The Arrangement


2h 7m 1969
The Arrangement

Brief Synopsis

A car crash causes a rich man to reconsider the life he leads.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 18 Nov 1969
Production Company
Athena Enterprises; Warner Bros.--Seven Arts Productions
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, USA; Long Island, New York, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Arrangement by Elia Kazan (New York, 1967).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 7m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Leaving behind his luxurious Los Angeles estate, successful advertising executive Eddie Anderson (a second-generation immigrant) on his way to his agency is triggered into a suicide attempt by the noise and rush of the Los Angeles freeway: he folds his arms and smiles maniacally as his imported sports car rams into a truck. He is not killed, but convalescing at home he refuses to speak except to inform his boss, Finnegan, that he will not return. He daydreams about his stormy relationship with Gwen, a voluptuous research assistant at the agency who has fascinated him by her sneering disdain of his tyrannical success as the idea-man at the agency (selling "clean" Zephyr cigarettes). Psychiatrist Dr. Leibman, engaged to treat him, is told briefly of his history by Eddie's wife, Florence, who knows about Gwen and reveals that Eddie's interest in sex ended when he broke off the affair. That night a horrendous nightmare brings Eddie out of his self-imposed silence, and as he tells Florence of his loathing for his life of perpetual "arrangements," she tries to listen sympathetically, hoping to spur his self-confidence, but periodically lapses into a bitter riposte because of his adultery. She persuades him to return to work, but cries herself bitterly to sleep when they cannot make love or achieve any satisfaction from their new understanding. Eddie's return is dramatic, but he insults an important client, upsets a number of office applecarts, and departs in a small plane with which he crazily buzzes the city. His lawyer, Arthur, prevents his arrest and induces Eddie to give Florence his power of attorney before he departs for New York to visit his ailing, senile father, Sam. In New York he finds Gwen, who has had a child whose father she will not name; she is now living platonically with Charles, an admirer. When Eddie's brother Michael, sister-in-law Gloria, and Florence arrive and threaten the hospitalized old man with institutionalization, Eddie "kidnaps" and takes him to their old family estate on Long Island, where he induces Gwen to come and resume their affair. They are in bed--Eddie pleading with Gwen to marry him and she furiously recounting with great detail all of the affairs she has had since they parted--when Gloria and Florence burst in. They manage to get old Sam into an ambulance, and Eddie is once again reassured and seduced into accepting "arrangements" by Arthur, Florence, and his daughter, Ellen. Gwen soon leaves with Charles, and after Eddie and Florence have another violent confrontation, he goes to Gwen only to be shot by Charles. He then angrily sets the house on fire and is himself sent to a mental hospital. Gwen induces him to leave the institution and escorts him to his father's funeral. He stares vacantly at the grave, surrounded by wife, mistress, lawyer, and family.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 18 Nov 1969
Production Company
Athena Enterprises; Warner Bros.--Seven Arts Productions
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, USA; Long Island, New York, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Arrangement by Elia Kazan (New York, 1967).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 7m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

The Arrangement (1969)


The Arrangement (1969) is first and foremost a vanity project, for director Elia Kazan, who wrote the novel the film is based on, which in turn was based to some degree or another on his own pampered life in Beverly Hills, his own male-menopause breakdown, and his own specific feelings about then-contemporary pop culture. This is no small thing to consider. Imagine if you had a nervous breakdown - would you fictionalize it as a novel and then make a Hollywood movie about it yourself, starring Kirk Douglas as you?

Probably not, but the true measure of autobiography in The Arrangement is actually unknown; we know from Kazan's memoir A Life that Kazan actually only fantasized about being liberated by an actual nervous collapse; that the "villain" of the piece, the overbearing wife played by Deborah Kerr, is in no way based on Kazan's first wife (who died in 1963) but rather on LA wives he'd met; that Kazan was a committed adulterer quite familiar with the life-upsetting intoxications of illicit relationships. In any case, no American director from the middle century was as interested in and eloquent about nervous breakdowns and emotional collapse, a narrative track that appears in at least six of his most prominent films. So then the strange and monolithic nature of this movie cannot be laid at the door of plain old Tinseltown narcissism, except that it absolutely can - the film positively pulses with it.

