Thanet Writers Spotlight Tudor Gates

Rebecca Delphine highlights the life, works and legacy of author and screenwriter Tudor Gates, and spotlights his connection to Thanet.

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Tudor Gates was born on the 2nd January 1930 and raised in Hoxton, in the East End of London. As a teenager he began his career behind the theatre curtain and soon became a touring stage manager, only ever writing plays as a hobby. However, at the age of 24, one of the plays he wrote in his spare time, The Guv’nor, was noticed for its talent and a year later was produced for television, starring Michael Hordern and Coral Browne. Due to The Guv’nor’s success, Tudor abandoned his backstage career and chose to put all his time into writing. Tudor soon received television commissions to supply scripts for high profile dramas such as The Avengers, The Saint and The Sweeney.

As well as writing for television, Tudor also became a recognised writer of novels and gained success with Black Joy, which was later made into a drama for television.

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In 1968 Tudor was one of a handful of screenwriters who contributed to the cult sci-fi fantasy film Barbarella starring Jane Fonda. Two years later he wrote The Vampire Lovers for Hammer Films, which had a cast led by Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing and Kate O’Mara, and is largely remembered for its controversial lesbian love scenes. The following year saw the sequel, Lust for a Vampire, which contained similar scenes and, although the film’s director, Jimmy Slaughter, was dismissive of the script and quoted as calling the film “an embarrassment,” the film was a box office success.

Throughout the 70s Tudor continued to write for the film industry, earning a cult following in the horror genre. He contributed to the writing of a variety of films such as Twins of Evil, Eskimo, Fright, Lovebox, Intimate Games and The Optimists of Nine Elms, giving him the financial freedom to do what he enjoyed the most; writing plays for the theatre. In 1974 Tudor had his first stage success with a whodunit called Who Saw Him Die?, which had the widely known actor Stratford Johns as its star. The play toured Glasgow and Edinburgh before having a lengthy run in London.

It was also during the 70s that Tudor became much more active in Kent, becoming the owner of several Kent newspapers, leading me to believe he likely moved to his home in Birchington during this time, though an exact date I could not find on public record.

With the world of theatre at his heart, Tudor had close links with the local amateur theatre. While president of his local amateur theatre group in Kent, he wrote and directed The Dream of Geronimous Bosch, a production that won the British Drama League Award. He was also commissioned by BT to write Ladies Who Lunch for their amateur BT Biennial, which was given 50 simultaneous first nights across the UK and America.

As well as a career within the film industry and theatre, by the 80s Tudor had developed a great interest in politics, standing twice for Parliament as a Liberal candidate, firstly in Bethnal Green, and later in Thanet.

A very busy and dedicated man, he acted as a go-to consultant on many films. He became president of the Association of Cinema and Television Technicians and also vice president of the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinema and Theatre Union. He was the former chair of the National Film Development Fund and the Joint Board for Film Industry Training.

In his later life Gates suffered from heart disease, but managed to maintain his active involvement in union affairs and his local amateur theatre group in Kent, as well as writing and producing for the stage right up until his final year of life.

On the 11th January 2007 Tudor Gates died in his beloved home in Birchington, Thanet, and is survived by two daughters.

Film enthusiasts remember Tudor as a significant figure who chalked up an admirable list of credits in a period when the British film industry came close to competing with Hollywood.

“The world of theatre, TV and film has lost one of its most prolific and multi-talented servants who loved his profession as much as so many of its members loved him.”

Charles Vance, actor, publisher, editor and friend

In 2017, the current owner of Tudor Gates’ Birchington home, while tidying the attic, found several books and three scripts belonging to the writer, including The Optimist of Nine Elms. Inside the books were his handwritten drafts of spy novels and political notes. She kindly donated all that she found to the Birchington Heritage Trust.

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Rebecca Delphine is a Young Adult author from Thanet.

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