Magazine article American Cinematographer

Profile: A.S.C

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Profile: A.S.C

Article excerpt

FREDERICK GATELY, A.S.C.

Fred Gately claims that he was "born with a camera in my hands." That may be stretching matters a trifle, but the fact remains, Fred Gately has been active in the world of cinematography since 1929 and has compiled an enviable record of achievement in television as one of Hollywood's foremost directors of photography.

Commencing in mid-May, Gately will return to MGM studios fer another eight-month stint as director of Photography for the highly-rated TV series, "Medical Center." His second season on the show continues a career which has been virtually uninterrupted since he arrived in Hollywood back in 1946.

That was when he photographed a feature film titled "Harpoon", starring John Bromfield. Subsequently, he was cinematographer on the Keenan Wynn movie, "Four Seasons".

His debut in television, then a new medium, came in 1951 when he shot the pilot film for the "Dragnet" series. Jack Webb retained him as the regular director of photography for the show during its initial season. The following year, he photographed the pilot - and then the weekly shows - for "Ozzie and Harriet".

"I'd have to say that the 'Dragnet' show was the key," he reminisces. "It led to a flock of TV assignments, one right after another."

Gately has worked at almost every studio in Hollywood, although he has never been under long-term contract. He prefers free-lancing. His list of TV credits is formidable. Beginning with "Dragnet" and "Ozzie and Harriet", it includes Lux Video Theatre, "Father Knows Best" (for three years) and "Hazel" (five years). He's also done the initial shows of such series as "Bewitched," "Jeannie" and "Farmer's Daughter".

He worked at 20th Century-Fox for five years, too, on "The Lancer" and "Nanny and the Professor" series. He also lensed The Rosemary Clooney Show, Cavalcade of America and did a late-50s stint at Walt Disney Studios on the "Annette" segment of the hugelysuccessful Mickey Mouse Club.

The Gately story, though, actually begins back in Chicago, where he took his first fulltime job for $30 a week at the now-defunct Vitaglo Studios.

"That was in 1929, and I had given up a summertime job at $100 a week doing portrait photography to take the assignment at Vitaglo," says Fred."'My parents thought I was nuts, but I just wanted to get into film camera work."

Gately recalls how he had frequent squabbles with Vitaglo's owner, a Mrs. Dunlap. She would fire him one day, hire him back the next. The squabbles notwithstanding, they actually respected each other highly. At Vitaglo, Gately produced and photographed his first film, titled "Man In The Making", for the University of Chicago.

"At Vitaglo, I was camera operator and assistant as well as cameraman, and I learned much of my craft there during four years."

Later, he worked at the Chicago Film Laboratories. "That was very important, too," he notes. "I received a very good backgrounding in lab work, and it has stood me in good stead ever since."

The man who played the greatest influence in Gately's early career, though, was a Major Spoor of the old Essenay Film Company.

"I always remember how I stood in awe of the first Bell and Howell film camera I'd seen," says Fred. "It had a hand crank, a 120-degree shutter and a small postage stamp-sized viewfinder that was upside down. …

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