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On the Waterfront

  • Date Submitted: 04/26/2011 12:24 AM
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Screen English

On the Waterfront(dir. Elia Kazan, 1954) - 1

I. Director: Elia Kazan (1909-2003)

One of the most revered directors of his era, Elia Kazan was also one of the most -- arguably the most -- controversial. In addition to making his mark on film history with masterpieces such as A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and East of Eden, Kazan made a more dubious mark with his involvement in the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (HUAC)'s anti-Communist witchhunt of the 1950s; his decision to name alleged industry Communists earned him the ire of many of his peers, resulting in what was essentially his own Hollywood blacklisting.
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In addition to acting in such plays as Clifford Odets' Waiting for Lefty and Golden Boy, Kazan began directing in 1935. He went on to become one of the leading figures on Broadway during the next decade, directing debut productions of Thornton Wilder's Skin of Our Teeth, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, and Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Hollywood took notice of the director's talent and in 1945 Kazan had a memorable directing debut with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Two years later, he found further success with Gentleman's Agreement, Sea of Grass, and Boomerang!. Although the latter two were considerable accomplishments, it was Gentleman's Agreement -- a bold exploration of anti-Semitism starring Gregory Peck and John Garfield -- that won Kazan his greatest accolades: the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm, and Best Director for Kazan. The same year, he co-founded the famed Actor's Studio with Strasberg; the school would serve as a training ground for legions of famous actors, including Marlon Brando.
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In January 1952, the director was called before HUAC regarding his involvement with the Communist Party and the Group Theatre. During his hearing, he denied...


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