Structured as though Douglas's tortured hero is some kind of ubermensch around whom the rest of pathetic humanity swarms, The Arrangement is more than anything a testament to its maker's rampaging solipsism, most likely the same self-focus that spurred Kazan to name names to the HUAC hearings in 1952, an act that for many defined the man's ethos forever. Even odder, then, that Kirk Douglas would take this plainly Kazanesque role, after helping bust the McCarthy-era blacklist by buying the rights to blacklistee Howard Fast's novel Spartacus and then secretly hiring blacklistee Dalton Trumbo to write the script in 1959. If not exactly forgiving, Hollywood has always known how to forget unpleasant realities when a promising project beckons, and by the late '60s Douglas was an aging star with few other substantial projects coming his way.

In any case, Kazan's film is in many ways a symptom of its day - and of old-school Hollywood culture's awkward assimilation into the new media environment of Easy Rider (1969), Woodstock, Vietnam, Bob Dylan and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. The Arrangement is in every square inch a bulldozing, crass, fulminating monster of a movie, embracing garish Los Angeles materialism even as its hero, Eddie Anderson (Douglas), practically goes insane in reaction to its emptiness. It's a film about the rejection of modern culture that wallows in it at every turn. It is, helplessly, a searing portrait of LA.

Anderson is a moneyed advertising executive who cannot, in the film's absurd first minutes, escape his own idiotic cigarette ad, contrived as a run-around the then-recent Surgeon General's edict about lung cancer. He shows small signs of cracking, and soon impulsively crashes his car under a tractor trailer driving to work. From there the real storms start, as everybody in Anderson's life, from Kerr's narrow-minded wife to a phalanx of therapists, lawyers, bosses and relatives, tries to get him back in the box he was in, and from which they all benefitted. The two predominate crises emerge, once Anderson resumes speaking: his heedless attachment to a gorgeous but also self-centered ex-girlfriend (Faye Dunaway), and his conflicted loathing for his hospitalized Greek-immigrant father (Richard Boone, who was actually a year younger than Douglas).

To express this ordinary human calamity - and The Arrangement may be the first of many American films about male menopause, if you're not counting William Wyler's Dodsworth (1936) - Kazan employs everything and the kitchen sink, including mixing flashbacks into the present, jump cuts, associative montage, even bits of surrealism, all of it stirred into a widescreen modishness that may have been less an intentional style (it doesn't look like any other Kazan film) than simply an attempt to accommodate changing times. You see this in the filmographies of many directors that gained eminence during the '40s and '50s and then tried with big-budgets and borrowed design ideas to blend into the new landscape - Otto Preminger and Joseph A. Mankiewicz pop to mind. The fake hipness is both depressing and eloquent about that discomfiting passage in American culture, when suddenly everyone over 30 (including Kazan and his protagonist) found themselves increasingly irrelevant and out of touch with the world.

Certainly, Kazan's deftness had always thrived in tales of city life, immigrant conflict and proletariat tribulation, not on the sun-blasted highways of LA and the overdecorated manor houses of Beverly Hills. But the unbridled, narcissistic neediness that saturates The Arrangement might represent Kazan's most self-revealing cinematic moment, his instant of nakedness as an artist and as an Industry survivor. The aging cast - all except Dunaway's petulant minx, whose barbed and suspicious manner represents the movie's only non-Anderson-focused point of view - is similarly revealed. Douglas, largely thanks to his extraordinary face and capacity for enraged intensity, always played larger than life characters, but here, he's close to how he was apparently in real life - an affable, boyish, sometimes silly man, with no more inclinations toward godliness than Bob Hope. Kerr might be the film's saddest note, however, thoroughly passing into a fussy English matron stage, and yet trapped inside a controlling Hollywood socialite character writhing in sexual dissatisfaction. We've seen this lust-vs.-propriety tension in her before, in Black Narcissus (1947) and particularly in The Innocents (1961), but more than that, it reveals Kerr, as an actress always restricted by her own inherent and inescapable British prudence. Perhaps excepting her youthfully sexy place in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), Kerr always worried, and seemed to disapprove of everything around her, particularly anything impulsive and chaotic like sex, and that disapproval itself always seemed to haunt her, as though her characters could never understand why they couldn't enjoy life as others did.

