Cullen ‘Hezi’ Tate, Assistant-Director Supreme! A Passel of Unremembered Work!

Cullen Tate

Cullen Tate

Cullen ‘Hezi or Hessie’ Tate (assistant-director) may not be easy to distinguish from the tens of thousands of film making personnel that have had the privilege to work in the movie industry, but to Hollywood in the silent and early-talking eras he was highly recognizable. A shock of red hair, a man of humor, and an a highly opinionated assistant-director; while some in authority want a ‘yes-man’ Tate fit perfectly with Cecil B. DeMille, who wanted anything but an obsequious AD. Tate makes for one of the most interesting résumés in Hollywood history. As we look back upon the career of Cullen Tate there are a good number of non-listed credits as well as listed (whether named-uncredited or credited). Tate made a career of being the assistant-director or the second-unit-director; most of his work in sound films went uncredited. Two films catch the eye as outstanding; he worked (as assistant-director) with Cecil B. DeMille on The Ten Commandments, 1923, and The Man in the Iron Mask, 1939 as the second-unit-director, with James Whale.

In addition to the thirty or more movies as ‘AD’ or ‘SUD,’ Tate also directed four films: Try and Get It, and Cheap Kisses, both released in 1924, The Carnival Girl, 1926 and his co-directing in My Heart Belongs to Daddy, 1942, went uncredited. And I do not want to neglect mentioning that Tate was a favorite of DeMille, assisting the master on both silent and sound projects. His specialty was properties, scouting for location shoots;[1] often, Tate handled mob or large crowd scenes for DeMille and other directors.[2]

A perfect example of Tate’s normal duties was when for Manslaughter, 1922, he visited the women’s prison in Auburn, New York, and the Manhattan Detention Complex; while there Tate shot footage, gathered details on apparel, and other prison paraphernalia.[3] During his stay in New York he sat in on an actual manslaughter trial, from beginning to end; he obtained copies of the official documents, from the indictment to the commitment to prison.[4]

There are projects that Tate not only goes uncredited for, but some films are not listed in his work-history, the type which we see commonly (IMDB is a primary source for all of us cinephiles) on the internet. Here is the roll of Tate’s overlooked films that I have complied thus far: Joan the Woman, 1916, A Romance of the Redwoods, 1917, The Woman God Forgot, 1917,[5] What Happened to Jones, 1920,[6] The Affairs of Anatol, 1921,[7] Adam’s Rib, 1923,[8] The Dark Angel, 1925,[9]  The Barker, 1928,[10] His Captive Woman, 1929,[11] The Crusades, 1935,[12] Virginia, 1942 (second-unit-director),[13] Tate again in each of these films was the assistant-director unless otherwise noted.

Tate miscellany: He sat in the director’s chair (at least as co-director) for The Follies Girl, 1924, AKA The Chorus Lady, starring Margaret Livingstone, but it was Ralph Ince that received the credit.[14] Tate was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Assistant Director, for Cleopatra, 1934. ‘Hezi’ Tate was the first person to fill the new industry position of short-wave-tech, for Captains Courageous, 1937.[15]


 A few more tasty Tate titles:

The Locked Door, 1929 (George Fitzmaurice, director)

Mata Hari, 1931 (again with George Fitzmaurice in the director’s chair, but on this production Tate was not credited )

Rasputin and the Empress, 1932 (working on the only film in which John, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore would appear together in; unfortunately Tate received no attribution)

Dinner at Eight, 1933 (this was an uncredited project for Hazi Tate; directed by George Cukor)

Test Pilot, 1938, (another uncredited piece of work for Tate; Victor Fleming directing) 


Cullen 'Hezi' Tate

Cullen ‘Hezi’ or ‘Hessie’ Tate (with just a little more ‘wear and tear’)


Cullen Tate the-little-american-1917

Tate working with Cecil B. DeMille (uncredited)



Cullen Tate The_Valley_of_the_Giants_1919_Poster

Hezi Tate filled the role of assistant-director, with James Cruze directing, with whom he would work alongside on Terror Island, 1920)


Cullen Tate LilacTime 1928

Tate found another turn as AD, this with George Fitzmaurice anointed as director (Frank Lloyd worked as director without credit)


By C. S. Williams



[1] Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual, 1918

[2] Picture-Play Magazine, December, 1923

[3] Exhibitors Herald, May 6, 1922

[4] The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.) May 16, 1922

[5] Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual, 1918

[6] The Galveston Daily News, (Galveston, Texas) November 30, 1920

[7] Exhibitors Herald, February 26, 1921

[8] The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana) January 7, 1923

[9] Photoplay Magazine, October, 1925

[10] The Film Spectator, July 7, 1928

[11] Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) October 25, 1933

[12] Motion Picture Daily, May 3, 1935

[13] Screenland, December, 1941

[14] Exhibitors Trade Review, September 6, 1924

Photoplay Magazine, November, 1924

The Indianapolis Star, December 7, 1924

[15] The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota) July 17, 1937


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s