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The Religious Affiliation of Director
Elia Kazan


Elia Kazan was raised in a Greek Orthodox home; his father attended Greek Orthodox (a branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church) services every Sunday and Kazan apparently frequently went with him. Kazan's father sent him to a Roman Catholic Catechism School services when they lived too far from any Orthdoox church. Kazan was apparently not an active member of any denomination as an adult.

As a young adult in New York, Kazan became an active and enthusiastic member of the Communist Party. Sociologists recognize Communism as a religion (although Kazan apparently did not think of it as such). As a Communist, Kazan appears to have been devoutly religious for many years. Even after he officially left the Communist Party, Kazan did not really renounce Communism. Kazan retained a strong emotional connection to Soviet Communism throughout his life, and espoused essentially Marxist doctrine even decades later.

Late in his career Kazan told an interviewer that he was "not in the least religious," by which he meant he was not religious in a traditional Christian sense; he was clearly a very religious thinker and filmmaker when one considers his Communist beliefs.

From: Michel Ciment, Kazan on Kazan, The Viking Press: New York (1974), pages 11-12:

CIMENT [Interviewer]: You were Greek, and Turkish and Orthodox; on top of that, you were educated in a Catholic school?

[ELIA KAZAN:] My father always went to Greek [Greek Orthodox] church on Sunday. It drove me mad because the men always stand up in the Greek church for four hours. My mother read the Bible, but she was not a religious person in a ritualistic way: she did not go to church. Anyway, when I was about eight or nine, we moved to New Rochelle, N.Y., where we had a small house. My father, since there was no Greek church there, insisted I be brought up in a religion and sent me to a Roman Catholic Catechism School. I had a bad two years there. I was made to go to confession; I resented it.

In Greek families, we were brought up to be afraid of our parents, not to be loved by them or to love them, I mean our male parents, and we were brought up to stay home. I did not play with any children until I was eleven years old. I don't even remember any single 'outside' person in my life until I was eleven. I did not play like a normal child would, I was kept segregated. It's the segregation a minority imposes on itself. I suppose it was meant to keep things pure, but really it was the result of terror, of fear. My uncles, who are nearly eighty, still don't mix with Americans.

As a child Kazan's father did not attend worship services, but it was extremely important to him that his son receive a religious education. Thus, young Elia Kazan attended Catholic worship services every Sunday, catechism class once a week, and regularly went to to confession. Kazan recalled that as a child he didn't really have anything to confess, so he would make up sins, telling the priest he had done things such as stealing a candy bar. He said he didn't want to sit there in silence. [Source: Elia Kazan. Elia Kazan: A Life, Alfred A. Knopf: New York (1988), page 25]

As an adult, Kazan was active in neither of the Churches he had been a part of while growing up: Catholic and Greek Orthodox. Kazan possessed little or no Catholic self-identity. In his autobiography (Elia Kazan: A Life, page 716), he said that he "doesn't understand Catholics." Kazan mentioned how a close friend of his in the film industry -- a man who attended Catholic Mass every week -- tried to console him after a person close to him died. Discussing Catholicism, Kazan recalled:

"I'm not any kind of believer, and I'm certainly not waiting for a gift from a mysterious source. Nevertheless, one day when I was blue, I heard myself saying (to myself) "Now He owes me one."
Discussing Kazan's film On the Waterfront. From: Kazan on Kazan, pages 110-112:
[Interviewer:] The character of the priest is too dominant -- and the ending looks almost like a crucifixion, like a Christian ending. The social criticism is undermined by this symbolism.

I can see your point and though I don't agree I'm not going to contest it. I did another thing that people took as symbolic. I guess it was. You know, when the bald-headed longshoreman gets killed, down in the hold, they put him on a rack; and the priest stands there, and some people have said his soul is rising to heaven. But that's the way you get out of the hold of a boat; there's no other way. There's a narrow little iron staircase that you climb up but you can't climb up with a dead body. But they said no, it's the priest taking his soul up to heaven. The fact is, I'm not in the least religious.

Kazan on Kazan, pages 150-152:
Adultery plays an important part in your films.