Her personality was too tightly wound - which makes her anxious adulteress in From Here to Eternity (1953) a truly memorable character, and her possibly deranged governess in The Innocents a heart-stopping study in repression. Did she ever realize this about herself? (Maybe not: the same year as The Arrangement, she let herself be pressured into a 48-year-old nude scene, in John Frankenheimer's The Gypsy Moths). For Kerr, being cast as Kazan's most hated kind of Hollywood housewife may have been an inevitable revelation, a moment when the character's urgent, fearful whine became her own.

By Michael Atkinson
The Arrangement (1969)

The Arrangement (1969)

The Arrangement (1969) is first and foremost a vanity project, for director Elia Kazan, who wrote the novel the film is based on, which in turn was based to some degree or another on his own pampered life in Beverly Hills, his own male-menopause breakdown, and his own specific feelings about then-contemporary pop culture. This is no small thing to consider. Imagine if you had a nervous breakdown - would you fictionalize it as a novel and then make a Hollywood movie about it yourself, starring Kirk Douglas as you? Probably not, but the true measure of autobiography in The Arrangement is actually unknown; we know from Kazan's memoir A Life that Kazan actually only fantasized about being liberated by an actual nervous collapse; that the "villain" of the piece, the overbearing wife played by Deborah Kerr, is in no way based on Kazan's first wife (who died in 1963) but rather on LA wives he'd met; that Kazan was a committed adulterer quite familiar with the life-upsetting intoxications of illicit relationships. In any case, no American director from the middle century was as interested in and eloquent about nervous breakdowns and emotional collapse, a narrative track that appears in at least six of his most prominent films. So then the strange and monolithic nature of this movie cannot be laid at the door of plain old Tinseltown narcissism, except that it absolutely can - the film positively pulses with it. Structured as though Douglas's tortured hero is some kind of ubermensch around whom the rest of pathetic humanity swarms, The Arrangement is more than anything a testament to its maker's rampaging solipsism, most likely the same self-focus that spurred Kazan to name names to the HUAC hearings in 1952, an act that for many defined the man's ethos forever. Even odder, then, that Kirk Douglas would take this plainly Kazanesque role, after helping bust the McCarthy-era blacklist by buying the rights to blacklistee Howard Fast's novel Spartacus and then secretly hiring blacklistee Dalton Trumbo to write the script in 1959. If not exactly forgiving, Hollywood has always known how to forget unpleasant realities when a promising project beckons, and by the late '60s Douglas was an aging star with few other substantial projects coming his way. In any case, Kazan's film is in many ways a symptom of its day - and of old-school Hollywood culture's awkward assimilation into the new media environment of Easy Rider (1969), Woodstock, Vietnam, Bob Dylan and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. The Arrangement is in every square inch a bulldozing, crass, fulminating monster of a movie, embracing garish Los Angeles materialism even as its hero, Eddie Anderson (Douglas), practically goes insane in reaction to its emptiness. It's a film about the rejection of modern culture that wallows in it at every turn. It is, helplessly, a searing portrait of LA. Anderson is a moneyed advertising executive who cannot, in the film's absurd first minutes, escape his own idiotic cigarette ad, contrived as a run-around the then-recent Surgeon General's edict about lung cancer. He shows small signs of cracking, and soon impulsively crashes his car under a tractor trailer driving to work. From there the real storms start, as everybody in Anderson's life, from Kerr's narrow-minded wife to a phalanx of therapists, lawyers, bosses and relatives, tries to get him back in the box he was in, and from which they all benefitted. The two predominate crises emerge, once Anderson resumes speaking: his heedless attachment to a gorgeous but also self-centered ex-girlfriend (Faye Dunaway), and his conflicted loathing for his hospitalized Greek-immigrant father (Richard Boone, who was actually a year younger than Douglas). To express this ordinary human calamity - and The Arrangement may be the first of many American films about male menopause, if you're not counting William Wyler's Dodsworth (1936) - Kazan employs everything and the kitchen sink, including mixing flashbacks into the present, jump cuts, associative montage, even bits of surrealism, all of it stirred into a widescreen modishness that may have been less an intentional style (it doesn't look like any other Kazan film) than simply an attempt to accommodate changing times. You see this in the filmographies of many directors that gained eminence during the '40s and '50s and then tried with big-budgets and borrowed design ideas to blend into the new landscape - Otto Preminger and Joseph A. Mankiewicz pop to mind. The fake hipness is both depressing and eloquent about that discomfiting passage in American culture, when suddenly everyone over 30 (including Kazan and his protagonist) found themselves increasingly irrelevant and out of touch with the world. Certainly, Kazan's deftness had always thrived in tales of city life, immigrant conflict and proletariat tribulation, not on the sun-blasted highways of LA and the overdecorated manor houses of Beverly Hills. But the unbridled, narcissistic neediness that saturates The Arrangement might represent Kazan's most self-revealing cinematic moment, his instant of nakedness as an artist and as an Industry survivor. The aging cast - all except Dunaway's petulant minx, whose barbed and suspicious manner represents the movie's only non-Anderson-focused point of view - is similarly revealed. Douglas, largely thanks to his extraordinary face and capacity for enraged intensity, always played larger than life characters, but here, he's close to how he was apparently in real life - an affable, boyish, sometimes silly man, with no more inclinations toward godliness than Bob Hope. Kerr might be the film's saddest note, however, thoroughly passing into a fussy English matron stage, and yet trapped inside a controlling Hollywood socialite character writhing in sexual dissatisfaction. We've seen this lust-vs.-propriety tension in her before, in Black Narcissus (1947) and particularly in The Innocents (1961), but more than that, it reveals Kerr, as an actress always restricted by her own inherent and inescapable British prudence. Perhaps excepting her youthfully sexy place in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), Kerr always worried, and seemed to disapprove of everything around her, particularly anything impulsive and chaotic like sex, and that disapproval itself always seemed to haunt her, as though her characters could never understand why they couldn't enjoy life as others did. Her personality was too tightly wound - which makes her anxious adulteress in From Here to Eternity (1953) a truly memorable character, and her possibly deranged governess in The Innocents a heart-stopping study in repression. Did she ever realize this about herself? (Maybe not: the same year as The Arrangement, she let herself be pressured into a 48-year-old nude scene, in John Frankenheimer's The Gypsy Moths). For Kerr, being cast as Kazan's most hated kind of Hollywood housewife may have been an inevitable revelation, a moment when the character's urgent, fearful whine became her own. By Michael Atkinson

