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Posted July 1, 2007
Kazan: Man with a Backbone filled with Compassion
In the early 1970s author Jeff Young conducted in-depth interviews with the then high-flying director Elia Kazan. However due to contractual obligations Kazan had made with a previous biographer, Mr. Young's 358-paged hardback did not see publication until 1999. Kazan: The Master Director Discusses His Films is an outstanding book and packed with brutally honest, yet heart-felt observations by Kazan about some of America's greatest actors and movie technicians. Sadly, around page 155, into about the fortieth page of the seventy-eight page chapter covering 'On the Waterfront', most non-actor/director types will stop reading, because at that point, even for this actor, the book becomes a challenge to complete. I admit that my difficulties may have come from the fact that I had not seen any of writer-director-producer Kazan's movies. Inside Kazan are thirty-two pages of excellent glossy black and white photos accompanied with the exact text from the book, however, since the scenes are from many decades past, I would have like to have seen the name of every actor listed in every photo. Author Jeff Young also asks some startlingly blunt questions of Kazan and does not always agree with his subject, especially on the testimony of Kazan during the 1952 Army-McCarthy hearings. Sadly, Mr. Young fits the mold of Hollywood, as the hidden-coward-communist's of the nineteen fifties Burbank were held in higher esteem than director Kazan's fearless and patriotic exposure of them. However, as he states in the book, he did not reveal any communists who were not already known to congressional investigators. We read fifteen in-depth interviews with Kazan, from his 1945 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to his 1972 release of The Visitors. Especially for actors, it is totally interesting to learn how Kazan 'who died in 2003' worked with not only the thespians, but with everyone involved with getting a movie made. I would be totally jazzed to work with a director displaying his level of people-savvy. Elia Kazan worked with many now major (and many now dead) actors in their first movie roles, a few being: James Dean, Marlon Brando, Andy Griffith and James Woods. All in all, Kazan is a must-read for all actors and directors and a great read, for the old-time movie aficionado.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.