Kazan was one of the most influential and revered directors in American cinema. Starting out as an actor himself, he co-founded the famous Actors Studio in 1947, home of 'Method acting' - a technique that values realism above all else. He was partly or fully responsible for launching the movie careers of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Warren Beatty, to name just three.
Movies like Gentleman's Agreement (1947), On the Waterfront (1954), East of Eden (1955) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) earned Kazan the respect of critics and audiences alike. He lost a lot of that respect with his testimony before the House Committee of Un-American Activities. The controversy over his testimony is probably still debated in film schools today. Kazan's autobiography attempts to explain his actions at the time.
Fact remains that Kazan has influenced a generation of directors and actors who have always been very vocal in their praise for him. Directors like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Stanley Kubrick all cite him as a major influence.
- A good director's not sure when he gets on the set what he's going to do.
- I was very intense. I think it's a privilege to be an actor.
- I owe Bankhead a gift. She made a director out of me.
- I will say nothing to an actor that cannot be translated into action.
- I truly believe that all power corrupts. Such is probably the thinking behind every political film ever made in Hollywood.
Kazan with Marlon Brando