The Arrangement - Kirk Douglas in Elia Kazan's THE ARRANGEMENT on DVD


The promotional artwork for Elia Kazan's 1969 drama The Arrangement warned, "If your wife insists you see it together, be careful." It was a clever come-on for a hard-to-sell property, but the fact of it is, if your wife (or anyone else) wanted to see this immensely sad picture it most likely was not because they were cheating on you or assumed you were cheating on them, but rather a sign they were experiencing a mid-life crisis and could use some loving support, a friendly shoulder to cry on, perhaps some professional psychiatric assistance.

Adapted by Kazan from his own novel, the film tracks the total psychological breakdown of advertising executive Eddie Anderson (Kirk Douglas). In the hands of comic author David Nobbs and actor Leonard Rossiter, this material fueled a classic 1970s Britcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin; here the tale of a man so disenchanted with the "good life" he seeks release in extramarital sex, attempted suicide, and "dropping out" altogether is played not for laughs but an anguished nod of understanding: I hear you brother, things are tough all over.

Casting Kirk Douglas in such a role was a stroke of brilliance. He of the chiseled good lucks and uber-manliness exudes so much self-confidence that to see him weak, doubtful, and lost is shattering. The very beginning of the film establishes the empty nature of his marriage to Florence (Deborah Kerr). They share a house and a name but nothing else. He drives off to work, haunted on the radio by the ubiquitous ads he concocted for Zephyr cigarettes, a promotional campaign that sits just barely this side of outright lying. Eddie realizes his life is no more honest than Zephyr's PR. Even his name is a fake, one more cloak thrown over a life's worth of choices he rejects.

