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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September 2003, 20:24 GMT 21:24 UK
Hollywood director Kazan dies
Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan: From the theatre to Hollywood

One the most prominent American film directors, Elia Kazan, has died at the age of 94.

The son of a Greek immigrant, he won a number of awards as a stage director before extending his talents to writing and the cinema.

He directed some of America's best known films of the 1950s and 1960s, including On the Waterfront, East of Eden and Splendor in the Grass.

However some critics have said Kazan diminished his stature during the McCarthy era in the early 1950s, when he named Communist sympathisers who had worked with him.

He had always insisted years later that he had done the right thing and bore no guilt.

Kazan died at his home in New York on Sunday. No details about the cause of death have been given.

"He did pass away this morning at his Manhattan home," Floria Lasky, who served as Kazan's lawyer for over half a century, said. "His wife and all his children were around.

Rod Steiger and Marlon Brandon in On the Waterfront

"I suppose they expected it at some point," she said. "But it is always bad news, especially when a genius passes away."

"I lost a dear friend. We were as close as an actor and director could be," actor Karl Malden said.

"I idolize him, I think he was one of the best directors I've ever worked with in theatre and films.''

After studying drama at Yale, he built a considerable reputation in the 1940s by directing Broadway plays such as Death of a Salesman and a Streetcar named Desire.

He later turned to Hollywood, and in 1948 directed Gentleman's Agreement, which won the Academy Award for the best film. Six years later On the Waterfront, with Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger, took half a dozen Oscars.

Special Oscar

Along with Brando and Steiger, other major talents who owed much to Kazan included Montgomery Clift, Warren Beatty and James Dean, who starred in East of Eden.

In the 1960s Kazan became a writer and produced six novels - including several best-sellers - and an autobiography.

He turned his first two novels, America, America and The Arrangement, into acclaimed films.

Selected filmography
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Man on a Tightrope (1952)
On the Waterfront (1953)
East of Eden (1955)
Splendor in the Grass(1961)
The Arrangement (1969)
The Visitors (1972)
The Last Tycoon (1976)

In 1999 he was given a special Academy Award for his life's work - a decision that reopened wounds and touched off a painful controversy.

On awards night, some in the audience withheld applause, though others gave him a warm reception.

Director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro presented the award.

He died at his home in New York. No details about the cause of death have been given.

Your reaction to the death of Elia Kazan.


His films are true classics of the medium
Kevin, Canada
A strong director and a great story-teller. Unfortunately his political past will taint a remarkable career. His films are true classics of the medium.
Kevin, Canada

Hollywood has lost one of its finest sons. His masterpieces as a director will certainly outlive his controversies as a human being
Madu TS Moorthy, Canada

He was a legend, and his McCarthy cooperation has been totally vindicated by KGB archives which show that Hollywood was infiltrated by Soviet agents, despite endless denials by the bleeding heart liberals.
Guy Clarke, UK

McCarthy will long be forgotten but Kazan's movies will go on. Politics and art are two different realms
Rita Elliott, Jamaica

It is still my favourite film
Hal Dace, USA
On the Waterfront changed my life. Up till then I thought I wanted to be an actor or an architect. I was 15 when I saw that film, and I became an editor and director with a successful 20-year career (so far). It is still my favourite film, and I think it's very sad when politics divides artists from each other.
Hal Dace, USA

When I was only 17 years old living in New Jersey, I remember knowing about Elia Kazan and I wrote him a letter and he graciously answered me. He was a "regular" man in many ways and, certainly, a genius. He was able to deal with the ordinary man and have him portrayed in the plays he directed, the movies and his books. May he rest in peace and may his family have a peaceful mourning period. Thank you, Elia, for all the moments you shared with us.
Setara Delawari, Kabul, Afghanistan

If we faced the kind of persecution and threats that Kazan faced during the McCarthy era, we might have done the same. It is easy to judge others from the other line of the game. His work still speaks for himself. Whether people like or loathe the naming issue, I think Elia Kazan has been one of the greatest directors of our time. That might be more crucial: what you did with your life.
Shaolan, USA

One of the most significant and talented directors of the 20th century
Kate de Ban, UK
Very sad news - one of the most significant and talented directors of the 20th century, and one of the most overlooked. Streetcar, Wild River, East of Eden, Splendor, On the Waterfront, Gentlemen's Agreement - all fantastic films with fantastic performances.
Kate de Ban, UK

With the final departure of Elia Kazan the movie industry has lost a flag who dedicated his life to give the spectators the best he could. We will always remember him through the famous film East of Eden. May his soul rest in peace.
Ali M. Abdalla, Palestine

Without doubt he was a great director, but his achievements will always be tarnished by his active co-operation with McCarthy. He might have had no regrets, but how about the artists and writers whose livelihoods were destroyed by his actions?
Andrew Whiteside, UK




SEE ALSO
Kazan award divides Oscars audience
22 Mar 99 |  Entertainment
Elia Kazan: Forgive and forget?
21 Mar 99 |  Entertainment

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