Director, Producer, Writer and Actor. Born Elia Kazanjoglous in what was then Constantinople, Turkey, he arrived in New York with his family at age 4 and was educated at public schools in New York City. After graduating from New Rochelle High School, he attended Williams College in Massachusetts, graduating in 1930. From 1930 to 1932, he studied drama at Yale University. In the mid-1930s, he joined New York's experimental Group Theatre, where he practiced the "method" style of acting. After the Group Theatre disbanded in 1941, he shifted his career from acting to directing. While critics considered him an "actor's director", five of the plays staged by Kazan won Pulitzer Prizes for their authors: Thornton Wilder's 'The Skin of Our Teeth", Tennessee Williams's 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' and the Archibald MacLeish-David Amram musical 'J.B.' (for which he won a Tony as director). Kazan also found success as a film director in Hollywood in the 1940s. His first major movie project was 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' (1945), which he followed with several films that took on social issues, including 'Gentleman's Agreement' (1947) and 'Pinky' (1949). In 1947, he co-founded the Actors Studio in New York. Kazan won two Tony Awards for best director in the late '40s, one for 'All My Sons' (1947) and the other for 'Death of a Salesman' (1949). He also directed 'A Streetcar Named Desire' which made a major star of Marlon Brando in 1947. A few years later, Kazan went to Hollywood to direct the film version of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' with Brando again playing the lead role alongside Vivien Leigh. Kazan also directed Brando in 'Viva Zapata!' (1952), a biopic of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. Kazan's career was interrupted by his interactions with the House Un-American Activities Committee, a federal committee that was investigating Americans' ties to Communism at the time. Under pressure and under oath from the HUAC, he confessed his two-year membership in an American cell of the Communist Party when he had been part of the Group Theatre in the '30s. He also named eight fellow Group Theatre members who had joined the party. This cooperation with the HUAC ended many of his friendships and working relationships. However, Kazan made a professional comeback in 1954 with 'On The Waterfront' starring Brando, who were both awarded Oscars for their work in this film. The following year, he directed James Dean in 'East of Eden'. Kazan had several additional film successes in the early 1960s. One was 'Wild River' and another was 'Splendor in the Grass' featuring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. 'America, America', a film based on Kazan's own family background, earned him his final Oscar nomination for best director. In all, seven of his films won a total of 20 Academy Awards. He wrote several novels in the 1960s and '70s, and in 1988, he published a biography titled 'Elia Kazan: A Life'. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan presented him with the Kennedy Center honors award for lifetime achievement in the arts and in 1999, he was awarded an honorary Lifetime Achievement Oscar. In addition to these awards, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Bio by: Louis du Mort
1932–1980 (m. 1969)