One stunning and well-staged suicide attempt later, and the film cracks apart just as his own psyche does: splintered into hallucinations, flashbacks, dream sequences, fantasies, half-remembered fragments, and even a Batman inspired "fight scene" stitched together in a stream-of-consciousness montage. "I don't know what one thing has to do with another," says Eddie, apologizing for the seeming-randomness of his tale, but it is our job as his audience, his judge, to find those relationships and make sense of a senseless life.

The one thing holding him together is his secret passion for Gwen, played by Faye Dunaway. Kazan comes awfully close to insulting Dunaway in the vintage making-of short presented as a bonus on the DVD, at the least damning her with faint praise, yet her credible and nuanced performance is the keystone of the film. Gwen is ostensibly just a secretary and sex-toy for the office, but in truth she is the firm's strongest and most professional asset. Eddie's affair with her teaches him a vital lesson, that there is often a sizable gulf between what something is and what it appears to be.

That lesson is thrown into stark relief by the appearance of Eddie's ailing father, Sam Arness, played by the craggle-faced character actor Richard Boone. Sam is an old-world Greek merchant, an emotionally withdrawn papa, and a paranoid con artist to boot. For Eddie to come to grips with his complicated, unhappy relationship with his father further reveals how the bonds of love can tie the wrong people together for the wrong reasons, or connect families that have no business being families in the first place.

The Arrangement hails from one of America's most celebrated film artists at the leading edge of Hollywood's Golden Age of Arthouse Experimentation. At the end of the 1960s and through the first half or so of the 1970s, the once dominant Hollywood studios fell into operational disarray, and handed over unprecedented artistic freedom to filmmakers to make daring, uncompromising films aimed at sophisticated audiences. Eventually, the one-two punch of Jaws and Star Wars reminded Hollywood's moguls of the benefits of making mindless pulp aimed at popcorn-munching crowds, and the likes of The Arrangement were relegated to the moldy shelves of history, but at least DVD can salvage these lost gems for contemporary audiences mostly starved of such fare on theater screens.

The presentation has a sumptuous look, shot in the epic vistas of Panavision and the vividly colorful hues of Technicolor, a look modern eyes associate more with lavish MGM musicals than somber psychodramas. This thing is as lushly appointed as an actor-driven character study is ever going to get-one more example of what an anachronism The Arrangement is in today's movie culture.

Fans of TV's Desperate Housewives will find much of this film surprisingly familiar, as it covers a lot of the same terrain. The language regarding "turning off" and "dropping out" may ring a little dated to today's ears, but the underlying essence of the story is timeless. For more information about The Arrangement, visit Warner Video To order The Arrangement, go to TCM Shopping.

