Lawrence Pitkethly, a prominent documentary producer and director, passed away at the age of 79 due to cardiopulmonary arrest associated with complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was best known for producing and co-directing the 10-part series “American Cinema,” a $7 million project that explored the history of American filmmaking through interviews with prominent figures in the industry such as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and George Lucas. Pitkethly also co-wrote and co-directed the 13-part series “Voices and Visions” on American poets, as well as several other documentaries on topics ranging from psychoanalysis to the WPA. He began his career as a writer and correspondent for the BBC in London before moving to the United States, where he taught film at Hampshire College and established the Film Department at the American University of Paris.
At the age of 79, Lawrence Pitkethly, a documentary producer and director whose work was broadcasted on PBS and other networks, passed away on February 24 at Albany Medical Center in Hudson, NY. His cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest, which was associated with complications arising from Parkinson’s disease.
One of Lawrence Pitkethly’s most well-known works is “American Cinema,” a 10-part series that he produced, co-wrote, and co-directed in 1995 for PBS, BBC, and Canal Plus. This $7 million production focused on various aspects of American filmmaking, including film genres, the rise and fall of the studio system, and the creation of stars. To explore these topics, Pitkethly interviewed notable figures such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino. The series was hosted by John Lithgow and narrated by Matthew Modine, Kathleen Turner, and Cliff Robertson.
In 1988, Lawrence Pitkethly co-wrote and co-directed “Voices and Visions,” a 13-part series that focused on American poets and profiled artists such as Hart Crane, T.S. Eliot, and Sylvia Plath. From 1979 to 1997, Pitkethly produced much of his work through the Center for Visual History, a documentary shop based in New York that created and distributed various programs. Some notable shows that were created through this organization include “Ezra Pound: American Odyssey” in 1985, as well as documentaries on the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and “The Talking Cure,” which examined psychoanalysis.
In the 1960s, Lawrence Pitkethly began his career in London, where he worked as a writer, on-camera correspondent, and presenter for the BBC from 1969 to 1974. Notably, Pitkethly reported from Belfast, his hometown, during the early stages of The Troubles, a violent 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland between Irish Republicans and Ulster Loyalists.
Lawrence Pitkethly relocated to the United States in 1975, where he taught film at Hampshire College in Massachusetts while writing and directing various documentaries. These include “The New South,” a series of four films for the BBC that analyzed the region’s significant impact on American society and politics.
In the 1990s, Pitkethly relocated to Paris, where he assisted in setting up the Film Department at the American University of Paris. During his time in France, he co-wrote, directed, and acted in “Belfast My Love,” a 90-minute documentary exploring the Northern Ireland Peace Accord, for ARTE and RTE. He went back to New York in 2015.
Surviving him are his daughter, Camille Pitkethly, and stepdaughter, Chloe Schulberg.