An excerpt from a new book of the director’s correspondence reveals his infidelities, fights with censors and true feelings about Brando, Dean and other stars.
Director Elia Kazan remains one of Hollywood’s most polarizing figures. He directed such classics as A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), On the Waterfront (1954), East of Eden (1955) and Splendor in the Grass (1961). The native New Yorker’s career began on the stage and, as such, Kazan was an actor’s director; he discovered Marlon Brando, James Dean and Warren Beatty. He also loved writers and proved a nimble collaborator for such icons as Tennessee Williams and John Steinbeck.
But when he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee about being a member of the Communist Party in the ’30s, he “named names” — an act that drew scorn from some of his contemporaries and colored his career and his 1999 honorary Oscar (some of the attendees, like Kirk Douglas, steadfastly refused to applaud).