by David Kalat

The Arrangement - Kirk Douglas in Elia Kazan's THE ARRANGEMENT on DVD

The promotional artwork for Elia Kazan's 1969 drama The Arrangement warned, "If your wife insists you see it together, be careful." It was a clever come-on for a hard-to-sell property, but the fact of it is, if your wife (or anyone else) wanted to see this immensely sad picture it most likely was not because they were cheating on you or assumed you were cheating on them, but rather a sign they were experiencing a mid-life crisis and could use some loving support, a friendly shoulder to cry on, perhaps some professional psychiatric assistance. Adapted by Kazan from his own novel, the film tracks the total psychological breakdown of advertising executive Eddie Anderson (Kirk Douglas). In the hands of comic author David Nobbs and actor Leonard Rossiter, this material fueled a classic 1970s Britcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin; here the tale of a man so disenchanted with the "good life" he seeks release in extramarital sex, attempted suicide, and "dropping out" altogether is played not for laughs but an anguished nod of understanding: I hear you brother, things are tough all over. Casting Kirk Douglas in such a role was a stroke of brilliance. He of the chiseled good lucks and uber-manliness exudes so much self-confidence that to see him weak, doubtful, and lost is shattering. The very beginning of the film establishes the empty nature of his marriage to Florence (Deborah Kerr). They share a house and a name but nothing else. He drives off to work, haunted on the radio by the ubiquitous ads he concocted for Zephyr cigarettes, a promotional campaign that sits just barely this side of outright lying. Eddie realizes his life is no more honest than Zephyr's PR. Even his name is a fake, one more cloak thrown over a life's worth of choices he rejects. One stunning and well-staged suicide attempt later, and the film cracks apart just as his own psyche does: splintered into hallucinations, flashbacks, dream sequences, fantasies, half-remembered fragments, and even a Batman inspired "fight scene" stitched together in a stream-of-consciousness montage. "I don't know what one thing has to do with another," says Eddie, apologizing for the seeming-randomness of his tale, but it is our job as his audience, his judge, to find those relationships and make sense of a senseless life. The one thing holding him together is his secret passion for Gwen, played by Faye Dunaway. Kazan comes awfully close to insulting Dunaway in the vintage making-of short presented as a bonus on the DVD, at the least damning her with faint praise, yet her credible and nuanced performance is the keystone of the film. Gwen is ostensibly just a secretary and sex-toy for the office, but in truth she is the firm's strongest and most professional asset. Eddie's affair with her teaches him a vital lesson, that there is often a sizable gulf between what something is and what it appears to be. That lesson is thrown into stark relief by the appearance of Eddie's ailing father, Sam Arness, played by the craggle-faced character actor Richard Boone. Sam is an old-world Greek merchant, an emotionally withdrawn papa, and a paranoid con artist to boot. For Eddie to come to grips with his complicated, unhappy relationship with his father further reveals how the bonds of love can tie the wrong people together for the wrong reasons, or connect families that have no business being families in the first place. The Arrangement hails from one of America's most celebrated film artists at the leading edge of Hollywood's Golden Age of Arthouse Experimentation. At the end of the 1960s and through the first half or so of the 1970s, the once dominant Hollywood studios fell into operational disarray, and handed over unprecedented artistic freedom to filmmakers to make daring, uncompromising films aimed at sophisticated audiences. Eventually, the one-two punch of Jaws and Star Wars reminded Hollywood's moguls of the benefits of making mindless pulp aimed at popcorn-munching crowds, and the likes of The Arrangement were relegated to the moldy shelves of history, but at least DVD can salvage these lost gems for contemporary audiences mostly starved of such fare on theater screens. The presentation has a sumptuous look, shot in the epic vistas of Panavision and the vividly colorful hues of Technicolor, a look modern eyes associate more with lavish MGM musicals than somber psychodramas. This thing is as lushly appointed as an actor-driven character study is ever going to get-one more example of what an anachronism The Arrangement is in today's movie culture. Fans of TV's Desperate Housewives will find much of this film surprisingly familiar, as it covers a lot of the same terrain. The language regarding "turning off" and "dropping out" may ring a little dated to today's ears, but the underlying essence of the story is timeless. For more information about The Arrangement, visit Warner Video To order The Arrangement, go to TCM Shopping. by David Kalat

ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003


Elia Kazan, one of the modern greats of American film and stage, and whose tremendous artistry in both mediums were overshadowed by his testimony to HUAC during the '50s, died on September 28 of natural causes at his home in New York City. He was 94.

Kazan was born Elias Kazanjoglou in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) on September 7, 1909. In 1913, he immigrated with his parents to New York City, where his father sold rugs for a living. At age 17, Kazan enrolled in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. After graduation, he went to Yale University's School of Drama, where he studied musical theater and began acting and directing plays.

In 1932, Kazan joined New York's socialist minded Group Theatre as an actor and assistant manager. At the time, the Group Theatre was the epicenter for radical thought and activity in the arts. Kazan befriended such notable theater personalities as Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, Stella Adler and Clifford Odets. Kazan even joined the Communist party for two years (1934-36), before resigning because of his disillusionment with its leadership.

After his stint in New York, Kazan went to Hollywood, where he found work as an actor in two Warner Brothers films: City for Conquest (1940) and Blues in the Night (1941). He made his Broadway debut in 1942, directing Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth with Tallulah Bankhead; Fredric March and Montgomery Clift. It was a huge hit. After that success, it was back to Hollywood, this time as a director for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Kazan's directorial film debut was the poignant A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on Betty Smith's bestseller about tenement life. From the beginning, Kazan proved his talent for enticing natural performances from his actors; James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner both won deserved Oscars for their work in this film.