It was on my mind. It's one of my environments. I was brought up to believe, when I was a boy, that adultery was a sin. As soon as I became an adult, my education said, that's ridiculous, it depends on the situation, what's behind it. But still somewhere in me, I still think of it as reprehensible, that it's wrong. It's as though something bad is going to happen to the person doing it. I don't believe it in my mind, but I think I'm ambivalent as a person. I'm both very moral and very unrestrained. I don't think anything is a sin, abstractly. It depends on whom you hurt and how much. Sometimes it's necessary. I think hurting other people is bad, but I don't think you can go through life without hurting other people. All you can do is hurt them as little as you can, or not hurt them if you can possibly help it. But I was brought up, actually, to think sex was a sin.

The Armenian represents nationalism, Garabet socialist struggle, Hohanness the Christian ideal. All three fail. Does this imply that anything beyond a personal struggle is doomed to fail?

That's a possible interpretation. But what the film is obviously dealing with is a particular situation at a particular time in a particular milieu. I did mean to say that at that time, there was no outlet for the feeling of anger and rebellion and dislocation in a young man through the means of nationalism; this revolt was crushed immediately, the nationalists being completely outnumbered, terrorised, slaughtered on suspicion. Education was kept from them. The authorities saw to it that they only got to the eighth grade. Nor was there any outlet through anarchism - Garabet represents anarchism, not socialism -- propaganda through deeds, protests, bombing. There were bombings in the streets of Istanbul, but very little programme. It was also squashed without mercy, it had no chance, it had no organisation. The young man in the film sees that. And Christianity, while it preserved certain elements of nationalism and of the language, was at the same time a reactionary force which said to people: 'Stay out of social struggle. Stay quiet. Stay inside yourself. Come into church, it is safe there.' I show in the film that the church is not safe, it's burned down, and as the people run out they're shot down.

Stavros knows that if he stays with Thomna he'll always be a minority person, and frightened. Her family gives him everything in the world. That's why I made them flatter him so much, be that generous with him: I made it as hard as possible for him to go away. But he did because he had his family waiting.

When these immigrants arrived in America, they found themselves in a society that was also not welcoming, but where everybody could get along through his wits. They came to a very simple philosophy, which was: if you had a dollar, you were safe, you had status and pleasure, through the accumulation of money. Maybe I should have made it clearer, saying they felt that way but I don't. I did try to locate it in that society, and dramatise the repressive forces as being so terrible, so complete, and so final that Stavros had no choice. We're living on a very thin skin of civilisation.

Maybe it has to do with your own disillusionment with nationalism, socialism, Christianity.

One is always dealing with symbols. You're saying something, not just telling a story; you are in some way or other conveying a meaning. Everything they learned in church meant: 'Keep your eyes to the ground when you walk the streets where the Turks are.' You survived through your religion. By the time I got to be a young man, I didn't believe that. I thought that religion was a menace, dangerous and harmful. I believe that socialism will win in the world -- maybe not fast enough in every way, but it is going that way. Imperialist capitalism is a preposterous thing. As for nationalism, I'm for it some times and not others. It depends who's dealing in nationalism. And when. Finally I'm against it.

Many objects in the film are pregnant with meaning.

There are a lot of them in this picture: the grandmother's necklace, the knife that he always carries, the fez and the straw hat, and the shoes which mean a lot to me because I've seen a lot of poverty in my life. All poor people have a thing about shoes.

How did you cast the film?

Well, in the first place, they're all unknown, you've never seen them before, which is a great help, because they're not 'actors'. In the second place, I chose people who were Jews or Greeks. Rozakis and Antonio are Greeks, Linda Marsh, Paul Mann and Harry Davis are Jews. All of them know oppression, they all have uncles from the 'Old World' and have an affectionate relationship towards their forbears. I cast Stathis Giallelis from what he told me about his youth in Greece. His father was a communist and he was captured by the Right and beaten around the kidneys.

Kazan on Kazan, page 12:
[Interviewer:] You went to Williams, a very Waspish college belonging to the Little Ivy League. [The interviewer here refers to a "Waspish," or predominantly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, college, which was significant because Kazan himself was neither Protestant nor Anglo-Saxon.]

This aggravated things in two ways. One was that my father was against my going there, and right after I went, it became clear I could not ask him for money. In 1929 the Depression came; he was hard up. So at Williams, after the middle of the first year, I was a dishwasher and a waiter. I was not invited to join a fraternity. I was what you would now call a freak, someone who is out of things. I only had two friends at Williams, so all my youth I was really closed off and friendless. I stayed in my room most of the time and read. At night I would go to work as a waiter. The boys did not feel friendly to me, or so I thought. I don't blame them now. I was not attractive, I would not respond in a normal way to anything they said. I was like a frozen wolf, very hostile.

