Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 23

Elia Kazan

film york films stage

Stage and film director, born in Constantinople (now Istanbul), NW Turkey. His family emigrated to New York City when he was four, and he studied at Williams College and Yale University. He began as an actor on Broadway and in Hollywood, and with Lee Strasberg he founded the Actors Studio in New York in 1947. He directed his first stage play in 1935, and began directing feature films with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), and was to divide his time between New York and Hollywood until 1964. His Broadway productions include the works of Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams. His films often had a social or political theme, such as anti-Semitism, racism, megalomania, and corruption, and he was known for getting actors to perform at levels they could not match before or after. He won two Academy Awards as best director for Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and On the Waterfront (1954), but his own favourite film was Viva Zapata (1952), which he considered his first true film. Other notable films include A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), East of Eden (1955), and America, America (1964). His last film was The Last Tycoon (1976). In later years he turned to writing fiction. He published his autobiography, My Life, in 1988, and Beyond the Aegean appeared in 1994. A lifetime achievement award at the 1999 Oscars ceremony was given a mixed response, with opponents recalling that Kazan had given the names of communists in the film industry to the Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s.

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