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Monday, March 22, 1999 Published at 08:17 GMT

Kazan award divides Oscars audience

Mixed reaction from the stars as Kazan collects his oscar

Some big Hollywood names sat on their hands as veteran director Elia Kazan accepted his lifetime achievement award at the Oscars ceremony.

Oscars '99
Actors Nick Nolte and Ed Harris refused to join the standing ovation for the man who divided Hollywood in 1952 with his testimony to Senator McCarthy's red-hunting congressional committee.

But the audience did not divide on strictly right-left lines. Liberal actor Warren Beatty rose to his feet to honour Kazan.

Tom Brook: "With hindsight, this award was a mistake"
Kazan made no reference to the controversy in his short acceptance speech.

The 89-year-old, whose films include On The Waterfront and East of Eden, created a furore in 1952 when he "outed" fellow directors and actors who had been members of the Communist party.

[ image: Kazan tastes Oscar glory]
Kazan tastes Oscar glory
Kazan's refusal to apologise for that testimony or for the hardships it caused his friends has made him an outcast in many Hollywood circles.

Outside the venue, the special award sparked rival demonstrations in which one person was arrested.

Protesters, including writers, held banners saying 'Kazan: Snitch' and 'Elia Kazan: Benedict Arnold'.

But their demonstration was countered by a group of about 100 anti-communist protesters on the other side of the street who were supporting Kazan.

But police kept the two groups apart and no further trouble was reported.

Growing controversy

There has been mounting tension over the decision to honour Kazan. Academy President Robert Rehme has defended the award by arguing that it is solely in regard to the director's work.

[ image: Kazan's supporters turned out to support the 89-year-old director]
Kazan's supporters turned out to support the 89-year-old director
He also admitted that the protests pricked the American conscience by drawing attention to "that terrible period of our history."

But Kazan supporters like veteran actor Charlton Heston back the director and the honour all the way:

"To deny a filmmaker of Elia Kazan's abilities, to deny him the life achievement award is not only petty but shocking."

In January 1952, Kazan testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, admitting to his party membership but refusing to give the names of others involved in the movement.

After four months he changed his mind and he identified eight people as communists.

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