As a historian, biographer and documentary maker, Cate Haste, who died of lung cancer at the age of 75, has explored remarkable lives and the way people interact, both historically and personally.
For the 24-episode Jeremy Isaacs Cold War (1998) series for BBC Two / CNN, covering the period 1945 to 1991, she directed five episodes. They recounted how fear was mobilized in both Western and Eastern Europe, life behind the Iron Curtain, how the Berlin Wall was built and in 1989 how it fell. The filming took her to the United States, where President George HW Bush was instrumental, and to Prague, to tell how Prague’s spring thaw in the Soviet bloc was crushed by the invasion of tanks in 1968, with Václav Havel.
Central Europe also served as the backdrop for his eighth and final book, Passionate Spirit: The Life of Alma Mahler (2019). Cate wanted to go beyond the image of “femme fatale” of Alma, married to the composer Gustav Mahler, the architect Walter Gropius and the writer Franz Werfel, and had lovers including artist Oskar Kokoschka. Alma’s artistic intelligence had been essential in attracting their love, but she was also a gifted composer whose musical ability was frustrated.
It was a gargantuan task, in part because Alma was already the subject of several books and because large parts of his journals had been published – in German. Cate would be the first book written for English readers, but with the advantage of having access to unpublished journals. Her own knowledge of German was limited, but she persevered with the help of an occasional translator and sometimes myself.
Alma became a part of Cate’s life: she could talk and speculate endlessly about Alma, and she researched more thoroughly than ever. She learned to love him, even though she worried about Alma’s perceived anti-Semitism. There was no way to deny that Alma had made anti-Semitic remarks. But Cate became convinced that she was only reproducing the opinions she had inherited from her family: the fact of her marriage to Gustav Mahler and some of her subsequent connections suggested that what she had said in this regard was superficial. .
Sexual freedom in Britain was an area Cate explored in six documentaries, Just Sex (1985), for Channel 4, with the independent group of female directors she helped create, 51% Productions. Her book Rules of Desire (1992) deals with the history of sex after the First World War. He traced the revolution of the 1960s to the first attacks on traditional beliefs about sexuality by innovators such as Sigmund Freud, the Webbs, Marie Stopes and George Bernard Shaw. Meticulously researched, like all of Cate’s work, he explored change in sexual desire, HIV / AIDS, the pill, same-sex relationships, and the law.
Cate was not tempted to update Rules of Desire in light of more recent views on sexuality and gender. She also had no general conclusions to share publicly about her often demanding marriage to broadcaster and writer Melvyn Bragg, which lasted from 1973 until their divorce in 2018. They went their amicable separation and stayed behind. in constant contact.
Intimate aspects of the story’s vast tale appeared in his Channel 4 film Hitler’s Brides and his book Nazi Women: Hitler’s Seduction of a Nation (both in 2001). Keen to explore the lives and fates of women in different social situations, Cate set out to analyze, explain, and illustrate how Hitler succeeded in luring German women into the bizarre moral universe of the Third Reich by bringing them to life. wooing so that they become carriers of the next purified. generation. She posed a challenge: did the women become voluntary collaborators or were they victims?
Born in Leeds, Cate (Catherine) was the daughter of Margaret (née Hodge), a technical college lecturer, and Eric Haste, a civil engineer. When she was four, the family emigrated to Australia, returning there seven years later, in 1956. From Thornbury High School, Bristol, Cate attended the University of Sussex, where in 1966 she graduated from English. She then obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Adult Education at the University of Manchester.
Her entry into television came from working as a researcher and associate producer on The Day Before Yesterday (1969-70), a six-part series about Britain from 1945 to 1959 produced by Phillip Whitehead for Thames. According to Isaacs, he set standards for subsequent historical documentary on television.
After working on programs such as Man Alive, the BBC’s groundbreaking series on social and political issues, Cate was able to direct his first series, The Secret War (BBC, 1977), on the scientific and technical aspects of the second. world War.
His first book, Keep the Home Fires Burning (also in 1977), explored British propaganda on the home front during World War I. Films produced and directed for Brook Associates and Channel 4 included The Writing on the Wall (1986), continuing the thread of British political history, now through the 1970s, over six episodes; Drink: Under the Influence (1990), on alcohol consumption problems; Secret Story: Death of a Democrat (1992), presenting new evidence of the death of Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk in 1948 as communism took hold in Eastern Europe; and the second of three parts of The Churchills (1995), on Winston Churchill’s return to government after the desert years of the 1930s.
The Goldfish Bowl (2004), a book co-authored with Cherie Booth, then a resident of 10 Downing Street as Tony Blair’s wife, examined the role of the Prime Minister’s wife since the 1950s. Booth presented the related Channel 4 film Cate produced and directed, Married to the Prime Minister (2005), which included interviews with Mary Wilson, Denis Thatcher and Norma Major.
A collaboration with a former occupant of Downing Street came through the publication of the book Clarissa Eden: A Memoir – Churchill to Eden (2007), an account of the life and times of Winston Churchill’s niece, married to Prime Minister. Anthony Eden. Cate kept in regular contact with Clarissa and they kept a strong attachment to each other.
A Passion for Painting (2010) detailed the work of the Cumbrian expressionist landscape artist Sheila has fallen, and Cate became an avid collector of her work. It was followed by Craigie Aitchison: A Life in Color (2014), on Scottish artist.
Cate and I first met while working on Cold War. I had been assigned to write one of the episodes and she was my producer. It became a strong friendship.
In 2018, on the 20th anniversary of the Cold War, Cate hosted a team reunion at his cabin in Turville, Chilterns. The convivial gathering, for which she cooked perfectly, reflected how popular and admired she was – generous, loyal and free-spirited, a star among women journalists and writers.
The paintings on the walls testified to his interest in contemporary British art. A favorite was the artist Julian Cooper, whose work was reminiscent of Cate’s great love for Cumbria, where she and Melvyn had owned a home.
She is survived by her children, Tom and Alice, her stepdaughter, Marie-Elsa, and her sisters Frances and Helen.