skip navigation
Overview for Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan


TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (7)

Recent DVDs

TCM Greatest... Hollywood's incredibly versatile, quintessential tough guy spent most of his... more info $14.96was $19.98 Buy Now

Also Known As: Elia Kazanjoglou Died: September 28, 2003
Born: September 7, 1909 Cause of Death: natural causes
Birth Place: Turkey Profession: Director ... director producer actor screenwriter author stage manager waiter bartender


o people could get in this business. But I never hear from him. I sent him a script a year ago. He sent it back through an agent."

As much as "On the Waterfront" lionized Brando as one of the greatest screen actors of his generation, Kazanâ¿¿s superb adaptation of John Steinbeckâ¿¿s "East of Eden" (1955) made an instant icon of the similarly gifted James Dean, who was riveting as an angry youth desperate to attain the love denied to him by his father. However, the incredible critical plaudits for "East of Eden" were followed by loud condemnation from conservative elements when Kazanâ¿¿s "Baby Doll" hit screens the following year. The directorâ¿¿s adaptation of Tennessee Williamsâ¿¿ salacious play "27 Wagons Full of Cotton" (about the rivalry between a cotton gin owner and a Sicilian competitor for the affections of the formerâ¿¿s sexy, virginal wife, who still sucks her thumb and sleeps in a babyâ¿¿s crib) pushed the Hays Code movie censorship rules to their breaking point and the picture was vehemently condemned by The Catholic Legion of Decency. While distributor Warner Bros. capitalized on some of the heat that was generated, "Baby Doll" proved to be too much of a hot potato for many theater owners and the film did not receive the wide exposure one would have expected of a project that had attracted such notoriety.

Still timely decades after its release, "A Face in the Crowd" (1957) found Kazan successfully returning to the role of social commentator, presenting a scathing look at the power of the young medium of television in the transformation of a seemingly country-wise, but actually highly-ambitious and hateful rube (Andy Griffith) into a powerful influence on the world of politics. "Wild River" (1960) offered a fictional return to a subject the director previously explored with "The People of the Cumberland," telling of a Tennessee Valley Authority representative (Montgomery Clift) charged with kicking people off their land so that the river system can be re-directed. Working with a leading man plagued by personal problems that further impacted his performance, Kazan still fashioned a compelling drama, highlighted by Jo Van Fleetâ¿¿s turn as a stubborn, elderly local who refuses to capitulate to government demands. The following yearâ¿¿s "Splendor in the Grass" heralded another Kazan find in Warren Beatty, who made an immense impression opposite Natalie Wood in a sometimes melodramatic, but ultimately affecting look at unrequited love and a struggle between father and son that shared echoes of the similar conflict at the heart of "East of Eden."

Having already achieved great success in the theater and cinema, Kazan explored new frontiers with his first novel, 1962â¿¿s semi-autobiographical America, America, based largely on the life of his uncle. He adapted the book for film the following year, intending it to be the first chapter in a trilogy that unfortunately never materialized. In spite of this and the great hardships he endured making it, Kazan considered "America, America" to be the favorite of his movies. With more film work not immediately in the offing, he concentrated his energies on the Lincoln Center, directing such plays as Arthur Millerâ¿¿s "After the Fall" and S.N. Berhmanâ¿¿s "But for Whom Charlie." He returned to the literary world with 1967â¿¿s The Arrangement which told of a successful advertising man struggling to find true happiness. A huge success, the subsequent paperback edition received a first printing of 2.4 million copies, a record at the time. Kazan would direct a 1969 film adaptation, toplined by Kirk Douglas and Faye Dunaway. Negative critical reaction to the novel did nothing to stem its popularity, but the brickbats afforded the film version did hurt its chances and the movie was not among Kazanâ¿¿s better remembered titles. Based on a novel that author F. Scott Fitzgerald had only partially completed prior to his death, "The Last Tycoon" (1976) was a fictionalized look at the life of Irving Thalberg, the young wunderkind studio head at MGM during the 1920s and '30s. Supervised by legendary producer Sam Spiegel, the film featured a number of attributes, including some impeccable production design and costuming, but ended up a commercial disappointment, in spite of a powerhouse cast, including Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson and Robert Mitchum.

His days as a member of the Hollywood community were now behind him, but Kazan continued to write novels and enjoyed much status as a director emeritus, with his greatest works being the object of considerable study. He also penned his autobiography, Elia Kazan: A Life in 1988 and was celebrated by esteemed film critic Richard Schickel twice over, first by the documentary "Elia Kazan, a Directorâ¿¿s Journey" (1995) and later with Schickelâ¿¿s 2005 publication Elia Kazan: A Biography. In the spring of 1999, it was announced that Kazan would receive a lifetime achievement award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Inevitably, the directorâ¿¿s cooperation with HCUA became an issue and a few hundred picketers both in support of and against Kazan marched in advance of the ceremony. Kazanâ¿¿s appearance onstage was introduced by Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese. The 89-year-old filmmaker expressed his thanks for the Academyâ¿¿s "courage and generosity," though some members of the audience refused to acknowledge these sentiments with applause, sitting firmly in their seats during the standing ovation. It would be his last hurrah, as Kazan passed away on Sept. 28, 2003 at the age of 94, leaving behind a daunting and still controversial legacy as a master director of stage and screen, a successful novelist, a leading proponent of an acting style that helped revolutionize the depiction of emotion on stage and in cinema, and a man who stood by personal principles that shaped both his own craft and the way the world viewed him.n made a decision in the spring of 1952 that would negatively color many peopleâ¿¿s perception of him until the end of his life. As a result of his membership in the American Communist Party from 1934 to 1936, Kazan was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and eventually agreed to act as a "friendly witness," providing the names of several individuals â¿¿ including playwright Clifford Odets, actor John Garfield, and Lee Strasberg, an instructor at The Actorâ¿¿s Studio â¿¿ who were also members of the Group Theater during that time. Although the people in question were already familiar to the committee, Kazan also made his case in the press and that zealous championing of his beliefs set him apart from most others who cooperated with HCUA . Liberal members of the industry quietly condemned Kazanâ¿¿s actions, feeling that he could easily have continued his career with Broadway productions had he been blacklisted in Hollywood instead of throwing his coworkers under the proverbial bus.

Shouldering on, Kazan continued his string of successes, reteaming with Brando on "Viva Zapata" (1952) with the hot young star vividly interpreting famous revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in a mostly fictionalized screenplay by novelist John Steinbeck. Kazan and Brando worked together again on the powerful Union corruption drama "On the Waterfront" (1954), which earned the director his second Academy Award and further plaudits for Brandoâ¿¿s singular talents via his superb turn as a punch-drunk ex-boxer who develops a conscience and fights back against his thuggish employers. Brando had spoken out against Kazanâ¿¿s testimony and said that he would no longer work with him, but the actor reconsidered his stance for this picture. However, "On the Waterfront" â¿¿which many interpreted as being in thematic support of Kazanâ¿¿s decision to name names â¿¿ proved to be their final collaboration and one of many prices Kazan had to play. In a 1957 interview for The American Weekly, the director solemnly reported "I guess Marlon and I were as close as tw

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute