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A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN
A highly successful stage director and a co-founder of "The Actors Studio"
in New York, Elia Kazan brought his psychological and emotional
philosophy of stage performance to Hollywood in 1945 and sparked a radical
redefinition of screen acting during the 1950s while at the same time
producing socially conscious films which challenged societal norms and
addressed such controversial topics as anti-Semitism, racism, alcoholism,
public corruption and the cult of celebrity. Further marked by compelling
personal stories, Kazan's films also showcased career-defining performances
by such 1950s film icons as Marlon
Brando, James Dean and
Over the course of his film career, nine performers earned Academy Awards
under Kazan's direction, leading to his reputation as Hollywood's preeminent
"actors' director" of the period (read
Teresa Wright on Kazan); only
William Wyler guided more Oscar-winning
performances (14). Kazan himself earned two Oscars as Best Director
and was also given an honorary award in 1999 in recognition of his "long,
distinguished and unparalleled career."
Elia Kazan began his theatrical career as an actor and stage manager for New
York's Group Theatre company in the 1930s but turned to directing in the
early 1940s where he made a name for himself guiding Thornton Wilder's
Pulitzer Prize-winning production "The Skin of Our Teeth." Lured to
Hollywood by 20th Century-Fox, Kazan
directed the studio's film adaptation of Betty Smith's popular novel
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945)
starring Peggy Ann Garner
as a young girl growing up in the tenements of New York in the early 1900s.
The touching drama also features
Dorothy McGuire, James
Dunn and Joan Blondell,
and both Garner and Dunn
were recognized by the Academy for their performances in the film.
After A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN,
Kazan returned to Broadway where he began long collaborations with
playwrights Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, directing their "All My
Sons" and "A Streetcar Named Desire" respectively.
Kazan became increasingly active in filmmaking after World War II, and his
screen adaptation of Laura Z. Hobson's novel GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT (1947)
proved a compelling indictment of socially accepted anti-Semitism, earning
eight Academy Award nominations and three Oscars, including one for Best
Picture of the Year. Starring
Gregory Peck and
Dorothy McGuire, and
featuring notable supporting performances by John Garfield,
Celeste Holm and
Anne Revere, the film
relates the story of a reporter who pretends to be Jewish for a story.
Kazan earned his first Best Director Oscar for his work on GENTLEMAN'S
AGREEMENT and followed that success with the crime drama BOOMERANG! (1947)
starring Dana Andrews, Jane Wyatt,
Lee J. Cobb and Arthur Kennedy.
PINKY (1949), adapted from the novel by Cid Ricketts Sumner, tells the story
of a light skinned black woman who returns to the South after graduating
from a northern nursing school and, facing discrimination, reluctantly
reassumes her identity as a black woman. Under Kazan's guidance, stars
Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore and Ethel Waters all earned Academy Award
nominations for PINKY, and Ethel Waters' nomination marked only the second
time in Academy history (following
Hattie McDaniel's Oscar
for GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)) that
the work of a black actress was so recognized.
For all the landmark plays and films Kazan directed, only once did he direct
both the stage and screen versions of a production. In 1951, Kazan
introduced film audiences to Tennessee Williams' successful stage drama A
STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE which he had directed on Broadway in 1947, launching
the career of
Brando reprised his portrayal
of Stanley Kowalski for the screen adaptation alongside
Kim Hunter and
Karl Malden who were also
retained from the Broadway cast. (Vivien
Leigh took over the lead role of Blanche Du Bois from New York's Jessica
Tandy however.) All four of the production's leading actors received
Oscar nominations for their performances under Kazan's direction, and the
film's twelve total nominations included one for Best Picture and another
for composer Alex North's score.
(clip) by Alex North (a .MP3 file).
Theatrical Trailer" with
Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando,
Karl Malden and
Kim Hunter (a .MOV file courtesy AMC).
with Marlon Brando and Peg
Hillias (a .MOV file courtesy
Time Magazine Online).
(For help opening the multimedia files, visit the
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