Peter Gimbel
Peter R. Gimbel

(1927-02-14)February 14, 1927
DiedJuly 12, 1987(1987-07-12) (aged 60)
Parent(s)Alva Bernheimer Gimbel
Bernard Gimbel
FamilyAdam Gimbel (great-grandfather)

Peter R. Gimbel (February 14, 1927 – July 12, 1987) was an American filmmaker and underwater photojournalist.


Born in New York City, he was the son of Alva (née Bernheimer) and Bernard Feustman Gimbel and heir to the Gimbels department store chain.[1][2][3] His great grandfather was Adam Gimbel.[4] He had two sisters, Hope Gimbel Solinger and Caral Gimbel Lebworth;[2][3] and one brother, David Alva Gimbel.[5] After serving in the United States Army occupation force in Japan in 1946–1947, he graduated from Yale University in 1951, earning degrees in both English and economics.[6] He spent ten years as an investment banker but after the death of his twin brother at age 29, he left banking to pursue a career in exploration. He parachuted into the Peruvian Andes with G. Brooks Baekeland (grandson of Leo Baekeland, the inventor of Bakelite) and Peter Lake in search of the lost Inca city of Vilcabamba.[7]

He was the first to dive the wreck of the SS Andrea Doria and his photos of the ship were published in Life magazine in August 1956.[6][8] He produced two documentaries about the ship The Mystery of the Andrea Doria and Andrea Doria: The Final Chapter.[2] He opened the safe of the Andrea Doria on live television in 1984.

Gimbel also directed and produced the 1971 film Blue Water, White Death which was the first cinematic filming of great white shark, featuring Ron Taylor and Valerie Taylor, Rodney Fox, Stan Waterman and Peter Lake.[9][10] The shark's attack on Lake's cage at the end of the film inspired Peter Benchley's book, Jaws.[11]

Personal life

Gimbel married three times.[12] His first wife was socialite Mary Bailey[12] with whom he had two children, Peter Bailey Gimbel and Leslie Gimbel Goldman[12][13] (Bailey remarried to director Sidney Lumet).[14] His second wife was model Virginia Taylor.[12][15] In 1978, he married actress Elga Andersen.[12]


Peter Gimbel succumbed to cancer on July 12, 1987, at the age of 60.[16]


  1. ^ "Gimbel's Grail", Time Magazine, September 14, 1981
  2. ^ a b c McQuiston, John T. (July 13, 1987). "Peter R Gimbel is Dead at 59; A Film Maker and Journalist". New York Times.
  3. ^ a b "Alva Gimbel Is Dead; Active Philanthropist". New York Times. May 1, 1983.
  4. ^ Smith, Scott S. (November 27, 2013). "Bernard Gimbel, A Force Behind Thanksgiving Parade". Investor's Business Daily.
  5. ^ "David Alva Gimbel Dies of Cancer at 29; Son of Store Head Was Investment Aide". New York Times. July 8, 1957.
  6. ^ a b Credo Reference Topic: "Peter Robin Gimbel"
  7. ^ Peter R. Gimbel, "By Parachute Into Peru", National Geographic Magazine, August 1964
  8. ^ Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, Book review of Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark by Peter Matthiessen, New York Times, April 23, 1971
  9. ^ IMDb: "Blue Water, White Death"
  10. ^ IMDb: "Peter Lake"
  11. ^ Thom Benson, "Famous Shark Cage To Be Unveiled At Aquarium Sunday" Archived 2011-12-23 at the Wayback Machine,, July 21, 2008
  12. ^ a b c d e Diliberto, Gioia (November 2, 1981). "What Will Adventurers Peter Gimbel and Elga Andersen Dive into Next? Movies!". People.
  13. ^ "Claudia V. Mohr Engaged to Bailey Gimbel". The New York Times. 1981-05-24. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-02-13.
  14. ^ "Claudia V. Mohr Engaged to Bailey Gimbel". New York Times. May 24, 1981.
  15. ^ "Peter Gimbel to Wed Mrs. Virginia Taylor". New York Times. 24 May 1960.
  16. ^ "Peter Gimbel Dead at 59". Associated Press News.