1947 would prove to be a breakthrough year for Kazan. He notched two huge hits on Broadway: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's All My Sons; co-founded the Actors Studio with Lee Strasburg, a leading proponent of "Method" acting that is still widely practiced today; and two potent treatise on anti-Semitism Boomerang and Gentleman's Agreement, the latter earning Kazan his first Oscar. Kazan's next few films were not among his best, but they were well crafted and interesting: Pinky (1949), the story of a light-skinned black woman who passes for white (hampered by Jeanne Crain in the lead); and Panic in the Streets (1950), a taut thriller about efforts to contain a burgeoning epidemic which was shot entirely on the streets of New Orleans.

It wasn't until he brought Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to the big screen that Kazan had a major impact on American cinema. Featuring an explosive Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski, the films' raw sensuality brought a stark and galvanizing realism to cinema that simply hadn't happened before. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) not only earned Kazan another Oscar nod for Best Director, but it made a star out of Brando and earned best acting honors for the rest of the cast: Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter.

It was around this time that Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). On April 10, 1952, he informed on former associates from the Group Theater, including Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, John Garfield, and Lee and Paula Strasberg. Despite formal protests from many acquaintances from his past, including Odets and Arthur Miller, Kazan remained unapologetic to the end for his actions, and he would remain questioned by social critics for the remainder of his life.

Kazan continued his association with Brando in Viva Zapata! (1952), and then in the powerful On the Waterfront (1954), which took eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a second Best Director Oscar for Kazan. Budd Schulberg's incisive drama about the corruption of longshoremen's unions was the perfect subject matter for Kazan's ever trenchant approach to social consciousness and cinematic naturalism.

Kazan's next effort, based on John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955) featured James Dean in his first major role. Kazan's continued ability to draw such raw, vulnerable performances out of his actors (as exemplified by Dean) drew critical praise from all quarters, and the film still stands today as one of the most searing looks of a family in conflict.

After East of Eden, Kazan would never quite scale the artistic heights of his previous movies, yet he still came up with some first-rate cinema: the steamy, boldly suggestive Baby Doll (1956), with a thumb sucking Carol Baker as a provocative child bride; an early, superior look at populist demagoguery A Face in the Crowd (1957) with Andy Griffith giving the performance of his career as a corrupt media darling; the moving coming-of-age drama Splendor in the Grass (1961) starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty; the evocative America, America (1963), based on the experiences of Kazan's own uncle's immigration experience; and his final film The Last Tycoon (1976) an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, which starred Robert De Niro.

Kazan was in retirement for several years, but he made a notorious return to the limelight when in 1999, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decided to give Kazan an honorary Oscar® for lifetime achievement. It was a decision met with vocal protests from aging blacklisted artists as well as younger activists. At the time of the presentation, several audience members would not stand up as a form of protest. Still, Kazan attended the ceremonies, thanked friends and family, avoided political discussion, and went home, a most dignified handling of a very controversial moment. Besides his widow, Frances Rudge, Kazan is survived by his sons, Leo, Marco, and Nicholas, a screenwriter who was nominated for an Oscar for Reversal of Fortune (1990); daughters Judy and Katharine; and several grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003