I think the reason why I later joined the Communist Party and turned against everybody was born at Williams. I had this antagonism to privilege, to good looks, to Americans, to Wasps... I always imagined society was hostile to me until quite recently; till I was almost fifty, I was not able to talk freely as I am talking to you now.

Kazan discusses his family's Turkish and staunchly Greek ethnic/cultural background. From: Kazan on Kazan, pages 9-11:
KAZAN: The Anatolian Greeks are completely terrorised people. My father's family comes from the interior of Asia Minor, from a city called Kayseri, and they never forgot they were part of a minority. They were surrounded with periodic slaughters - or riots: the Turks would suddenly have a crisis and massacre a lot of Armenians, or they'd run wild and kill a lot of Greeks. The Greeks stayed in their houses. The fronts of the houses were almost barricaded, the windows shut with wooden shutters. One of the first memories I have is of sleeping in my grandmother's bed and my grandmother telling me stories about the massacre of the Armenians, and how she and my grandfather hid Armenians in the cellar of their home ... The Armenians were lustier, their history a much bolder, more rebellious one. The Greeks were crafty, they did not rebel and they did not get killed as much.

The Greeks in Kayseri spoke Greek in the house, but outside, in the market-place where the men worked and the women shopped, they spoke Turkish. I still speak both languages. In other words, I speak the language of the oppressed and the language of the oppressor equally well. I went back to Kayseri in 1960, when I was preparing America America. All the Greeks had been transported out of that part of the world after Kemal's victory in 1922 in Smyrna. The Turks showed me the ruins of my grandfather's house, and his well. I remember they went down with a little bucket and pulled up some water for me to drink, but I didn't, it was very white, very milky, and I was concerned that it might be contaminated. I left them some money to repair the well. They treated me with the greatest cordiality and friendship. I like Turkish people very much. But I think they had never allowed the Greeks to forget that they were a minority. On the other hand, the Greeks rather looked down on the Turks. They thought of them as beasts, animals without culture, without refinement, without gentility.

My mother was born in Istanbul as I was, but in a different suburb. Her family were cotton merchants. They imported from Manchester, England, and sold wholesale in Istanbul to various merchants, both Greek and Turkish, who took the goods out to the provinces. My mother's family was much better off, more cultured. Her brother was sent to school in Berlin. Her family lived in a much better house and they had servants. My father's people never had servants, and didn't read any book except the Bible in Turkish. Anyway, I was brought up in a family where both sides were aware that they survived by their wits, lived under constant threat. So when we came to America we brought with us the idea that we were still in a foreign country. I was four years old; we lived in a kind of Greek ghetto in New York. My grandmother and my uncles and my parents lived in separate apartments in the same building and we always ate together on Sunday. We talked Greek and Turkish at home. We did not associate equally and freely with Americans.

My father traded in rugs. He was brought to this country by my uncle, who had a great deal of energy and cunning. They say the Jews have cunning, that they're sly people: the Anatolian Greeks are the same kind of people. If you want to know why: they couldn't protect themselves by force, by the sword or by arms, they were constantly being demeaned, so the only way they could get along was by being sly, by never saying the wrong thing. The first thing I learned was to shut up. My father used to tell us: 'Say nothing, don't mix in, don't mix in other people's business, stay out of trouble,' and that of course was the very opposite of the Yankee tradition. My first wife was a Yankee; her tradition was never to say anything except exactly what you felt and say it immediately without any omission or qualification. That's one of the reasons I admired and loved her so much: she was the opposite of the way I was brought up. But I was cautious and careful and crafty.

We lived on the West side, on 136th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. It was a lower middle-class neighbourhood. In the middle 1910s and the early 1920s, my father and my uncle were doing well. Oriental rugs were in vogue and they were able men in their field, good salesmen, they knew how to deal. At the age of five my mother sent me to a Montessori school. From the very beginning she tried to make me better than the society I'd come from. She gave me books, and got me to read.

Elia Kazan is the author of two books which focus extensively on Greek culture generally and Greek Orthodox culture specifically: Beyond the Aegean, Knopf/Distributed by Random House: New York (1994); and The Anatolian, Knopf/Distributed by Random House: New York (1982).

