Biography of Elia Kazan (1909-2003)

Director, screenwriter and film producer American born in Istanbul (Turkey) on 7 September 1909 and died in New York on September 28, 2003.

Name Elia Kazanjoglou, still very young moved with his family to New York, where he studied his primary in the Mayfair School of New Rochelle and secondary at William College. With twenty-one years he entered Yale University to study drama and, two years later, began to play all kinds of jobs in the Group Theatre until it disappeared in 1941. Soon she played the diverse roles and, shortly after, assumed the leadership of several works such as Chrysalis, Men in White or Gold Eagle Guy. From 1941 his theatrical projection grew considerably and became one of the leaders of the time, which allowed him to get three years later the critic's award for his staging of the work of Thornton Wilder, The skin on our teeth.

He began his film career as an actor in several films of Anatole Litvak (city of conquest, 1940;) Blues in the night, 1941) and debuted as a director in the bosom of the 20th Century Fox with human ties (1945), a family drama that won the Oscar the actors James Dunn and the young Peggy Ann Garner. Kazan demonstrated from his early films that all work learned onstage was not vacant. Became one of the best directors of actors that gave American film and good example of their concerns was his film career, in which titles of uneven success occur but which assume commitments with social realities. The vigilante (1947) allowed him to investigate the miscarriages of Justice; in the invisible barrier (1948) dealt with anti-Semitism in the hands of Gregory Peck - work that earned him his first Oscar as director and two statuettes for film and supporting actress) - and Pinky (1949) gave coverage to the racial problems.

They were important years in the career of Kazan, who had founded in 1947 the "Actor's Studio" together with Robert Lewis, and Cheryl Crawford, a training center that eventually reached a great international prestige. However, also in this period he lived the worst moment of his life when, on April 10, 1952, appeared before the House UN-American activities Committee for ratting to several colleagues. Shortly before had been achieved, with panic in the streets (1950), talk to all kinds of suggestions on what supposed the initiative known as "witch hunt" that Senator McCarthy. Paradoxically, his career was re-launched with the success achieved by his following films, which tried to go aside from the outside views and the tense atmosphere that had to endure when filming. Thus gave new titles that different tone with uneven success, managed to consolidate it as one of the most effective directors of the 1950s.

He showed his ability in the direction of actors in a streetcar named desire (1951), the adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play with which Vivien Leigh, the secondary actors and decor were obtained four statuettes of the Academy and then in Viva Zapata! (1952), with an Oscar to Anthony Quinn; in both productions, Marlon Brando gave samples of his acting chops. However, it reached its greatest success with the law of silence (1954), a cinematic manifesto, about the corruption of the unions in the New York docks and informing that arises from the vital tension between certain workers, which sought to justify his criticized performance before the Senate Committee. The film earned eight Oscar Awards, including best film, director (second in the career of Kazan) and actor, who collected Brando by his role as Stanley Kowalski.

Took refuge, immediately afterwards, in two movies about teenagers with complementary glances: the fratricidal confrontation for the paternal love (to the East of Eden, 1955) and first loves and frustrations (splendour in the grass, 1961), also awarded by the Academy. His more personal work was, without a doubt, America, America (1963), adapted from the novel who wrote about the history of his family in the United States. Six years later, he adapted one of his novels (1969) commitment and ended his career with the last Tycoon (1976), a story that condenses the complex relationship which kept Kazan with the American film industry. Years earlier, he confirmed that his literary activity improved work after work, because he completed his career with two good novels, the assassins (1972) and the sacred Monster (1974).

He was teacher of many young people arrived at the address in the 1950s and a long list of actors must have reached you high performing thanks to kinds of directing taught at its training centre. No surprise, then, in the profession that Martin Scorsese Honorary Academy Oscar handed in 1998 though the gesture was criticized by many of their peers who do not forgot the little attitude of Kazan in the past. His films, however, confirmed that he was a man immersed in a domestic tragedy that sought to overcome old grudges.


How shorts director: 1937: People of the Cumberland (and screenplay).

Feature films: [since 1955 was producer of all his films] 1945: human ties. 1947: Sea of grass; The upholder of Justice. 1948: The invisible barrier. 1949: Pinky. 1950: Panic in the streets. 1951: A streetcar named desire. 1952: viva Zapata! 1953: The red terror fugitive. 1954: The law of silence. 1955: the East of Eden. 1956: baby Doll. 1957: A face in the crowd. 1960: Wild River. 1961: Splendor in the grass. 1963: America, America (and screenwriter). 1969: commitment (and screenwriter). 1971: visitors. 1976: The last Tycoon.

As actor1934: Café Universal (short film); Pie in the sky (short film). 1940: City of conquest. 1941: Blues in the night.


CIMENT, Michel: Elia Kazan by Elia Kazan. Madrid: Fundamentals, 1974.

GUBERN, Roman: The Hollywood witch hunt. Barcelona: Anagrama, 1987.

KAZAN, Elia: My life. Madrid: Temas de today, 1990.

ROSSI, a.: Elia Kazan. Florence: The Nuova Italy, 1977.