HarperCollins Publishers, Hardcover, 9780060195793, 510pp.
Publication Date: November 1, 2005
Few figures in film and theater history tower like Elia Kazan. Born in 1909 to Greek parents in Istanbul, Turkey, he arrived in America with incomparable vision and drive, and by the 1950s he was the most important and influential director in the nation, simultaneously dominating both theater and film. His productions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman reshaped the values of the stage. His films -- most notably On the Waterfront -- brought a new realism and a new intensity of performance to the movies. Kazan's career spanned times of enormous change in his adopted country, and his work affiliated him with many of America's great artistic moments and figures, from New York City's Group Theatre of the 1930s to the rebellious forefront of 1950s Hollywood; from Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy to Marlon Brando and James Dean.
Ebullient and secretive, bold and self-doubting, beloved yet reviled for "naming names" before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Kazan was an individual as complex and fascinating as any he directed. He has long deserved a biography as shrewd and sympathetic as this one.
In the electrifying Elia Kazan, noted film historian and critic Richard Schickel illuminates much more than a single astonishing life and life's work: He pays discerning tribute to the power of theater and film, and casts a new light on six crucial decades of American history.
“Breathtaking, often riotous but never excessive...[Elia Kazan] could not be a more pertinent study of a spellbinding subject.”
-New York Times Book Review
“A scintillating and thoroughly readable new biography.”
“This sympathetic, scrupulously researched biography...vividly conveys the director’s potent personality...”
-Booklist (starred review)
“[A] masterly meditation on a complex, conflicted, and underappreciated director. . . . One of the year’s best biographies.”
“Schickel has a razor-sharp understanding of the many ways in which his subject’s life and work affected one another.”
“A worthy companion to the director’s own autobiography...immensely likeable.”
“A splendid, subtle, literate biography of one of the grand creative artists of theater and film in our time.”
-Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
“This analysis is unsparingly thorough...Schickel’s forceful, personalized criticism becomes as attention grabbing as Kazan’s body of work.”
“Richard Schickel has produced the first ‘life’ of Kazan...[with] an impressive knowledge of the terrain [and] soundly balanced judgments.”
-Los Angeles Times Book Review
“...contains not a single dull moment for those interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of theater and movies...”
-New York Press
“Outstanding....Perhaps, thanks to Schickel’s biography, history will once again remember Kazan primarily for his accomplishments, not his testimony.”
-Grand Rapids Press
“One of those exhilarating publishing rarities -- the ideal writer for the ideal subject.”
“Theater and film buffs -- not to mention scholars -- will revel in this astute explication of a working life.”
-New York Sun