Venerable British director Peter Yates, architect of the modern movie vehicle chase and inventor of wet T-shirt erotica, passed away yesterday in London after a long illness. Although he trained as an actor and for many years worked as an assistant director to Tony Richardson on such classics as The Entertainer (1960), Yates was for a time in the 1950s a professional race car driver and conveyed an authentic vehicular rush to Bullitt (1968), starring Steve McQueen and his Mustang careening up and down the hills of San Francisco, and Breaking Away (1979), starring Dennis Christopher and his racing bike shooting through the streets of Bloomington, Indiana. The former is a definitive police procedurals; the latter a definitive coming-of-age seriocomedy. In the scuba-diving adventure The Deep (1977), Yates photographed luscious Jacqueline Bissett emrging from the water in a bikini bottom and tee, a sequence that launched a million centerfolds.
Yates' drama training made him a most sympathetic director of actors and he elicited terrific performances from Robert Mitchum as a gangster-informant in The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver as a janitor and newsanchor in Eyewitness (1981) and Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay as a stage actor and his valet in The Dresser (1983). Yates was the opposite of prolific, but his name was a guarantee of entertainment value and acting excellence. May he rest in peace.
Hands-down, my favorite Yates film is Breaking Away. Yours?