John Gay, whose writing credits for film and TV include big-screen fare like Run Silent Run Deep and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and, on the small screen reach back to television’s Golden Age and continued through the 1980s and ’90s with such mini-series as Fatal Vision and Cruel Doubt, died February 4 in Santa Monica. He was 92.
His death was announced by the Writers Guild of America, West.
Gay co-wrote a 2008 autobiography Any Way I Can – 50 Years in Show Business with daughter Jennifer Gay Summers, who survives him. Other survivors include daughter Elizabeth Powell, son Lawrence and three grandchildren.
Born on April 1, 1924, in Whittier, California, Gay was a WGAW member since 1958. His many screen collaborators include directors John Huston, Vincent Minnelli and John Sturges, and actors Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, Paul Newman and Anthony Hopkins.
According to the WGAW, Gay began his career as an actor and writer in live television, and wrote and starred with wife Barbara in New York’s local WOR series Mr. and Mrs. Mystery, which led to writing gigs for such Golden Age series as Playhouse 90, The Alcoa Hour, General Electric Theater, Lux Video Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Centre Stage, The Stranger, and Goodyear Playhouse, among others.
After one of his television episodes was seen by actor Burt Lancaster, Gay was summoned to Hollywood to write 1958’s Run Silent Run Deep, the submarine tale starring Lancaster and Clark Gable. Over the next six decades, he wrote 14 feature films, 39 movies and miniseries for television and two Broadway plays.
His TV credits include adaptations of A Tale of Two Cities and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and his Emmy-nominated script for docudrama Fatal Vision (about the Jeffrey McDonald murders).
Gay was nominated for an Academy Award and a WGA Award for co-writing (with Terrence Rattigan) Separate Tables starring Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth and David Niven.
In 1984, Gay received the WGAW’s highest honor for television writing, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement, and in 1992 the WGAW’s Morgan Cox Award for Guild service. In 2003 he was presented with the WGAW’s Edmund H. North Award for “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.”
While serving on the WGAW’s Board of Directors (1971-75, 1977-79), as well as during his tenure as Vice President (1985-87), Gay helped the Guild through several difficult negotiations. During one WGA writers’ strike, he penned 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 with Vincent Price, and had successful runs around 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 Nation, 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 television writing credits include 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 Miserables, 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.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Writers Guild Foundation in honor of Gay.
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