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John Gay

  • Birthplace: Whittier, California
  • Birthday: April 01
Date of passing: 
February 04, 2017

John Gay was a prolific film and television writer whose numerous professional accolades included an Oscar nomination for the 1958 drama Separate Tables, and an Emmy nomination for the 1985 limited series Fatal Vision.

At the time of his passing, the Writers Guild of America released this tribute:

Veteran screen and television writer John Gay, best known for such classic movies as Run Silent, Run Deep, Separate Tables and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, died on February 4, in Santa Monica at age 92.

John Gay was a prolific film and television writer whose numerous professional accolades included an Oscar nomination for the 1958 drama Separate Tables, and an Emmy nomination for the 1985 limited series Fatal Vision.

At the time of his passing, the Writers Guild of America released this tribute:

Veteran screen and television writer John Gay, best known for such classic movies as Run Silent, Run Deep, Separate Tables and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, died on February 4, in Santa Monica at age 92.

An Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Gay was often in demand by the top directors of the day, scripting projects for John Huston, Vincent Minnelli and John Sturges. His words were brought to life by a long list of stars, from Henry Fonda and Paul Newman to Anthony Hopkins and Bette Davis.

Gay began his career as an actor and writer in the Golden Age of live television. Starring alongside wife Barbara in the local WOR series, Mr. and Mrs. Mystery, he “wrote every episode and performed every beer commercial.” The experience made him realize he had a talent for writing, and soon he was crafting popular network dramas for Playhouse 90, The Alcoa Hour, General Electric Theater, Lux Video Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Centre Stage, The Stranger and Goodyear Playhouse, among others. 

One night, actor Burt Lancaster happened to catch one of his shows. Gay was called to Hollywood, and before long he found himself on a soundstage watching Lancaster and Clark Gable star as submarine commanders in his first screenplay, Run Silent, Run Deep. The film was a success, and Gay’s career took off. Spanning nearly six decades, 14 feature films, 39 movies and miniseries for television and two Broadway plays, Gay became one of Hollywood’s most accomplished writers.

His work for the small screen stretched from the classics A Tale of Two Cities and The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the controversial docudramas Fatal Vision, about the Jeffrey McDonald murders, for which he earned a Primetime Emmy writing nomination, and the Caryl Chessman story, Kill Me If You Can.

Gay was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing Separate Tables (with Terrence Rattigan), as well as received a WGA screenplay nomination.

Over the course of his career, he earned multiple industry accolades. In 1984, he received the Writers Guild of America, West’s highest honor for television writing, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement, the WGAW’s Morgan Cox Award in 1992 for Guild service, and the WGAW’s Edmund H. North Award in 2003, presented to a Guild member “whose courageous leadership, strength of purpose and continuing selfless activity on behalf of the Guild through the years, as well as professional achievement of the highest order, have served to establish the Writers Guild of America as a pillar of strength and security for writers throughout the world.”

His other screenwriting credits include The Hallelujah Trail, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (co-written by Robert Ardrey), The Power, Sometimes a Great Notion, Pocket Money (screenplay by Terence Malick, adaptation by John Gay), Hennessey, A Matter of Time, Soldier Blue and No Way to Treat a Lady.

Gay’s numerous other television writing credits during his prolific career include such series as The Ken Murray Show, Shadow of the Cloak, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters and Espionage, as well as telefilms All My Darling Daughters, My Darling Daughters’ Anniversary, The Chadwick Family, Things in Their Season, The Red Badge of Courage, Adventures of the Queen, The Amazing Howard Hughes, The Court Martial of George Armstrong Custer, Captains Courageous, Les Misérables, Transplant, A Private Battle, The Bunker, Berlin Tunnel 21, Dial M for Murder, Stand by Your Man, The Long Summer of George Adams, A Piano for Mrs. Cimino, Ivanhoe, Samson and Delilah, Doubletake, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (for which he received a CableACE nomination), Inherit the Wind and the miniseries Windmills of the Gods, Around the World in 80 Days, Blind Faith, Cruel Doubt, Final Notice and Burden of Proof.

While serving on the WGAW’s Board of Directors (1971-75, 1977-79), as well as vice president (1985-87), Gay helped lead the Guild through several difficult negotiations.

During one WGA writers’ strike, he concocted “Diversions and Delights,” a one-man play that imagined Oscar Wilde delivering a talk to a Paris theater just before his death. The play opened on Broadway, starring Vincent Price, and went on to have successful runs around the world.

Born on April 1, 1924, in Whittier, California, Gay was a WGAW member since 1958.

In 2008, Gay published his autobiography, Any Way I Can — 50 Years in Show Business, co-written with his daughter, Jennifer Gay Summers.

Gay is survived by son Lawrence, daughters Jennifer Summers and Elizabeth Powell, and three grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Writers Guild Foundation in honor of Gay.

 

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John Gay

John Gay

Photo credit: 
WGA

AWARDS & NOMINATIONS

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