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The Tarnished Age

Richard Mayne, 3 September 1981

David O. Selznick’s Hollywood 
by Ronald Haver.
Secker, 425 pp., £35, December 1980, 0 436 19128 8
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My Early life 
by Ronald Reagan and Richard Hubler.
Sidgwick, 316 pp., £7.95, April 1981, 0 283 98771 5
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Naming Names 
by Victor Navasky.
Viking, 482 pp., $15.95, October 1980, 0 670 50393 2
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... that sinners get their comeuppance. If it quotes the Daily Worker’s vile invective against Elia Kazan, it quickly refers to ‘the Party’s ritualistic indignation’. It speaks of America’s and Russia’s ‘rival imperialisms’, scoffs at the notion that the Korean War was a UN ‘police action’, and professes to leave open the question ...

One Great Good True Thing

Thomas Powers: Tennessee Williams, 20 November 2014

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh 
by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 765 pp., £30, September 2014, 978 1 4088 4365 9
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... To spend time​ with Tennessee Williams – for months on end in the case of Elia Kazan, the director who put his plays on the stage in the 1940s and 1950s; 12 years in the case of his latest and best biographer, John Lahr; or even as little as six weeks by me while reading Lahr’s absorbing Life, along with the work, and a big chunk of all the stuff Williams wrote and said about the work – is to learn and relearn how soberly Williams was speaking when he told Kazan: ‘I don’t know what it is to take anything calmly ...

‘I’m glad what I done’

Gavin Millar, 13 October 1988

A Life 
by Elia Kazan.
Deutsch, 848 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 233 98292 2
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... Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of our Teeth was Kazan’s first big Broadway hit as a director, in November 1942. Walking out of the theatre one night, he overheard a couple arguing about the play: ‘ “What’s it all about?” the man complained to his wife. “Why, George,” she said, “it’s about love and hate and passion and everything – ever since the world began ...

Back to Reality

David Edgar: Arthur Miller and the Oblong Blur, 18 March 2004

Arthur Miller: A Life 
by Martin Gottfried.
Faber, 484 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 571 21946 2
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... Timebends, his Life contains some excellent anecdotes, including the revelation that the director Elia Kazan persuaded Miller to group all the Death of a Salesman ‘flashbacks’ together as a kind of interlude, only to be overruled by the producer Kermit Bloomgarden, whose ‘this piece of shit I will not do’ saved a masterpiece. Bloomgarden was then ...

St Jude’s Playwright

Michael Church, 5 September 1985

The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams 
by Donald Spoto.
Bodley Head, 409 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 370 30847 6
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Tennessee Williams on File 
by Catherine Arnott.
Methuen, 80 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 413 58550 6
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... he hit upon that path when he was spotted by a theatre administrator who happened to be married to Elia Kazan. First she wangled a special cash award for him, then she put him into the hands of a remarkable agent called Audrey Wood who immediately began nudging him towards fame and fortune. At one stage, esteemed but not yet famous, he was engineered a ...

What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando, 5 December 2019

The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... the young actor. But was he immune to any woman who saw so deeply into him?The other mentor was Elia Kazan, the essential director of that moment on stage and screen and as devoted as Stella Adler to psychological reality. He was Brando’s type, an intense, conspiratorial director who lived through his actors. ...

Traffaut’s Heroes

Richard Mayne, 4 September 1980

The Films in My Life 
by François Truffaut, translated by Leonard Mayhew.
Allen Lane, 358 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 7139 1322 3
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... new difficulties for himself. He has become the ultimate athlete of cinema.’ The talent of Elia Kazan ‘is essentially of a decorative nature’. ‘The cowboys in Johnny Guitar, ridiculously, call each other “Monsieur” in the dubbed French version, which is superior for once to the subtitled version because it lets us see the film’s ...

