Kazan, Elia

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Kazan, Elia

Elia Kazan (Ĭlī´ə, ēl´yə kəzăn´, –zän´), 1909–2003, American stage and film director, producer, writer, actor, b. Turkey, as Elia Kazanjoglous. Immigrating with his Greek family to the United States in 1913, Kazan studied at Williams College and the Yale Drama School before beginning his acting career with the New York Group Theatre in the 1930s. He became (1947) a founding member and director of The Actors Studio. In 1952, appearing before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he admitted to membership in the Communist party in the 1930s and named eight other Hollywood figures who were also members, an act that was controversial throughout the rest of his life.

Kazan's outstanding stage productions included The Skin of Our Teeth (1942), All My Sons (1947), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947; film version, 1951), Death of a Salesman (1949), and Tea and Sympathy (1953). He was the most important director to bring the realistic, emotionally charged approach and "method" acting style of the mid-20th-century New York theater into American moviemaking. Kazan won best-director Oscars for Gentlemen's Agreement (1947) and On the Waterfront (1954) and an honorary life's achievement Academy Award in 1999. Among his other major films are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Viva Zapata (1952), East of Eden (1955), A Face in the Crowd (1957), and Splendor in the Grass (1961). He also directed the films America, America (1963) and The Arrangement (1969), adapted from his own 1962 and 1967 novels, parts of a fictional series that also includes The Anatolian (1982) and Beyond the Aegean (1994).

See his autobiography (1988); Kazan on Directing (2009); A. J. and M. J. Devlin, ed., The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan (2014); M. Ciment, Kazan on Kazan (1974), J. Young, ed., Kazan: The Master Director Discusses His Films (1999); biography by R. Schickel (2005); M. Scorsese, dir., A Letter to Elia (documentary film, 2010).

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