Gene S. Cantamessa dies at 80

Sound mixer earned Oscar for 'E.T.'

Sound mixer Gene S. Cantamessa, who earned an Oscar for his work on “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” as well as six other nominations, died in Los Angeles on Nov. 8 after a long hospitalization. He was 80.

In addition to “E.T.” (he shared his Oscar with Robert Knudson, Robert Glass and Don Digirolamo), Cantamessa shared best-sound nominations for Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “1941”; Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein”; “The Candidate,” starring Robert Redford; “2010”; and, in 1987, “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.”

Born in Queens, Cantamessa began his career sweeping floors at Ryder sound services in 1955. He later moved to 20th Century Fox, where he worked as a boom operator on TV series “Peyton Place” and “Daniel Boone,” which eventually led to work on films such as “The Sand Pebbles” and “Star.”

He became a sound mixer in 1971 and worked steadily for the next three decades, amassing credits on more than 100 films including “Blazing Saddles,” “The Bad News Bears,” “Same Time, Next Year,” “The Big Chill,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Postcards From the Edge,” “Kindergarten Cop” and “The Birdcage.” He earned his last credit on the 1999 Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer “End of Days.”

Cantamessa was awarded the Cinema Audio Society’s lifetime achievement award in 1999.

He was a member of IATSE local 695 for 56 years, serving on the executive board for three decades, and a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences since 1983.

Cantamessa is survived by his wife, Sandy; a son, Steve Cantamessa, also a sound mixer, and Gina Mitchell, who also works in the industry; and two grandsons.

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