay. He then made the underwater saga The Deep, commenting that with Bullitt he had given America the car chase and with The Deep he gave them Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-shirt.
Yates produced and directed Breaking Away from a witty and observant, Oscar-winning screenplay by Steve Tesich. Although the joyous ending was predictable, the charm of its players, the warmth of the relationships and Yates's fine sense of atmosphere made it his most fully achieved work. It brought him his first Oscar nominations for best picture and best director. Yates and Tesich reunited for the intriguing political thriller Eyewitnesss (1981), which was markedly more successful than the sword and sorcery epic Krull (1983), in which special effects and lush sets were no compensation for dull plotting.
Yates's versatility was exercised on his return to work in Britain, where he filmed The Dresser (1983). Based on Ronald Harwood's play about his experiences working for the actor-manager Donald Wolfit, the film was a poignant character study of a man (Tom Courtenay) living his life through his exuberant star employer (Albert Finney). Yates was again nominated for best director and best picture Oscars.
The thriller Suspect (1987) had a starry cast including Cher and Liam Neeson in a routinely effective courtroom drama. A year later Yates produced and directed The House on Carroll Street (1988), another political thriller. Rather far-fetched, it was entertaining in the sub-Hitchcock style that characterised his work in cloak and dagger movies.
Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956) might be perceived as an influence on the storyline of Yates's next project, An Innocent Man (1989), starring Tom Selleck, which similarly told of wrongful imprisonment and its devastating effect on the victim and his family.
The sentimental Roommates (1995) was salvaged only by Peter Falk's virtuoso performance, and Yates inspired equally fine work from Finney in the Irish-set The Run of the Country. After the woeful supernatural comedy Curtain Call (1999), Yates returned to television with a lavish production of Don Quixote (2000), adapted by John Mortimer and starring John Lithgow as the eponymous hero, and the coming-of-age drama A Separate Peace (2004), based on John Knowles's novel.
Yates, whose lucrative, big-budget movies allowed him to indulge enthusiasms for skiing, tennis and sailing, is survived by Virginia, his son Toby, his daughter Miranda, and two grandchildren.
• Peter James Yates, film director and producer, born 24 July 1929; died 9 January 2011
He made some great films - of which Bullitt is my favourite.
RIP Mr Yates.
Thats sad news, another great British Director leaves us. I never get tired of watching "Bullitt", I think its his best film, RIP Peter Yates.
A friend and college. RIP Peter
Interesting to note as well that it was due to making Robbery - which is a popular film here - that he got the Bullitt job, as the producers and Steve McQueen watched it and ok'd him on the back of it.
Peter Yates, the director who died on Sunday aged 81, made his name with film's definitive car chase in Bullitt.
Peter Yates - Telegraph
The hubcap spinning, tramcar dodging, engine growling, tyre-screeching, high-speed pursuit through the streets of San Francisco was a triumph for Yates and his cinematographer, William Fraker, who made the daring decision to mount cameras on the cars themselves rather than shoot the scene from a distance. "The whole idea was to allow the audience to experience the chase like they were in the cars," said Fraker. Despite spawning a host of imitations, it is still regarded as the original and best car chase sequence in cinema.
It did not just depend on new techniques. Steve McQueen, whom Yates described as "a lot of macho", revelled in the death-defying driving scenes. To capture one segment, Yates joined him in the car. "I was in the back of the Mustang and Steve was going about 120mph," Yates recalled. "We came to the last downhill section and when we got to the top of the hill Steve was still going pretty fast. I tapped him on the shoulder and said: 'We can slow down now, we're almost out of film.' Steve said very calmly: 'We can't. There aren't any brakes.'"
The car duly flew past cast and crew members before McQueen managed to steer it on to an incline to bring it to a halt. "If it was anyone else, we might not have made it," said Yates. "Steve was a great driver."
Yates's path to films was idiosyncratic. The son of a soldier, he was born on July 24 1929 in Aldershot, Hampshire, and educated at Charterhouse. He went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and at 19 began in repertory. His notices as an actor were so execrable, however, that he abandoned the stage for motor cars and from 1949 to 1953 became assistant works manager at HW Motors in Surrey, which had a racing team led by Stirling Moss. The experience contributed richly to Bullitt some 20 years later.