Kazan on Kazan, pages 15-19:

[Kazan:] When I entered the Group [the "Group Theatre" acting troupe] in 1932, three-quarters of the Group members were let-wing. The Group was the best thing professionally that ever happened to me. I met two wonderful men. Lee Strasberg and Harold Clurman, both of whom were around thirty years old. They were magnetic, fearless leaders. During the summer I was an apprentice, they were entertaining in a Jewish summer camp... At the end of the summer they said to me: 'You may have talent for something, but it's certainly not acting.' So they told me to go elsewhere. I got a job in a play with the Theatre Guild as an assistant stage-manager, which is like third assistant director in films... It was at this time I got the idea: I don't want to be an actor, I want to be a director.

[Interviewer:] While you were in the Group, you wrote two plays on strikes.

[Kazan:] ...There was a committee within our little [Communist] party cell; I was a leader of it in one sense, I was the one who went downtown and got orders on call there, urgent suggestions from 12th Street. One of the things the CP [Communist Party] leaders always wanted to do was to get as much money as possible out of everybody. They were very short on money. The other thing they wanted was for us to take over the Group Theatre. The strike play was de rigueur at that time; if you were in a theatre and could write anything, you wrote strike plays.

There were interludes in the play, clippings, newsreels.

I got that from Dos Passes. I thought his novel USA would be good in the theatre. Even then I was struggling for a way to keep the human drama in the social theatre. I did it through characters later, but what I was trying to say was: 'There is a social conflict going that influences and determines individual behaviour.' When I was first in the Communist Party I made speeches on a soap-box in Harlem on 116th Street with thirty people listening to me speaking against the government of Colonel Batista, against American involvement in Cuba. I did not speak very well ... Then I used to entertain a lot; in Union meetings I performed, with another communist, comic sketches, take-offs making fun of Hitler, of imperialism.

The Soviet Union exercised a fantastic attraction in the thirties, not only politically but also artistically.

There is no way for a man of your age to understand what that meant to us; we idealised the people in the USSR and what they did. And it lasted for ever. Even now, in a corner of my heart, when I hear someone say something bad about the Soviet Union, though I know it is reactionary there now and terroristic and backward and repressive -- I knew this long before Krushchev's report -- I knew it from the inside long before my testimony - despite that, to this day something clicks in me and I say: 'He should not say that, he should not think so.' One thing I admire about the young kids today is that they are so free to say that what they have in the USSR is reactionary. I idolised the Russians: we read that goddamn paper they put out for American consumption and we believed the lies they told. We adored their theatre: Meyerhold, Vakhtangov, Stanislavsky. We did imitations of their methods. I typed up Vakhtangov's notes and made a few carbons and gave them out to other members.

...Clifford Odets, to fill out the programme, wrote Waiting for Lefty, and his first idea was to make an outline of it and to have various writers of the Communist group to work on scenes. That was part of the plan to take the Group Theatre from Clurman and Strasberg and make it a Communist theatre. I was in Dimitroff, and also in Waiting for Lefty which was a big success and played constantly... This play and this feeling were the fruit of the Depression and we were determined that Americaa would become socialised and change. Meantime our best friend Roosevelt was ruining our programme by making capitalism work!

[page 19] ...In some peculiar and symbolic way the next step in the development of the 'proletarian thunderbolt' was to play gangsters in films. We used to day in the Communist Party that in American society you can either become a revolutionary or a gangster: both are bred by the same anger and the same resentment.

Kazan on Kazan, pages 20-21:
Wasn't the Group Theatre more timid, compared with the Theatre of Action and the League of Workers Theatre for which you also worked?

No, I don't think so. More timid perhaps politically; but it was not timid in those days to walk a line left of centre and right of the Communist Party. The Group Theatre said that we shouldn't be committed to any fixed political programme set by other people outside the organisation. I was behaving treacherously tot he Group when I met downtown at CP [Communist Party] headquarters to decide among the Communists what we should do in the Group, and then come back and present a united front, pretending we had not been in caucus. The Theatre of Action was a collective and I lived there for a while. The Group was also a collective for seven or eight months. We all lived together, we all cooked, each person cooking one day a week. But in the Theatre of Action and in the League of Workers Theatres, people were mean to each other. They were very narrow in their viewpoint, they had no breadth of artistic vision. In those groups the plays were typical Communist fairytales, wish dreams. Social inequality would be solved by people getting together and performing a mass act. It didn't waork that way in society, only on our stages.

