Director Peter Yates Dies at 81

January 10, 2011


Peter Yates, the Oscar-nominated director/producer best known for directing the 1968 Steve McQueen film Bullitt and its famous Best Car Chase, died in London on Sunday following an illness. He was 81.

From the BBC:

A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Yates started out as an actor before becoming an assistant director on such films as The Guns of Navarone and A Taste of Honey.

He made his directorial debut in 1963 with Cliff Richard vehicle Summer Holiday, going on to make episodes of The Saint and Danger Man.

In 1967 he wrote and directed Robbery, a heist film inspired by the Great Train Robbery of 1963.

Bullitt, his first US film, followed a year later, casting McQueen as the head of a police unit guarding a man about to testify against his mobster brother.

Following its success, Yates worked with Mia Farrow and Dustin Hoffman on 1969 romantic drama John and Mary, and with Peter O'Toole on Murphy's War two years later.

His other films included The Friends of Eddie Coyle with Robert Mitchum, Mother, Jugs & Speed with Raquel Welch and The Deep starring Jacqueline Bisset.

Yates' 1979 film Breaking Away - a coming-of-age film about a high school graduate who competes in a cycling race - received Oscar nominations for best director and best picture.

So did 1983 drama The Dresser, which also saw its stars Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay nominated by the Academy.

Also directing by Peter Yates in 1983: Krull, the pre-Xena tale of a boomerang weapon-throwing hero that for years I thought existed only in my imagination, a confused result of seeing Star Wars and Conan at too early an age. Here's the trailer for that film, along with the aforementioned chase sequence from Bullitt. Thank you for these strangely disparate yet equally enjoyable things, Mr. Yates.

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