Elia Kazan (1909–2003)Director | Writer | Producer

Date of Birth 7 September 1909, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire [now Istanbul, Turkey]
Date of Death 28 September 2003, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA  (natural causes)
Birth Name Elias Kazancioglu
Nicknames Gadg
The Actor's Director
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Elia Kazan was a Greek-American director, producer, writer and actor. Noted for drawing out the best dramatic performances from his actors, he directed 21 actors to Oscar nominations, resulting in nine wins. He directed a string of successful films, including A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), On the Waterfront (1954), and East of Eden (1955). During his career, he won two Oscars as Best Director and received an Honorary Oscar, won three Tony Awards, and four Golden Globes.

His films were concerned with personal or social issues of special concern to him. Kazan writes, "I don't move unless I have some empathy with the basic theme." His first such "issue" film was Gentleman's Agreement (1947), with Gregory Peck, which dealt with anti-Semitism in America. It received 8 Oscar nominations and 3 wins, including Kazan's first for Best Director. It was followed by Pinky (1949), one of the first films in mainstream Hollywood to address racial prejudice against black people. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), an adaptation of the stage play which he had also directed, received 12 Oscar nominations, winning 4, and was Marlon Brando's breakthrough role. In 1954, he directed On the Waterfront (1954), a film about union corruption on the New York harbor waterfront. In 1955, he directed John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955), which introduced James Dean to movie audiences.

A turning point in Kazan's career came with his testimony as a witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952 at the time of the Hollywood blacklist, which brought him strong negative reactions from many liberal friends and colleagues. His testimony helped end the careers of former acting colleagues Morris Carnovsky and Art Smith, along with ending the work of playwright Clifford Odets. Kazan later justified his act by saying he took "only the more tolerable of two alternatives that were either way painful and wrong." Nearly a half-century later, his anti-Communist testimony continued to cause controversy. When Kazan was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1999, dozens of actors chose not to applaud as 250 demonstrators picketed the event.

Kazan influenced the films of the 1950s and '60s with his provocative, issue-driven subjects. Director Stanley Kubrick called him, "without question, the best director we have in America, and capable of performing miracles with the actors he uses."

Kazan died in September 28, 2003 at the age of 94.

In 2010, Martin Scorsese co-directed the documentary film A Letter to Elia (2010) as a personal tribute to Kazan.

Elia Kazan, known for his creative stage direction, was born "Elia Kazanjoglous" in Istanbul in 1909 to Greek parents. He directed such Broadway plays as "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". He directed the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and also films written for the screen. He was a proponent of the "method approach" to acting, developed by Konstantin Stanislavski. Kazan received two Academy Awards for Best Director -- for the films Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and On the Waterfront (1954). Kazan also wrote the scripts for films about Greek immigrants to the United States, such as America America (1963). These films were based on his novels. Kazan's autobiography, published in 1988, is "Elie Kazan: A Life".

Spouse (3)

Frances Rudge (26 June 1982 - 28 September 2003) (his death)
Barbara Loden (5 June 1967 - 5 September 1980) (her death) (1 child)
Molly Day Thatcher (5 December 1932 - 14 December 1963) (her death) (4 children)

Frequently cast Marlon Brando and Karl Malden

His selection for an Honorary Oscar angered many in the filmmaking community on account of his being among the first to cooperate with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1952, which led to the blacklisting that ruined many careers in Hollywood because of their political beliefs, and that Kazan had publicly stated that he had no regrets for that action. In response, there were loud protests against his selection for the award and some attendees of the awards ceremony, such as Nick Nolte and Ed Harris, stayed in their seats and refused to applaud when he received the award. However, others both stood and applauded Kazan, such as Warren Beatty, Meryl Streep, Helen Hunt, Karl Malden, Kurt Russell, and Kathy Baker. Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese presented the honorary Oscar to Kazan.
Was Francis Ford Coppola's first choice for the role of Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Was the 1958 recipient of the Connor Award given by the brothers of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity based at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. He was also an honorary brother of that fraternity.
Kennedy Center Honoree, 1983
Father of Nicholas Kazan.
Father-in-law of Robin Swicord.
Four children with Molly Kazan: Judy, Chris, Nick, and Katharine. Two children with Barbara Kazan: Leo and Marco.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945- 1985". Pages 503-510. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
In 1956, Kazan received his third Tony Award nomination for Best Director. This nomination was for his directing the play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".
In 1958, Kazan received his fourth Tony Award nomination for Best Director. He was also nominated that same year in the category of Best Play along with co-producer Arnold Saint Subber. Both nominations were for the play "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs".
In 1958, Kazan won his third Tony Award for Best Director -- for the play '''J.B.'''.
In 1960, Kazan he was nominated for his seventh Tony award. This was his last nomination, and it was for the play "Sweet Bird of Youth".
Directed 21 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: James Dunn, Celeste Holm, Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, Anne Revere, Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore, Ethel Waters, Karl Malden, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando, Anthony Quinn, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Jo Van Fleet, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Mildred Dunnock and Natalie Wood. Dunn, Holm, Malden, Leigh, Hunter, Quinn, Brando, Saint and Van Fleet all won Oscars for their performances in Kazan films.
Screenwriter Budd Schulberg, who won an Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954), told Fox News (1987) in October 2003 that he had seen Kazan in September, just before his death at age 94. He claimed that Kazan was still complaining that Darryl F. Zanuck of 20th Century-Fox had passed on making "Waterfront".
According to Kazan, his first name was pronounced "l-EE-ah".
Attended acting class of Michael Chekhov in Hollywood.
Kazan won three Tony Awards for Best Director: for Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" in 1947; for for Miller's "Death of a Salesman" in 1949; and for Archibald Macleish's "J.B." in 1959. He was also nominated for Tony Awards four other times: as Best Director, for Tennessee Williams's play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in 1956; as Best Director and co-producer of the Best Play nominee, William Inge's "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" in 1958; and as Best Director (Dramatic) for Tennessee Williams's "Sweet Bird of Youth" in 1960.
Founded the Actors' Studio in 1947 along with Cheryl Crawford and Robert Lewis.
Despite having had two cinematic successes with Tennessee Williams works A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Baby Doll (1956), Kazan did not direct the movie version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), although he won a Tony Award nomination as Best Director for staging Williams's Pulitizer Prize-winning play on Broadway. Richard Brooks directed the film. During the play's production, Kazan had had trouble with Williams, and Kazan eventually demanded that Williams rewrite the second act of the play to bring Big Daddy back on stage. Williams complied, but he had Big Daddy tell what Kazan felt was the equivalent of a dirty joke, possibly out of pique at Kazan.
Known to direct Method Actors, and was the only director to have worked with three of the earliest and most famous ones: James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Montgomery Clift. In addition to those three, he directed Robert De Niro in The Last Tycoon (1976).
Grandfather of Zoe Kazan.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 291-294. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
In 1999, Gregory Peck supported the decision to give Elia Kazan an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement, saying that he believed a man's work should be separate from his life.
Used to play handball with Harry Morgan.
Kazan directed four performers to Best Supporting Actress Oscars: Celeste Holm, Kim Hunter, Eva Marie Saint, and Jo Van Fleet.
Sidney Lumet on Kazan: "What moves me most about his work is his pioneering spirit. Emotions, passions were put up on the screen. That Mediterranean release is responsible for a lot of what we're doing today".
He directed two Best Picture Academy Award winners: Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and On the Waterfront (1954).