Elia Kazan, one of the modern greats of American film and stage, and whose tremendous artistry in both mediums were overshadowed by his testimony to HUAC during the '50s, died on September 28 of natural causes at his home in New York City. He was 94. Kazan was born Elias Kazanjoglou in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) on September 7, 1909. In 1913, he immigrated with his parents to New York City, where his father sold rugs for a living. At age 17, Kazan enrolled in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. After graduation, he went to Yale University's School of Drama, where he studied musical theater and began acting and directing plays. In 1932, Kazan joined New York's socialist minded Group Theatre as an actor and assistant manager. At the time, the Group Theatre was the epicenter for radical thought and activity in the arts. Kazan befriended such notable theater personalities as Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, Stella Adler and Clifford Odets. Kazan even joined the Communist party for two years (1934-36), before resigning because of his disillusionment with its leadership. After his stint in New York, Kazan went to Hollywood, where he found work as an actor in two Warner Brothers films: City for Conquest (1940) and Blues in the Night (1941). He made his Broadway debut in 1942, directing Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth with Tallulah Bankhead; Fredric March and Montgomery Clift. It was a huge hit. After that success, it was back to Hollywood, this time as a director for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Kazan's directorial film debut was the poignant A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on Betty Smith's bestseller about tenement life. From the beginning, Kazan proved his talent for enticing natural performances from his actors; James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner both won deserved Oscars for their work in this film. 1947 would prove to be a breakthrough year for Kazan. He notched two huge hits on Broadway: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's All My Sons; co-founded the Actors Studio with Lee Strasburg, a leading proponent of "Method" acting that is still widely practiced today; and two potent treatise on anti-Semitism Boomerang and Gentleman's Agreement, the latter earning Kazan his first Oscar. Kazan's next few films were not among his best, but they were well crafted and interesting: Pinky (1949), the story of a light-skinned black woman who passes for white (hampered by Jeanne Crain in the lead); and Panic in the Streets (1950), a taut thriller about efforts to contain a burgeoning epidemic which was shot entirely on the streets of New Orleans. It wasn't until he brought Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to the big screen that Kazan had a major impact on American cinema. Featuring an explosive Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski, the films' raw sensuality brought a stark and galvanizing realism to cinema that simply hadn't happened before. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) not only earned Kazan another Oscar nod for Best Director, but it made a star out of Brando and earned best acting honors for the rest of the cast: Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter. It was around this time that Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). On April 10, 1952, he informed on former associates from the Group Theater, including Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, John Garfield, and Lee and Paula Strasberg. Despite formal protests from many acquaintances from his past, including Odets and Arthur Miller, Kazan remained unapologetic to the end for his actions, and he would remain questioned by social critics for the remainder of his life. Kazan continued his association with Brando in Viva Zapata! (1952), and then in the powerful On the Waterfront (1954), which took eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a second Best Director Oscar for Kazan. Budd Schulberg's incisive drama about the corruption of longshoremen's unions was the perfect subject matter for Kazan's ever trenchant approach to social consciousness and cinematic naturalism. Kazan's next effort, based on John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955) featured James Dean in his first major role. Kazan's continued ability to draw such raw, vulnerable performances out of his actors (as exemplified by Dean) drew critical praise from all quarters, and the film still stands today as one of the most searing looks of a family in conflict. After East of Eden, Kazan would never quite scale the artistic heights of his previous movies, yet he still came up with some first-rate cinema: the steamy, boldly suggestive Baby Doll (1956), with a thumb sucking Carol Baker as a provocative child bride; an early, superior look at populist demagoguery A Face in the Crowd (1957) with Andy Griffith giving the performance of his career as a corrupt media darling; the moving coming-of-age drama Splendor in the Grass (1961) starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty; the evocative America, America (1963), based on the experiences of Kazan's own uncle's immigration experience; and his final film The Last Tycoon (1976) an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, which starred Robert De Niro. Kazan was in retirement for several years, but he made a notorious return to the limelight when in 1999, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decided to give Kazan an honorary Oscar® for lifetime achievement. It was a decision met with vocal protests from aging blacklisted artists as well as younger activists. At the time of the presentation, several audience members would not stand up as a form of protest. Still, Kazan attended the ceremonies, thanked friends and family, avoided political discussion, and went home, a most dignified handling of a very controversial moment. Besides his widow, Frances Rudge, Kazan is survived by his sons, Leo, Marco, and Nicholas, a screenwriter who was nominated for an Oscar for Reversal of Fortune (1990); daughters Judy and Katharine; and several grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

OK, yes, I know, I'm nothing, I never was, but you! You could have been...
- Gwen
What? What?!
- Eddie Anderson
...What you could have been. ...What happened to you, Eddie? Must kill you to think what you might have been.
- Gwen

Trivia

Notes

Filmed mainly on location in New York City and Long Island.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1996

Released in United States December 1, 1969

Released in United States Fall November 1969

Re-released in United States on Video July 6, 1994

Re-released in United States on Video July 6, 1994

Released in United States Fall November 1969

Released in United States December 1, 1969 (New York City)

Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Kazan" November 22 - December 26, 1996.)