Gaither, Gant 1917-2004
GAITHER, Gant 1917-2004
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born August 1, 1917, in Hopkinsville, KY; died February 16, 2004, in Palm Springs, CA. Producer, artist, and author. Gaither was a former producer of Broadway plays who later became known as an artist of whimsical animal paintings. His college years in the 1930s included a year at the University of Mexico, an undergraduate degree from the University of the South in 1938, and a year studying at the School of Fine Arts at Yale. Enamored of theater life, he started his career as a set designer and worked as a publicist for a stock company in New Hampshire. His father, a surgeon, then had the Miami Beach theater built for his son, who worked as its manager from 1940 to 1943. During World War II, Gaither had an acting role and was assistant stage manager for the musical Winged Victory, and when the play was turned into a 1944 movie, he assisted with its production as well. After the war, Gaither moved to Broadway, where he produced a number of plays, all of which had only limited success. While producing his first play, Craig's Wife, however, he met Grace Kelly, who was then just beginning her acting career. They became great friends, and he attended her wedding to the Prince of Monaco. Later, in 1957, he cowrote her biography, Princess of Monaco: The Story of Grace Kelly. With his theater career going nowhere fast, Gaither next tried Hollywood, producing the 1963 film My Six Loves while working as an executive producer for Paramount Pictures from 1960 to 1964. Gaither finally decided it was time for a career change, and he turned his interest in art into a vocation that was much more successful than his work as a producer. With his gentle sense of humor and love of animals, he created what he called the "Zoophisticates," paintings that depict animals in ways that spoof human behavior. He found great success with this approach, which led to jobs as an artist and designer for a number of companies during the 1970s and 1980s, including Sheridan Umbrella Co., Lilli Ann Corp. Ladieswear, Bergquist Imports, Artex-Green Corp., Schreter Men's Neckwear, and Art Guild Greeting Cards. Gaither's paintings were displayed in international exhibits, and his illustrations appeared on merchandise such as designer scarves. Despite being occupied with his art, though, Gaither still harbored a love for theater, and he was a cofounder of the Grace Kelly Foundation, which awarded grants to young performers. In addition to his biography of Kelly, he was also the author of Sally Seal: The Unexpurgated Love Life of Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess of Cod-Sardinska (1964) and The Sleep-Ins and Outs (1964).