Kazan on Kazan, page 22:
Then you left the Communist Party.

I was tried by the Party and that was one of the reasons I became so embittered later. The trial was on the issue of my refusal to follow instructions that we should strike in the Group Theatre and insist that the membership have control of its organisation. I said it was an artistic organisation and I backed up Clurman and Strasberg who were not Communists. Everybody said I was a foreman type, that's the way they categorised things socially; I was in between the workers and the bosses. But it was a genuine conviction of mine because I thought very little of the artistic leadership abilities of my fellow- actors in the CP and nothing of their executive abilities. The trial left an indelible impression on me. It took place in Strasberg's house because his wife was a Communist then, and she asked her husband to leave for the evening. The chief speaker of the trial, the prosecutor, was a man I had never seen before. He was an organiser for the Automobile Workers Union in Detroit. He happened to be in New York then. He made a speech about the dangers of the foreman and, although he knew nothing about me, he damned me. I was the only one who voted for myself. Everybody else voted against me and they stigmatised me and condemned my acts and attitude. They were asking for confession and self-humbling. I went home that night and told my wife 'I am resigning'. But for years after I resigned, I was still faithful to their way of thinking. I still believed in it. But not in the American Communists. I used to make a difference and think: 'These people here are damned fools but in Russia they have got the real thing,' until I learned about the Stalin-Hitler pact and gave up on the USSR.

Kazan on Kazan, pages 23-24:
Before [directing] People of the Cumberland I was mostly a middle-class boy who aspired to be a member of the proletariat: that was the pure class, I thought, the class that could not be corrupted and would not waver from its line, the revolutionary class. I always wore rough clothes and I still do, like a lot of kids now who wear working-class clothes. It was a way of disavowing the middle-class, of professing visually that you are ashamed of your middle-class heritage.

[Interviewer:] Was this your first contact with the country?

It was my first contact as someone who worked in it... I had also become friendly with Communist organisers in the South, especially one who was living in Chattanooga, Tennesee, which is not far from where Wild River was made later. I went down to Tennessee often, just to be in his company, to study the situation and the social conditions. The revolutionaries today also go here and there wherever the action is. I used to do stuff like that even after I left the Party.

More about Kazan's time with the Group Theatre, strongly reflecting, even in the present day, Kazan's influence from Marxist teachings, from Kazan on Kazan, page 26:
Also, at that time, Freud had become popularised. All these trends came together in the Group Theatre: the political Left, the introduction of Freud and Marx [along with the religions of Freudianism/Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxism/Marxist Communism], the absolute, idealistic dedication and determination towards a new world. As this failed or collapsed, or didn't come off as quickly as we wanted, I think something more mature happened; we said: 'It will happen in time, we will still work for it.' I'm a child of the thirties. There's still something in me of the thirties which says, 'There will be a better world some day. We are going through a terrible struggle now, but it's not for ever and it's not inevitable.'... I believe the world is getting better; I believe that people change for the better. That's why my hero, among American politicians, is Roosevelt. Some way or another, I believe in the existence of progress.

[Interviewer:] Around 1938 you wrote an untitled play with Clifford Odets.

...Odets and I thought we were going to save the Group Theatre--it meant a lot to us, it was a spiritual home.

Kazan on Kazan, page 40:
The Method [i.e., Method Acting] also gave me a way of getting the psychology clear, of charting the progress of a character through a film. Tennessee Williams did not agree with me--he said I was exaggerating, that it came from my Communist days when we thought people became clear and better with time. He thought people went on behaving the same way all their lives. He has a tragic view of life which is not mine; I would agree with him only in the sense that I believe our characters are our fates.
Kazan on Kazan, page 56:
...the belief that the good in American society will finally win out -- which I don't believe any more. I think when we lost faith in the Soviet Union at the end of the thirties, a lot of us [fellow Communists] said: 'Our basic institutions are good but are corrupted by individual people,' but later we realised that the corruption is general, throughout. It affects the good people, including Roosevelt and Kennedy.
Kazan on Kazan, pages 83-85:
[Interviewer:] The HUAC {House Un-American Activities Committee), with which you collaborated by giving names, was not only anti-Communist, it was also against everything liberal that had been done in America since the New Deal, which you supported. Furthermore it was doing to you and to other people what you criticised your Communist cell for doing before the war: forcing people to do things they did not want to do, controlling their thoughts.

