Elia Kazan: A Biography

By Richard Schickel

Few figures in movie and theater historical past tower like Elia Kazan. Born in 1909 to Greek mom and dad in Istanbul, Turkey, he arrived in the United States with incomparable imaginative and prescient and force, and by way of the Nineteen Fifties he used to be an important and influential director within the state, concurrently dominating either theater and picture. His productions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman reshaped the values of the level. His movies -- such a lot particularly On the Waterfront -- introduced a brand new realism and a brand new depth of functionality to the films. Kazan's profession spanned occasions of huge switch in his followed kingdom, and his paintings affiliated him with lots of America's nice inventive moments and figures, from manhattan City's workforce Theatre of the Thirties to the rebellious vanguard of Nineteen Fifties Hollywood; from Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy to Marlon Brando and James Dean.

Ebullient and secretive, daring and self-doubting, loved but reviled for "naming names" prior to the home Un-American actions Committee, Kazan used to be someone as complicated and engaging as any he directed. He has lengthy deserved a biography as intelligent and sympathetic as this one.

In the electrifying Elia Kazan, famous movie historian and critic Richard Schickel illuminates even more than a unmarried fabulous existence and life's paintings: He can pay discerning tribute to the ability of theater and movie, and casts a brand new mild on six an important a long time of yank history.

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Not anything a lot got here of Wanger’s scheme. Castles within the Air was once by no means made, although Wanger did, the subsequent yr, make his Spanish battle photograph. Blockade was once written via John Howard Lawson, and starred Carroll contrary Henry Fonda in a movie the Catholic-controlled motion picture censors insisted now not brazenly determine which aspect within the warfare the celebs have been helping. that's why Odets and Milestone dropped out of the venture, which used to be directed by way of William Dieterle. a few of the different workforce avid gamers obtained jobs in different movies. and a few of them discovered to chill and luxuriate in their short season within the solar. Kazan did neither. He recorded an anecdote during which one in all Wanger’s assistants attempted to get him to alter his identify, to “Cezanne,” Kazan mentioned that it was once already taken, because it have been, by way of an immortal painter. by no means brain, got here the answer; after a number of photos not anyone will take note the opposite man. The incident was once emblematic of Hollywood to him. the simplest factor approximately his remain used to be the friendship he struck up with Milestone, dwelling off the recognition of All Quiet at the Western entrance, and deeply revered in Hollywood leftist, highbrow circles. Kazan begun operating for him as an unpaid assistant, once more utilising his typing abilities, absorbing, alongside the way in which, important wisdom approximately developing screenplays. He additionally chanced on himself, a bit to his shock, lacking the gang Theatre and caring approximately Harold Clurman. The director was once having fun with his Hollywood prosperity, dressing neatly, consuming within the larger eating places, placing on weight. yet in Kazan’s view he used to be drifting, rudderless, in Wanger’s wake. He had a task consulting to the manufacturer, yet his tasks—like educating a gaggle of versions how one can stroll gracefully in entrance of the cameras—were degrading, in Kazan’s opinion. Clurman used to be a guy of the theater or he was once not anything. And Kazan suggestion he was once in critical hazard of changing into the latter. the following strong success intervened. Odets had given up at the Silent associate, and Hollywood had, for the instant, given up on him. He used to be doing some script doctoring and toying with an concept for a brand new play, which he known as Golden Gloves. It used to be a couple of prizefighter who's additionally a violinist and needs to choose from the 2 careers. He confirmed an easy define of it to Clurman and different workforce associates, they usually all started humming approximately it. In his autobiography Kazan makes a similar clever element approximately Odets that he later made approximately Marlon Brando; either males have been like nice automobiles with defective starters. They wanted others to jump-start their vehicles. Golden Gloves, even in tough shape, was once a ballsy piece—like Odets’s prior paintings in that it portrayed the boxer’s immigrant kinfolk (they have been Italians this time) in hot, but contentious phrases, yet in contrast to the former performs in that it was once no longer limited to a lounge. no less than part the motion happens in gyms, in struggle enviornment dressing rooms, in a boxing manager’s place of work, and it used to be replete with colourful or even legal characters. It had the type of transparent, hard-hitting melodramatic parts Odets’s past works had lacked.

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