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Peter R. Gardiner Obituary

Some sad news to pass along today. Peter R. Gardiner, retired film studio executive and son of the late British-born film and television actor Reginald Gardiner, has died.

A memorial service is planned for March 20, 2011 in Santa Monica, details of which can be found at “Peter Gardiner Memorial” on Facebook.

Contact: PeterGardinerMemorial@yahoo.com


Unedited obituary follows:

Peter R. Gardiner, 1949 – 2011

Peter Gardiner, film studio executive best known for wit and business savvy, dies at 61

LOS ANGELES — Peter R. Gardiner, retired film studio executive and son of the late British-born film and television actor Reginald Gardiner, has died.

Gardiner died of a heart attack at his Santa Fe, N.M., home on Jan. 13. He was 61.

Gardiner held executive positions in post-production and technical services at Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures.

He began his career in the early 1970s, working as an intern at the Academy Awards, where caught the attention of Paramount executives. Gardiner subsequently landed a job as an assistant under Paul Haggar, the studio’s Executive Vice President of Post-Production for Feature Films.

“It was tough getting started with Peter because he knew nothing about the industry,” Haggar said. “But he was a bright fellow and figured it out pretty quickly. He and I worked together very well, and he became a good friend of mine over the years.”

Gardiner rose to Manager of Post-Production at Paramount before accepting a position as Assistant Director of Corporate Film Video Services at Warner Bros. in 1979.

Working under Bill Sullivan, WB’s Vice President of Corporate Film Video Services, Gardiner helped guide the studio’s technical efforts in the early days of home video.

“Peter was a smart guy, rarely out of sync with me,” Sullivan said. “He just found a way to get the job done, even if not through the most conventional methods, but he produced results, and that’s what mattered.”

A textbook example of Gardiner’s uncanny ability to get the job done happened in the summer of 1982, when he fielded an urgent phone call from a Technicolor Laboratories senior executive who advised, unofficially, that a union shutdown of the film lab was imminent.

Technicolor had just taken delivery of the original camera negative of Clint Eastwood’s “Honkytonk Man,” WB’s upcoming marquee Christmas release. Because of the incalculable value and importance of the original negative, Gardiner understood that it could not remain on the lab’s premises, where it would be inaccessible for post-production for an unknown duration if the lockout occurred.

And he was also keenly aware of the unfavorable consequences Warner Bros. and Eastwood could suffer if the studio were seen removing the negative on the eve of a union action.

Late that night under the cover of darkness, Gardiner procured an unmarked van belonging to the studio’s Security Department and, with two of his most trusted staff members in tow, arranged to meet the Technicolor executive by some railroad tracks in a desolate part of Burbank. The boxes of original negative were carefully transferred into the van, and Gardiner drove them onto the studio lot for safekeeping.

The following day, the union action was cancelled, and the boxes of negative mysteriously found their way back into Technicolor’s vault.

In 1996, Gardiner exited Warner Bros. and went on to a consulting career, including a stint as a visual and sound consultant at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.

Peter Robert Gardiner was born on April 25, 1949, in Santa Monica, Calif., the son of William Reginald Gardiner and Nadia Petrova Gardiner.

Reginald Gardiner, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in Britain, made his film debut in 1926 in Alfred Hitchcock’s silent film “The Lodger.” He later moved the family to Hollywood, where he was cast in numerous roles, frequently as a British butler.

Peter Gardiner attended Beverly Hills High School. He had a passion for audio technology, cars, sailing and fine dining, and could always be counted on to be the life of the party.

In 1988, he married Christina Palastanga, the daughter of German actress, singer and writer Hildegard Knef.

After the deaths of his mother and his mother-in-law, Gardiner and his wife moved from Los Angeles to Santa Fe in 2005. The couple divorced in 2009.

Gardiner is survived by his former wife, Christina Palastanga. A memorial service is planned for March 20 in Santa Monica, details of which can be found at “Peter Gardiner Memorial” on Facebook.

Contact: PeterGardinerMemorial@yahoo.com

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