September 29, 2003 by

Elia Kazan


Categories: Hollywood, Writers/Editors

Elia Kazan, an Oscar-winning director who angered Hollywood for turning on his colleagues during the McCarthy era, died on Sept. 28. Cause of death was not released. He was 94.
Born Elia Kazanjoglous in Constantinople, Kazan and his family immigrated to New York when he was four years old. He attended Williams College and Yale University Drama School, then joined the Group Theatre in New York in 1933.
Although he first worked as a stage actor, Kazan’s passion was directing. His version of “The Skin of Our Teeth” won a New York Drama Critics Award in 1942. He teamed up with playwright Arthur Miller to direct “All My Sons” and “Death of a Salesman,” both of which became theatrical classics. In 1947, he also collaborated with Tennessee Williams to direct the Broadway productions of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Camino Real” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Kazan won three Tony Awards for his stage direction.
His efforts in Hollywood were no less successful. After signing a contract with 20th Century Fox, Kazan directed 23 films, including “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “East of Eden” and the film version of “Streetcar.” He won Best Directing Oscars for the movies, “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “On the Waterfront.”
Despite his success, Kazan fell out of favor in the 1950s when he became one of the most prominent entertainers to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. At the hearings, he admitted to being a member of the Communist Party and named eight people he said were also Communists. All of the people he named were eventually blacklisted by Hollywood; most never worked in theater or film again.
Kazan later defended his actions by saying the people he named were already known to the committee. When he received a special Oscar in 1999 for lifetime achievement, few in the audience applauded. Five hundred protesters also gathered outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion carrying signs that read: “Elia Kazan: Nominated for Benedict Arnold Award” and “Kazan-the Linda Tripp of the ’50s.”
Kazan spent his later years working as an author. He wrote seven novels, two of which were adapted into movies, and the autobiography, “Elia Kazan: A Life.” His son, Nicholas Kazan, received an Oscar nomination for writing the 1990 film, “Reversal of Fortune.”

5 Responses to Elia Kazan

  1. i Deady

    Elia Kazan was a hero for exposing the traitors in Hollywood and there were many who did applaud his honorary Oscar – including Warren Beatty and Eva Marie Saint. There were also many protestors outside to counter the left-wing rabble attacking the director. Admitting past mistakes, as Kazan did when he regretted ever having joined the communist party, is something rarely done in Hollywood and should be admired, not jeered. Telling the truth is also admirable.

  2. Harold

    The fact is, we couldn’t allow the communist sympathisers in Hollywood to undermine our great nation and risk inviting over the mass murders being carried out in the name of Communism in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Elia Kazan was a great hero, a great film director and will be remembered for a long time, unlike those alcholic losers Nick Nolte and Ed Harris.

  3. Doreau

    elia Kazan was a great movie maker. My favorit one is A Streetcar Named Desire. Moreover I Work on it for a research Paper for my master.

  4. Keith R. Wood

    It’s kind of telling to see some of the people who ostentatiously wouldn’t applaud Kazan — Ed Harris among them — but the facts are that he didn’t “burn” anyone (as he said, the Committee had all of the names that he gave) AND they WERE Communists or fellow travelers, at a time when Communists were actively preaching the violent overthrow of the United States. While so many ran and hid, or mealymouthed their way out, Kazan stood up and took his medicine, first from the government for admitting to being a Communist, then afterward, from those in his industry who think that he should have lied. That says more about them than about him. He took his lumps like a man, and that’s not a bad thing to be remembered for.

  5. Geoff Brandner

    Kazan may have been a fine director but caving in the 1950’s to the now discredited HUAC in Congress gives him my Bronx cheer. Whats wrong with preaching the violent overthrow of the government? Isn’t that what we did in the American Revolution? Maybe George Washington should be frowned upon for overthrowing the British Administration of the Thirteen Colonies.
    Think about it.

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