Ben Gazzara  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Google
Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Wiki Commons
Wikiquote
Wikisource
YouTube
Shop


Featured:
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Enlarge
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ben Gazzara (August 28, 1930 – February 3, 2012) was an Italian-American film, stage, and Emmy Award winning television actor and director.

Contents

Early life

Gazzara was born Biagio Anthony Gazzara in New York City, the son of Italian immigrants Angelina (née Cusumano) and Antonio Gazzara, who was a laborer and carpenter. Gazzara grew up on New York's tough Lower East Side; he lived on East 29th Street and participated in the drama program at Madison Square Boys and Girls Club located across the street. He later attended New York City's famed Stuyvesant High School. Years later, he said that the discovery of his love for acting saved him from a life of crime during his teen years. He went to City College of New York to study electrical engineering. After two years, he relented. He took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator and afterward joined the Actors Studio.

Career

In the 1950s, Gazzara starred in various Broadway productions, most notably Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, directed by Elia Kazan. However, he lost out on the film role to Paul Newman. He was nominated three times for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play—in 1956 for A Hatful of Rain, in 1975 for the paired short plays Hughie and Duet, and in 1977 for a revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, opposite Colleen Dewhurst.

Gazzara had a long and varied acting career, with spells as an accomplished director, mostly in television. He joined other Actors Studio members in the 1957 film The Strange One. Then came a high-profile performance as a soldier on trial for avenging his wife's rape in Otto Preminger's 1959 courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder. He later directed Columbo episodes "A Friend in Deed" and "Troubled Waters". Subsequent screen credits included The Young Doctors (1961), A Rage to Live (1965), The Bridge at Remagen (1969), Capone (1975), Voyage of the Damned (1976), and High Velocity (1976).

In 1954, Gazzara made several appearances on NBC's legal drama Justice, based on case studies from the Legal Aid Society of New York. Gazzara became well-known in several television series, beginning with Arrest and Trial, which ran from 1963 to 1964 on ABC, and the more-successful series Run for Your Life from 1965 to 1968 on NBC, in which he played a terminally ill man trying to get the most out of the last two years of his life. For his work in the series, Gazzara received two Emmy nominations for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series" and three Golden Globe nominations for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama."

Some of the actor's most formidable characters were those he created with his friend John Cassavetes in the 1970s. They collaborated for the first time on Cassavetes's film Husbands (1970), in which he appeared alongside Peter Falk and Cassavetes himself. In The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Gazzara took the leading role of the hapless strip-joint owner, Cosmo Vitelli. A year later, Gazzara starred in yet another Cassavetes-directed movie, Opening Night, as stage director Manny Victor, who struggles with the mentally unstable star of his show, played by Cassavetes's wife Gena Rowlands. In 1974, he co-starred with Anthony Hopkins in the acclaimed TV mini-series QB VII. In 1979, Gazzara starred in the movie Saint Jack.

In the 1980s, Gazzara appeared in a variety of movies, such as They All Laughed (directed by Peter Bogdanovich), and in a villainous role in the oft-televised Patrick Swayze film Road House, which the actor jokingly said is probably his most-watched performance. He starred with Rowlands in a controversial and critically acclaimed AIDS-themed TV movie An Early Frost (1985), for which he received his third Emmy nomination.

Gazzara appeared in thirty-eight films—many for TV—in the 1990s. He worked with a number of renowned directors, such as the Coen brothers (The Big Lebowski), Spike Lee (Summer of Sam), David Mamet (The Spanish Prisoner), Walter Hugo Khouri (Forever), Todd Solondz (Happiness), John Turturro (Illuminata), and John McTiernan (The Thomas Crown Affair).

In his eighties, Gazzara continued to be active. In 2003, he was in the ensemble cast of the experimental film Dogville, directed by Lars von Trier of Denmark and starring Nicole Kidman, as well as the television film Hysterical Blindness (he received his first Emmy Award for his role). Several other projects have recently been completed or are currently in production. In 2005, he played Agostino Casaroli in the TV miniseries Pope John Paul II. He completed filming his scenes in the film The Wait in early 2012.

Personal life

Gazzara married three times; to Louise Erickson (1951–57), Janice Rule (1961–1979), and German model Elke Krivat since 1982. He also disclosed a love affair with actress Audrey Hepburn. They co-starred in two of her final films, "Bloodline" (1979) and "They All Laughed" (1981).

During filming of the 1969 war movie The Bridge at Remagen co-starring Gazzarra and his friend Robert Vaughn, the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. Filming was halted temporarily, and the cast and crew were detained before filming was completed in West Germany. During their departure from Czechoslovakia, Gazzara and Vaughn assisted with the escape of a Czech waitress whom they had befriended. They smuggled her to Austria in a car waved through a border crossing that had not yet been taken over by the Soviet army.

Gazzara was featured in a 1994 article in Cigar Aficionado.

Gazzara was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1999. On February 3, 2012, he died of pancreatic cancer at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York.

Selected filmography

Further reading

  • "Broadway: The Golden Age - by the Legends Who Were there," a film by Rick McKay Films, etc. Broadcast on KCET, Ch.28 (PBS in Los Angeles, December 16, 2006. Gazzara speaks openly about getting off of 29th St.
  • Harris, Irving (2009), Madison Square Memoir: The Magic and History of Madison Square Boys and Girls Club (visit www.madisonsquare.org); Gazzara wrote the introduction.
  • Sutton, Imre, 2008. Back to E.29th Street: Where Fact and Fiction Revisit Kips Bay, N. Y. (Fullerton, CA: Americo Publications)





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ben Gazzara" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools