Noted Film and Theater Director Elia Kazan Dies



Elia Kazan, acclaimed theater and film director, died Sunday at the age of 94. Mr. Kazan will long be remembered for his contributions to the American stage and motion pictures.

Elia Kazan was born in a Greek section of what is now Istanbul, Turkey, on September 7, 1909. His family emigrated to the United States when he was only four years old. He was a shy youngster, who was later remembered by his college classmates as somewhat of a loner.

In 1932, after a year at Yale University's School of Drama, Elia Kazan moved to New York City to become an actor. He found the outlet for his creative energies at the Group Theater, a center that showcased works of social commentary. Initially, he was told that he had no acting ability. But determined to prove himself, Kazan surprised even his loudest critics by emerging as one of the Group's most capable actors.

However, acting wasn't enough for the young Kazan, and by the mid-1930s, he began to direct in the theater. His first real break came in 1942, with Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer prize-winning play The Skin of Our Teeth. He went on to direct the stage productions of the now-legendary All My Sons and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, and Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. The partnerships with Miller and Williams firmly established Kazan's reputation as the foremost theater director of his day.

At the height of his stage success, Kazan turned to Hollywood and quickly demonstrated his skill as a director of motion pictures. Kazan pulled Marlon Brando out of obscurity to star in the 1954 film On the Waterfront. The film exposed corruption in the New York area's longshoreman's union and won the Academy Award for the best picture of the year.

Elia Kazan's long list of film credits includes Viva Zapata (1952), East of Eden (1955), Wild River (1960) and The Last Tycoon (1976). In Splendor in the Grass (1961), he put the then unknown Warren Beatty into a starring role. Today a popular actor and director, Beatty told a Kennedy Center audience that Kazan had given him the most important break of his career.

"I was a lucky guy to be able to observe this man in my first picture," said Beatty. "I observed his clarity, his organization, his innovation, his sense of vitality and persistence, his stamina, and, most of all, his ability to make everyone around him feel that they were geniuses.

"I remember the night that he hired me for Splendor in the Grass," recalled Beatty. "He grabbed my lapels as we walked into a restaurant, and he sort of pushed me up against the wall, and he said, 'O.K. kid, I don't have to look at the [screen] test we made today. You got the part.' Then he said, 'Do you want to know why?' I said, 'Yes!' He said, 'I'll tell you why. It's because you gave me so many good directorial ideas when we worked on the scene today.' And he said, 'I'm going to need a lot more of that out of you.'"

Although Kazan never left the director's chair, he did turn away long enough to write four best-selling novels. In two of these - America, America and The Arrangement - he told the story of his Greek immigrant ancestors. Kazan later turned these novels into motion pictures.

During his long career, Elia Kazan won the coveted Tony and Oscar Awards for excellence on stage and screen. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan presented Kazan with the Kennedy Center honors award, a national tribute for life achievement in the arts. At the ceremony, Budd Schulberg, screenwriter of Kazan's On the Waterfront, thanked his lifelong friend saying, Elia Kazan "has touched us all with his capacity to honor not only the heroic man, but the hero in every man!"

In 1999, the film industry gave Elia Kazan an Academy Award for lifetime achievement. "I want to thank the Academy for its courage, its generosity," said Kazan in his acceptance speech. "Thank you all very much. Now I can just slip away."

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs