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The Southern Jewish weekly. [volume] (Jacksonville, Fla.) 1939-1992, August 08, 1947, Image 2

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn78000090/1947-08-08/ed-1/seq-2/

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Page Two
Hollywood and Anti-Semitism
The Story of Elia Kazan
BY LEON GUTTERMAN
(Copyright, 1947, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Inc.)
HOLLYWOOD—
The youngest of the most brilliant and successful motion picture
directors working today in Hollywood is 37-year-old Elia Kazan, who
is now' earnestly at work on the most important film to be made this
year by a studio, namely 20th Century-Fox’s picturization of Laura
Z. Hobson’s best seller “Gentleman’s. Agreement.” With the film
being produced by the studio’s production chief, Darryl F. Zanuck,
with a star-studded cast headed by Gregory Peck, John Garfield and
Dorothy McGuire, and with a film budget running into the millions,
Elia Kazan is handling work which would have been turned down by
directors with far more experience behind the camera than he at
the moment possesses.
“ But it’s a great challenge to
me,” says the boy wonder of the
directors, “and I love to meet
challenges. ‘Gentleman’s Agree
ment” deals with the subject of
frankly, intelli
gently and interestingly, and
what I am doing at the moment
is putting it all together into
an entertainment form wherein
the millions who will see it will
not feel that they are being
preached at or reprimanded for
not thinking in terms of toler
ance. The way to get at the
mind of the American public is
to hit the heart. I believe that
‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ as a
motion picture will do more to
clear up the issues of anti-Semi
tism than any other medium we
have yet used to combat this
subversive force. I’m making a
great motion picture packed with
entertainment, human emotions
and human conflict. That’s the
only way you can hit home the
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points you have to put over.”
Kazan, who now has behind
him such film hits as "A Tree
Grows In Brooklyn”, “Boome
rang”, “Sea Os Grass” as well
as many Broadway successes, be
came a movie director only on
condition that he could have
two kinds of freedom”: (1) Okay
over material, and (2) A. schedule
of only one picture a year. But
in becoming a full-fledged movie
director at the age of 34, he
finally achieved an ambition that
had haunted him for 13 years.
(Elia (pronounced E-ly-a) at
tended New York public schools,
then went on to Williams Col
lege, with no interest in dramat
ics. He had no idea of what kind
of work he wanted to do in life.
"Frankly, I wanted to avoid work
as much as possible and as
long, as possible.”
Therein lies the secret of his
success.
At college, he waited on tables
at a fraternity house. That form
of labor, he didn’t mind; he was
“a pretty good water.” But dur
ing summer vacations he punch
ed time-clocks in • a variety of
New York offices, and that he
didn’t like.
It was strictly as a fugitive from
time-clocks, when he graduated
Williams, that he enrolled in the
Yale Dramatic School. He was
not impelled there by the irresist
ible lure of the drama. He was
only trying to extend his educa
tional period—and to delay, yet
awhile, a permanent association
with work. So for the next two
years he went to Yale. But as
the course drew to a close, he had
to make some kind of a decision
about what he wanted to become.
He decided he w’ould like to be a
movie director. He was then 21.
“You see,” he explains, “I real
ized that before I could be a di
rector, I would need more educa
tion. Lots more.”
Byway of post-graduate study,
after leaving Yale, he enrolled
with the Group Theatre as an ap
prentice. At the end of three
years, he had learned enough
about the presentation of drama
to be elected stage manager. He
didn t think it would be much
longer before he was a director.
But he reckoned without play
wright Clifford Odets.
Odets w*ote a one-act play,
! since famous, entitled "Waiting
For Lefty,” which the Group
undertook to produce. But as re
THE SOUTHERN JEWISH WEEKLY
hearsals got under way, there was
one role that still hadn’t been
cast. In their desperation, they
drafted Kazan for the role.
To his surprise, he was a suc
cess as an actor; he even got at
tention from the critics. So, for
the next six years, from 1935 to
1941, he “couldn’t avoid acting.”