In 1953 Yates entered the film industry as a dubbing assistant on foreign language films. He then edited documentaries before rising to become assistant director on several pictures, including the celebrated war epic The Guns Of Navarone (1961). He also directed television episodes of The Saint and Danger Man before taking charge of his first feature, Summer Holiday (1963), starring Cliff Richard And The Shadows.
His next film was an adaptation of the play One Way Pendulum (1965), a comically absurd tale which he had directed on stage at the Royal Court. It had little commercial success, and it was his third picture, Robbery (1967), an effective retelling of the Great Train Robbery, that set the template for the rest of his career. Its opening scene, a tautly thrilling car chase, won Yates the job on Bullitt.
Though a genial character, Yates was his own man and infuriated McQueen when he refused to collaborate on Le Mans, another car caper that was to be the sequel to Bullitt. Yates explained: "I was afraid that no self-respecting actor would want to work with me if I did two 'machine' films together. Although action films are great fun, films about relationships are really much more satisfying."
He was not always so successful in making such films, however. His best efforts included John And Mary (1969), a gentle sentimental comedy which drew fine performances from Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow; Breaking Away (1979); and The Dresser (1984).
Breaking Away, an affecting study of teenage dreams built around cycle racing in Indiana, attracted four Academy Award nominations and prompted The Daily Telegraph's Patrick Gibbs to write: "For the first time Yates communicates considerable humanity as well as his usual efficiency as a director."
The Dresser (1984) won five further nominations and again steered well clear of car chases – the pyrotechnics confined instead to the acting of Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay. Filmed almost entirely in a dressing room, the piece keeled over under the weight of the performances and the stifling theatricality of the production. A chase scene would have been welcome.
Yates, who spent much of his life in New York, accepted that he was likely to be remembered as a proficient, reliable performer behind the camera. Of his own work, he said: "I put it somewhere below meals for the aged, but a little way above manufacturing toothpaste."
Other films he directed included Murphy's War (1971), an engaging adventure story with Peter O'Toole; The Hot Rock (1972); For Pete's Sake (1974); The Friends of Eddy Coyle (1973); The Deep (1977); Eyewitness (1981); Krull (1983); Eleni (1985); Suspect (1987); The House on Carroll Street (1988); An Innocent Man (1989); Year of the Comet (1992); Roommates (1995); and Curtain Call (1999). Don Quixote (2000), with John Lithgow as the fantasist hero, and A Separate Peace (2004), an unremarkable adaptation of John Knowles's coming-of-age novel, (both filmed for television) brought his career to a close.
Of these, The Deep, about divers hunting treasure off a Caribbean island, was a notable success, though its most enduring contribution to popular culture may be the wet T-shirt contest, for which a craze began after stills were released of actress Jacqueline Bisset thus attired. Bisset claimed to be "extremely upset" by the pictures, but Newsweek promptly declared her "the most beautiful actress of all time". Krull, a turgid sci-fi picture, was another popular, if not critical, hit.
The Friends of Eddy Coyle, an unvarnished adaptation of the George V Higgins novel, was probably his best film, with Robert Mitchum outstanding in the title role.
To the end, however, Yates admitted that "chases continue to fascinate me". His formula was simple: "In the beginning you establish anticipation. The middle should confuse people so you're not sure where everyone is going. The end is where the good guys come out best."
Peter Yates married Virginia Pope in 1960. She survives him with three children.
Railways lend a
hand for film
of train robbery
By ELLIS PLAICE
THREE years and eight months after the Great
Train Robbery, a film crew yesterday began
shooting scenes for " Robbery "—the story of an
ambush on a mythical
night express from Glasgow
Co-producer and star
Stanley Baker, the "chief
robber," with director Peter
Yates, went lo Lubenham,
in Leicestershire. w h e r e
British Railways have lent,
them a stretch of disused
line, complete with a road
British Railways a l so
hired coaches and staff to
the filmmakers, and will
get back 7,000 (pounds).
American backers have
set aside a budget at
700,000 for the film and
expect to gross at least
7,000,000 in box-office receipts
Lawyers who checked
the script to avoid possible
legal action by the real
train robbers, n e t t ed
20,000 in fees
The Bank of England
gave permission for the
company to print 1,500,000
dummy banknotes, which
will be mixed with £5,000
worth of the real stuff.
Before he began filming
last night, Stanley Baker
said: '" We could have done
the whole thing in a studio.
But it's quicker and
cheaper by rail."
~Daily Mirror April 4th, 1967
RIP Peter Yates
and many thanks for one of my fave films, Murphy's War