Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan

Highest Rated: 100% Wild River (1960)

Lowest Rated: 8% The Arrangement (1969)

Birthday: Sep 7, 1909

Birthplace: Istanbul, Ottoman Sultanate

One of the most revered directors of his era, Elia Kazan was also one of the most -- arguably the most -- controversial. In addition to making his mark on film history with masterpieces such as A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and East of Eden, Kazan made a more dubious mark with his involvement in the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (HUAC)'s anti-Communist witchhunt of the 1950s; his decision to name alleged industry Communists earned him the ire of many of his peers, resulting in what was essentially his own Hollywood blacklisting. Thus, any biography of Kazan cannot be written without mention of his political involvement, in tandem with the many cinematic contributions he made throughout a long and illustrious career. An Anatolian Greek, Kazan was born Elia Kazanjoglou in Istanbul (then Constantinople), Turkey, on September 7, 1909. In 1913, he emigrated with his parents to New York City, where his father sold rugs for a living. After an undergraduate education at Williams College and drama study at Yale, Kazan joined New York's left-leaning Group Theatre as an actor and assistant manager. During the 1930s, when Kazan was an active member, the theater was under the leadership of Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, and Lee Strasberg. A focal point of New York artistic life during the decade, the Group Theatre also was a center for radical thought and activity; Kazan himself was a member of the Communist party from 1934 until 1936, when he quit the party in what he claimed was "disgust." He did continue to maintain close relations with many in and around the Stalinist movement, only terminating these relations in 1952 when he testified before HUAC. In addition to acting in such plays as Clifford Odets' Waiting for Lefty and Golden Boy, Kazan began directing in 1935. He went on to become one of the leading figures on Broadway during the next decade, directing debut productions of Thornton Wilder's Skin of Our Teeth, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, and Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Hollywood took notice of the director's talent and in 1945 Kazan had a memorable directing debut with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Two years later, he found further success with Gentleman's Agreement, Sea of Grass, and Boomerang!. Although the latter two were considerable accomplishments, it was Gentleman's Agreement -- a bold exploration of anti-Semitism starring Gregory Peck and John Garfield -- that won Kazan his greatest accolades: the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm, and Best Director for Kazan. The same year, he co-founded the famed Actor's Studio with Strasberg; the school would serve as a training ground for legions of famous actors, including Marlon Brando. In 1949, the director found acclaim with the interracial love story Pinky, which received three Oscar nominations. Following 1950's Panic in the Streets, a tale of efforts to contain a New Orleans plague epidemic that mirrored the Communist scare taking hold in the U.S., Kazan scored his next major success with a film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. Featuring a sensuous, explosive Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski, the film garnered 12 Oscar nominations (eventually winning four, including Best Actress for Vivien Leigh), and made a star of Brando. The following year, Kazan and Brando collaborated again on Viva Zapata!, a biopic of Mexican revolutionary leader and President Emiliano Zapata. It was at this time that Kazan's offscreen life became irretrievably enmeshed with his cinematic work. In January 1952, the director was called before HUAC regarding his involvement with the Communist Party and the Group Theatre. During his hearing, he denied that the group was a "front" for Communist activity and that its three directors were Communists. He also refused to supply HUAC with the names of other Communists in the Group Theatre.

Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet A Letter to Elia Actor 2010
88% Tell Them Who You Are Actor 2005
No Score Yet James Dean: Sense Memories Actor 2005
No Score Yet Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film Director 2005
No Score Yet Elia Kazan: A Director's Journey Actor 1995
No Score Yet Harold Clurman: A Life of Theatre Actor 1988
43% The Last Tycoon Director 1976
No Score Yet The Visitors Director 1972
8% The Arrangement Director 1969
67% America America Screenwriter Producer Director 1963
82% Splendor in the Grass Director Producer 1961
100% Wild River Director Producer 1960
88% A Face in the Crowd Producer Director 1957
94% Baby Doll Director Producer 1956
85% East of Eden Producer Director 1955
99% On the Waterfront Director 1954
No Score Yet Man on a Tightrope Director 1953
65% Viva Zapata! Director 1952
No Score Yet A Streetcar Named Desire: Digital Restovation Director 1951
98% A Streetcar Named Desire Director 1951
96% Panic in the Streets Director 1950
54% Pinky Director 1949
76% Gentleman's Agreement Director 1947
78% Boomerang! Director 1947
17% The Sea of Grass Director 1947
100% A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Director 1945
No Score Yet Blues in the Night Nickie Haroyan 1941
80% City for Conquest Googi 1940


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