Well, I don't think there is anything in my life towards which I have more ambivalence, because, obviously, there's something disgusting about giving other people's names. On the other hand, I think that when it's discussed now, it's discussed without relation to the period during which it took place. For one thing, at that time I was convinced that the Soviet empire was monolithic (which proved not to be so). I also felt that their behaviour over Korea was aggressive and essentially imperialistic. I certainly didn't like the people on the Right, and I made that clear in all my statements. On the other hand . . . well, as I say, it's ambivalent. Since then, I've had two feelings: one feeling is that what I did was repulsive, and the opposite feeling, when I see what the Soviet Union has done to its writers, and their death camps, and the Nazi pact and the Polish and Czech repression -- well, Krushchev says in his book what we all knew at that time was going on. It revived in me the feeling I had at that time, that it was essentially a symbolic act, not a personal act. I also have to admit, and I've never denied, that there was a personal element in it, which is that I was very angry, humiliated, and disturbed - furious, I guess - at the way they booted me out of the Party. In a sense they made it impossible for me to stay in. I knew, because in a small way I was part of the machinery, that orders were coming from above, which we, I, were supposed to hand out below. I despised the men at the top; I had affection for some members of the Party, but the cultural man, I really disliked his ideas and what he meant. There was no doubt that there was a vast organisation which was making fools of all the liberals in Hollywood, and taking their money, that there was a police state among the Left element in Hollywood and Broadway. It was disgusting to me, what many of them did, crawling in front of the Party. Albert Maltz published something in The New Masses, I think, that revolted me: he was made to get on his hands and knees and beg forgiveness for things he'd written and things he'd felt. I felt that essentially I had a choice between two evils, but the one thing I could not see was (by not saying anything) to continue to be a part of the secret manoeuvring and behind-the-scenes planning that was the Communist Party as I knew it. I've often, since then, felt on a personal level that it's a shame that I named people, although they were all known, it's not as if I were turning them over to the police; everybody knew who they were, it was obvious and clear. It was a token act to me, and expressed what I thought at the time. Right or wrong, it wasn't anything I made up, I was convinced of it. I had behaved secretly for a long time. Our behaviour in the Group Theatre was conspiratorial and, I thought, disgusting: our cell would discuss what we were going to do, then we would go to Group Theatre meetings or Actors' Equity meetings and pretend we were there with open minds. The whole thing was a way of taking over power. Solzhenitsyn describes the same thing. It was something, in my small sphere, that was symbolic of what was going on in the world. I preferred at that time doing what I did, to just remaining, by my silence, part of the thing. Defecting - that would really, to me, be defecting and lying - saying, 'Oh, I don't know anything about it, I don't know anyone, it doesn't exist, you're foolish to think anything like that goes on,' and all that. I never told a lie, I never told one lie; I've never done anything for money. I've never even directed a play because I thought it would make money. I've always done everything for my own reasons. They may not be reasons anyone else has, or anyone else would agree with, but that's the other person's problem.

Your next films show that in fact you were nearer to the people on the other side than to the people you co-operated with.

I always said so - I said so in my statement. 'I'm going to make the same kind of films,' I said, 'but I'll make better films.' Anyway, let me just say this: I was given this story about the escape of a circus, Man on a Tightrope, and I ran directly into the block I've always had, which is, I mustn't say anything against the Soviet Union - which was automatic. I thought suddenly that I was an automated person, that I didn't have the courage of the truth and of my convictions. I said: if I really believe this - it was a true circus, it really happened - why do I shrink in fear and terror from saying so? What sort of a person am I? I, by my silence, am part of this conspiracy of lying. I believed that many of the Left who testified or refused to testify didn't tell the truth; they told lies. I told the truth. I think it's important that people should know what goes on in their country, behind the scenes, and in this country, particularly, where decisions are made, presumably, and in some cases actually by people knowing what happens. The whole basis of democracy is: tell the people the truth and they'll make up their minds. And I did.