Meanwhile he played opposite
Frances Farmer in “Golden Boy,”
opposite Sylvia Sidney in “The
Gentle People,” and opposite In
grid Bergman in a Broadway re
vival of “Liliom.” He climbed up
to a salary of S7OO a week. The
way he puts it is: “For an odd
looking guy, I did all right.” But
what he wanted to do was to di
rect. And he “kept making stabs
at it, without much success.”
En route he acquired ownership
of a play, “Blues In The Night."
When he couldn’t raise the neces
sary funds to put it on, he sold
the play to the movies. Warner
Bros., who made the purchase,
wanted him to act in the picture.
He succumbed to the offer, and
also appeared in “City For Con
quest,” opposite James Cagney,
staying in Hollywood a total of
12 weeks.
Back in New York, he appeared
in a few more plays, and kept on
trying to direct a few. As a stage
director, he finally clicked, irr a
mild way, with “Case Crown.”
Thornton Wilder saw the play and
wanted him to direct “Skin Os Our
Teeth.” Wiilder’s dramatic fan
tasy won the Pulitzer Prize; the
star, Tallulah Bankhead, won the
Drama Critics Award for the
year’s best performance; and Elia
Kazan won the Critics Award for
the year’s best direction!
As a follow-up, he directed the
lavish musical, “One Touch of
Venus,” and then turned around
and directed Helen Hayes in
“Harriet.” He had three hits on
Broadway simultaneously—a sen
sational accomplishment. “A lot of
it was luck,” he claims. Holly
wood scouts came pounding on his
door, pleading wiith him to donate
his talents to the screen.
While he pondered the offers,
which came from every major
studio, he directed “Jacobowsky
and the Colonel,” by Franz Werfel,
which became a Theatre Guild hit.
He signed with 20th Century-
Fox for three reasons: (1) Produc
tion head Darryl F. Zanuck was
willing to give him the “two kinds
of freedom” he wanted; (2) he was
offered the chance to direct “A
Tree Grows In Brooklyn,” which
appealed to him as “something
truthful, something that touched
and moved me, something that
embodied universal experience”;
and (3) Louis Lighton was assign
ed as producer.
Kazan arrived in Hollywood
without fanfare in March, 1944, to
direct the tests for the picture, as
well as the picture itself. “A Tree
Grows In Brooklyn” marked his
directional debut in Hollywood. -It
turned out to be one of the sensa
tional box-office hits of the year,
and was later nominated for the
Academy Award. Since then the
Kazan name on a film has meant
one thing: a great motion picture.
Elia is short (approximately five
feet five), slender (he weighs
about 150 pounds), has a shock of
black hair, wears specs over sharp
brown eyes, and has a longish,
mobile face. He is seldom seen in
a business suit. His usual attire
consists of shirt, trousers and
sport jacket.
Directing, he has the confiden
tial approach. He huddles with
his players, talking so low that
he can’t be heard by anyone ten
feet away. Between scenes, like
most people popping with ideas,
he’s restless. He paces. “I’ve got
(Continued on Page 7)
j PALESTINE TEACHERS EN ROUTE TO AID DP'sj
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. Through a combined operation of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the
Joint Distribution Committee, which derive their funds from the $170,000,00*
United Jewish Appeal campaign, and the Central Committee of Liberated
Jews, 100 Jewish teachers from Palestine are now en route to Germany to pro
vide education for thousands of Jewish children in DP camps/ Photos abovo
show members of the first group of 36 Palestine teachers leaving Marseille*
for Germany. The United Jewish Appeal must raise $170,000,000 this year to
help provide retraining, rehabilitation and resettlement assistance for the
Jews in DP camps and to sustain and rebuild the lives of large numbers of the
Jewish survivors throughout Europe who are still in need. The Joint Distri
bution Committee, the United Palestine Appeal and the United Service for
New Americans raise their funds for relief and rehabilitation overseas, for
Palestine settlement and for refugee adjustment in the U. S. through the
nationwide United Jewish Appeal campaign.
W-DEf Soviet £ZnS*
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