Initially interested in becoming a medical missionary, but unable to afford the university fees due to the Depression, he worked in Sydney before 1938, when he became a writer and broadcaster for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, collaborating with George Ivan Smith on Youth Speaks. For the remainder of the 1930s, he worked primarily in radio drama. He also published theatrical and literary criticism and enjoyed brief success as an author of short stories, publishing works in both Australia and the United States. During World War II, Pate served in the Australian Army in the South West Pacific Area. He was transferred to the 1st Australian Army Amenities Entertainment Unit, known as “The Islanders”, entertaining Australian troops in various combat areas. After the war, Pate returned to radio, appearing in many plays and serials. Between 1946 and 1950 he began breaking into films. In 1949 he appeared in his first leading role in Sons of Matthew. In 1950, he appeared in Bitter Springs with Tommy Trinder and Chips Rafferty. Also in 1950, Pate adapted, produced, and directed two plays — Dark of the Moon and Bonaventure. Later that year he travelled to the U.S. to appear in a film adaptation of Bonaventure for Universal Pictures, which was released in 1951 as Thunder on the Hill, starring Claudette Colbert and Ann Blyth. Pate spent most of the 1950s in the U.S., appearing in over 300 television shows and many films. Most notable among these was a 1954 Climax! live production of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, in which Pate played the role of “Clarence Leiter”, opposite Barry Nelson’s “Jimmy Bond”. On the big screen, he played the one-scene role of Flavius in Julius Caesar, the 1953 film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play. In the same year he first played a Native American in Australian director John Farrow’s western Hondo playing opposite John Wayne; he later said that this was his favourite film role. Pate went on to play many Native American roles. In 1956 he appeared in the film The Court Jester. Pate also played the lead role of a gunfighting vampire in the 1959 horror film Curse of the Undead. Michael Pate also played parts in the 1957 television series Zorro along with Guy Williams in episodes 27 and 28. Michael Pate played the role of Puma, the Comanche chief in Andrew V. McLaglen’s western McLintock! in 1963 playing opposite John Wayne again.
During his time in the U.S., Pate became an acting instructor and lecturer, and wrote many screenplays and plays for the major American networks, including Rawhide (“Incident of the Power and the Plow” with Dick Van Patten) and Most Dangerous Man Alive (“The Steel Monster”). In 1959, he returned briefly to Australia, where he starred in the TV program The Shell Hour. He returned to the U.S. for another eight years, during which he enjoyed a successful career as a television character actor, appearing repeatedly on such programs as Gunsmoke, Sugarfoot, The Texan, The Rifleman, Branded (“Call to Glory”), Daniel Boone, The Virginian, Perry Mason (“The Case of the Skeleton’s Closet” and “The Case of the Wednesday Woman”), Batman (episodes 45 and 46), Mission: Impossible (“Trek”), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (“The Foreign Legion Affair”), Get Smart, Rawhide in “Incident of the Power and the Plow”, “Incident at Superstition Prairie” and “Incident of the Boomerang”, among others, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Wagon Train. In the 1963 movie PT 109, he played the part of Arthur Reginald Evans, the Australian coast watcher who helped rescue John F. Kennedy and his crew, one of the few times that Pate played an Australian while based in the United States. In 1966, he played Frenchy Godey, a scout with Kit Carson and the John C. Fremont (Dick Simmons) expedition in the episode “Samaritans, Mountain Style” of the syndicated series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Robert Taylor. In the story line, Carson (Phillip Pine) and Gody stop to help a settler in dire straits.
In an earlier Death Valley Days episode, “The Measure of a Man” (1963), Pate was cast as the notorious bandit Augustine Chacon. In the story line, Rory Calhoun as Arizona Ranger Burt Mossman captures Chacon with the reluctant aid of another outlaw, Burt Alvord (Bing Russell), who has been promised a lenient sentence if he will surrender. Mossman handcuffs Chacon and orders Alvord to throw the key into the bushes. Soon Alvord is returned for the hanging which he had avoided some four years earlier. In another 1963 Death Valley Days episode entitled “The Peacemaker”, Pate played the Navajo Chief Hastele. In the story line, Mormon pioneer Jacob Hamblin (David Brian) works feverishly to hold the peace treaty with the Navajo after a white man kills some Indians who come onto his property. In 1968, Pate returned to Australia and became a television producer, winning two Logie Awards while working at the Seven Network. In 1970, he published a textbook on acting, The Film Actor. From 1971 to 1975 he starred as Detective Senior Sergeant Vic Maddern in Matlock Police. After leaving Matlock Police, Pate began working more behind the camera, as well as continuing to work in theatre in both Sydney and Melbourne. In 1977 he wrote and produced The Mango Tree, starring his son Christopher Pate. In 1979 he adapted the screenplay for Tim from the novel by Colleen McCullough, as well as producing and directing the film, which starred Piper Laurie and Mel Gibson. Pate won the Best Screenplay Award from the Australian Writers Guild for his adaptation.
His later film appearances included Mad Dog Morgan (1976), Duet for Four (1982), The Wild Duck (1984), Death of a Soldier (1986) and Howling III (1987). Pate also appeared as the U.S. President in The Return of Captain Invincible (1982), in which he sings “What the World Needs”, a song calling for the return of Captain Invincible to save the world. During the early 1980s Pate and his son Christopher collaborated in a stage production of Mass Appeal. This was a success, and closed with a season at the Sydney Opera House. Although Pate retired from acting in 2001 he remained busy with voiceover work, and was writing a screenplay at the time of his death. He died on 1 September 2008 at Gosford Hospital, of complications due to pneumonia.
- February, 26, 1920
- Drummoyne, New South Wales
- September, 01, 2008
- Gosford, New South Wales
Cause of Death
- complications from pneumonia