Elia Kazan

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Elia Kazan (circa 1950)

Elia Kazan (September 7, 1909September 28, 2003) was an American director, producer, writer, and actor, born in Turkey but of Greek ancestry, and described by The New York Times as "one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history".


  • He carried with him the aura of a prophet, a magician, a witch doctor, a psychoanalyst, and a feared father of a Jewish home.... [H]e was the force that held the thirty-odd members of the theatre together, and made them permanent.
    • Elia Kazan: A Life (1988), p. 61 in the 1997 reprint
    • Quote about Lee Strasberg
  • The Group was the best thing professionally that ever happened to me. I met two wonderful men. Lee Strasberg and Harold Clurman, both of whom were around thirty years old. They were magnetic, fearless leaders. During the summer I was an apprentice, they were entertaining in a Jewish summer camp... At the end of the summer they said to me: "You may have talent for something, but it's certainly not acting.
    • Interview by Michel Ciment in Kazan on Kazan (Viking, 1974), pp. 15ff. Originally published 1973 by Secker and Warburg, London.
    • Quote about the Group Theatre

Quotes about Kazan

  • I was thirty-three when I made A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and many leading ladies around town were considerably older. It was the first movie of Elia Kazan and for Aunt Cissie he'd wanted Betty Grable, who took one look at this little squirt and passed. I mean, nobody knew who he was at that stage. So he asked me and I ran with this sensational part—although he never used me again. [...] The movie made Kazan a hot commodity, but it made me a supporting character actress before my time.
  • He was from the theatah, meaning he knew nothing about lighting, lenses, close-ups. All that was done for him by our ace cinematographer, Leon Shamroy, who actually asked Zanuck for a directing credit. He was turned down.
    • Joan Blondell, speaking, c. 1983, about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945); as quoted in Conversations with Classic Film Stars (2016) by Ron Miller and James Bawden, pp. 159–160
  • I went to him and told him I had no such experiences in life and didn't know where to get the emotions I'd need. He was very patient with me and let me ramble on about my misgivings and anxieties. What he did, in a sense, was lock up all this intensity inside me so it wouldn't be dissipated. He was marvelous.
    • Dorothy McGuire, speaking c. 1983, on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; as quoted in Conversations with Classic Film Stars (2016) by Ron Miller and James Bawden, p. 225
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