Artovsky Millensky

Andrew O’Hagan: The Misfit, 1 January 2009

Arthur Miller, 1915-62 
by Christopher Bigsby.
Weidenfeld, 739 pp., £30, November 2008, 978 0 297 85441 8
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... only refusing to name names but cutting off his friendship with ‘friendly witnesses’ such as Elia Kazan. In this context, and from a pinnacle of moral rectitude, Miller could imagine, even after 1956, that denouncing Communism would appear to constitute a vote of confidence in a system of fear and intimidation. For a while in the 1950s, this ...

All of Denmark was at his feet

John Sutherland, 12 May 1994

John Steinbeck: A Biography 
by Jay Parini.
Heinemann, 605 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 434 57492 9
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... Committee on Un-American Activities, partly because of his ‘friendship’ with the name-naming Elia Kazan (the director with whom he worked on Viva Zapata). At the end of his life, Steinbeck wrote gung-ho, pro-White House pieces from and about Vietnam because ‘he felt strongly connected to Lyndon Johnson, who had befriended him and his wife.’ As ...

A Particular Way of Looking

J. Hoberman: NeoRealismo, 21 November 2019

NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy 1932-60 
edited by Enrica Viganò.
Prestel, 349 pp., £49.99, September 2018, 978 3 7913 5769 0
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... an impact in Hollywood as well – mainly in the films of leftist directors such as Jules Dassin, Elia Kazan and Nicholas Ray – yet back in Italy, Hollywood blocked the Neorealist path. Italy opened once more to American movies soon after the end of the war and by 1949, the US had some 80 per cent of the Italian market.Producing its own international ...

That’s democracy

Theo Tait: Dalton Trumbo, 2 March 2000

Johnny Got His Gun 
by Dalton Trumbo.
Prion, 222 pp., £5.99, May 1999, 1 85375 324 6
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... or lose your job. Like Dmytryk, many prominent ex-radicals became ‘artist stool-pigeons’: Elia Kazan, Clifford Odets, Budd Schulberg, Sterling Hayden, Lee J. Cobb. ‘That’s the problem: choice,’ Trumbo explained in a letter. ‘Not compulsion: choice’. In the Hollywood community, 250 people were blacklisted – disrupting or destroying ...

It isn’t the lines

Bee Wilson: Paul Newman’s Looks, 16 February 2023

Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man 
by Paul Newman, edited by David Rosenthal.
Century, 320 pp., £25, October 2022, 978 1 5291 9706 8
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The Last Movie Stars 
directed by Ethan Hawke.
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... he was given the chance to act on Broadway in a new Tennessee Williams play directed by Elia Kazan, Sweet Bird of Youth. Newman played Chance Wayne, a gigolo ‘who’s attached himself to an ageing, alcoholic actress, the Princess’. In one scene, Chance has a soliloquy in which he expresses grief at seeing the love of his life for the last ...

Franklin D, listen to me

J. Hoberman: Popular (Front) Songs, 17 September 1998

Songs for Political Action: Folk Music, Topical Songs and the American Left, 1926-53 
edited by Ronald Cohen and Dave Samuelson.
Bear Family Records, DM 390, June 1996
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... that because ‘Pop Frontism’ was less a particular worldview than a set of emotional responses, Elia Kazan can be seen as making ‘Popular Front’ movies such as On the Waterfront or the TVA celebration, Wild River, long after he became persona non grata for the Front’s remaining adherents by providing the House Un-American Activities Committee ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... the specimens offer a diagnosis of the world they spring from. The book closes with an account of Kazan and Schulberg’s A Face in the Crowd: an instructive parable, Hoberman thinks, because it exhibits an enemy no longer traceable to a foreign source. A Face in the Crowd tells of the rise of a country singer and cracker-barrel politician, Larry ...

Just one of those ends

Michael Wood: Apocalypse Regained, 13 December 2001

Apocalypse Now Redux 
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
August 2001
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Marlon Brando 
by Patricia Bosworth.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £12.99, October 2001, 0 297 84284 6
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... of course he followed some equivalent of the mysterious pattern which Bosworth attributes to Elia Kazan: ‘Originally, he’d wanted to be a writer; later he became a novelist.’ Can’t win ‘em ...

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