Man on a Tightrope - I didn't think the script was very good. The writer, Robert Sherwood, a brilliant and wonderful man, was exhausted, at the end of his life. But I said to myself, I'll get a real small German circus and go on the spot, and show how it really happened. That way I'll lift the other guilt off me, which was painful to me: I mean, I was really ashamed at being so terrorised, so immured in Stalinism. Many of my friends are still unable to face the truth of that situation. The Stalinists here are so terrorised and so automated that they can no longer take stands. These very, very intelligent and really nice people went right through the whole Czechoslovakian crisis recently and they still won't criticise the USSR. I think there are a lot of people here who are still Stalinists. I would fight to the death not to let them control me. I really hate them a lot. What I thought, then, was that there should be a strong, non-communist Left in this country. I don't mean the socialism they have in England, where every Socialist prime minister becomes an earl or a lord right away. Today, in this country, because of the youth, there's a strong non-communist Left. They despise the former Stalinists: they say they're liars and that they're irrelevant.

Kazan on Kazan, page 94:
...in other words, we tried to say that there is a next step, that he was beginning to find it, and that he didn't. We had that in mind, anyway. And at the end the ritualistic Leftist becomes a murderer and kills Zapata.

[Interviewer:] The Daily Worker, a Communist paper, did not attack the film as being Rightist, but as being Trotskyist!

My true feeling personally is that in one guise or another, all revolution is permanent and always will be permanent. I think there always has to be some struggle within society to keep it moving forward, and attack the tendency in people to become crooked, to become bastards...

At the time Viva Zapata! was made, the communists in this country condemned it because, they said, I'd taken a revolutionary hero and made a wavering intellectual out of him.

In Kazan on Kazan, there is much more discussion by Kazan in this interview book about his time as an adherent of Communism - much that has not been excerpted here. Kazan discusses Gentleman's Agreement, a film which today is regarded as one of the greatest Jewish-themed feature films ever made. Yet the film was made almost entirely by non-Jewish filmmakers (including Kazan, the director), and in fact was strongly opposed by the Jewish producers who ran most of Hollywood at that time. From: Kazan on Kazan, pages 57-59:
Gentleman's Agreement was like an illustration for Cosmopolitan magazine. Everyone was prettified. It was a series of cliches. But try to put yourself back in American films in 1946 where the word 'Jew' was never mentioned before. For the first time someone said that America is full ofanti-semitism, both conscious and unconscious and among the best and most liberal people. That was then a much bolder statement than it is now. In that sense the picture broke some new ground, and Zanuck, Hart and I can take some credit. It was saying to the audience: 'You are an average American and you are anti-semitic. Anti semitism is in you.' It is better than to say: 'It is a bunch of freaks that are anti-semitic.' And you have to give Zanuck credit for that.

Garfield was the first of the natural off the streets rebels, very different from the type played by Cagney or Bogart. He himself was a naive, pure-hearted, awfully nice boy. He was quite deep in politics, he was deeper in it than a person with his tolerance for pain should have been. I really loved him. I don't want to speak too much about him because it involved people still living and he is one of those cases where you either say a lot or nothing. In fact, I suggested him rather than Richard Conte for the role. Garfield had a natural ebullience, he was life-loving. He would be bouncy, playful...

The problem of course was that Garfield was like a regular Wasp, nobody could look nicer than him to the audience, he had no defects, you could not but love him. And in that context, a person like Garfield would have a certain bitterness that would make him not so pretty. And Dorothy McGuire's character was beyond saying! But everything, the photography, the processing, the costumes, the hair-dressing, was made to look Hollywood. In Boomerang I didn't put make-up on the actors' faces, except on Dana Andrews'. But in Gentleman's Agreement the heroine lived in the most expensive house in Manhattan, right over the East River, in front of the Queensborough Bridge, a house that only millionaires can afford. So she is a millionairess because it is glamorous to be rich. At the end, nobody in the audience is left with an unpleasant taste. Somewhere in the middle of it they are shocked a little bit, but I think they were able to get out of it, to say: 'Not me, I am not concerned.'

On Gentleman's Agreement I was still in the producer's system. The producer's system was a system where the producer stayed on top and divided the functions. One good thing in Moss Hart's script, though, was the moment when Gregory Peck discovered that he was a little anti-semitic too. But there was not enough of it. It would have been a good story: a man starts to investigate and finds that he is anti-semitic through and through.

But it was you who suggested that idea to Moss Hart, that Peck should discover some anti-semitism in himself.

I did say it? My God! Then I was right. You see, I was not strong enough at that time. I should have insisted on ideas like that.

In your notes you said it is the Jews who make the noise and the fuss because they face the job of breaking down what exists. The Gentiles like it the way it is.

An interesting thing about Gentleman's Agreement is that when Zanuck announced it, there was a terrific uproar from the rich Jews of the Hollywood community. And there was a meeting at Wamer Brothers, called, I think, by Harry Warner. At that meeting, as reported to me by Zanuck, all these wealthy Jews said: 'For Chrissake, why make that picture? We are getting along all right. Why raise the whole subject?' And Zanuck, in a polite way, told them to mind their own business. Or perhaps it was Moss Hart who was sent by Zanuck to that meeting as an emissary.

I had thought of Paul Osborn and Lillian Hellman to write Gentleman's Agreement. I thought that she, particularly, would have been good for it, would have made it a little more trenchant, painful, a little uglier, harsher than Moss Hart did. She is a very strong woman. But Moss did an excellent, smooth job of dramatisation, the way Zanuck wanted it. I felt about the script that nobody was pushed as in good dramaturgy they should be pushed to a point where they reveal what they are concealing. To me the words 'No Exit' are the essence of dramaturgy. A man is pushed to a wall and against that wall he finally reveals himself. The situation is like a pistol that makes the man finally speak. The one moment in the film I liked best is when Dorothy McGuire describes to Garfield the horror of this anti-semitic party she went to and Garfield says: 'What did you do?', and she answers: 'I was outraged; it felt terrible,' and he keeps saying: 'But what did you do?' I thought that was effective.

Kazan on Kazan, pages 68-70:
[Interviewer:] Didn't you make some changes [to "A Streetcar Named Desire"], towards the end?

I think the end of the stage play is better than the end of the film. It's not, to me, as dramatic as the other. I've always felt, about Williams, that there is a residing ambivalence in everything he does; which means that very often you can look at events and know they can either go one way or the other. They're not like they are in Miller, 'this is it'. When you watch Williams' plays, you have the same feeling that you have in life, that you cannot anticipate what will happen next.

What did bother me a lot was a thing I had no control over at that time: the censorship cuts made to satisfy what was then the Breen Office. There was a big controversy about that, and finally it was cut behind my back, after I'd left. It was a small cut, of 40 seconds; but I felt very badly about it, and I still do, because it was a wonderful scene Kim Hunter had when she was responding to Brando calling her from the bottom of the stairs. They said it was a moment of orgasm, which only shows that the priests who are the censors don't know anything about orgasm, don't know anything about any kind of relationship between the sexes. It was nothing, it was just that she was excited by him, she was excited by his need for her, she heard his voice desiring her, and she responded to it. That's all it was, it was a perfectly natural thing. I think that cut hurt the picture a tiny bit. Backward elements within the organisation of the Catholic Church were determined to keep a certain amount of power for their censoring organisation. And they did make themselves felt in A Streetcar Named Desire. There was a particular priest, whose name I've forgotten, who met with us and made several requests for changes. These were disguised; he made a point of saying: 'These are not requests for changes, I'm only telling you what bothers us and what would make us give this picture a C rating if they were not somehow met.' It was quite a clear threat. But I fought very hard on this, because I had very strong grounds, because the play had been acclaimed. The changes were finally made without notifying me... all I could do was write an article in the New York Times. And the villain of the article was [producer] Jack Warner, who had gone behind my back [and made the changes]. I named who did what, I named the priests, and I said what I thought of them.

Kazan was now Jewish, but apparently his Turkish ethnicity and the fact the he was a playwright and director from New York City made it easy for some people think he was Jewish, or at least he seemed to think so. From: Kazan on Kazan, pages 75-76:
The film [Baby Doll] expressed a great deal of affection for the South [the Southeastern United States]. They're very hospitable to you... I abominate what their tradition is with blacks. We had seveal episodes of protecting blacks from the police there... But I found them in other ways the most lovable, generous poeple... The USA is supposed to be a pleasure-loving country, but there's no pleasure in the big cities at all. Nobody gets any pleasure except by drinking beer and watching television. But these people [in the South] are full of pleasure. I used to go on weekends with them... I just loved them. They liked Baby Doll. As I remember, they wrote it up well. They didn't say: 'That damn Jew from New York is patronising us.'
Kazan recalls his experience with the Catholic Legion of Decency when when he released his film Baby Doll. From: Kazan on Kazan, pages 80-81:
...because of the film codes I think I left it [Kazan's film Baby Doll more ambivalent than I would have otherwise, I shouldn't have had a hiatus of any kind. Despite that, the Catholic Legion of Decency got together and decided that the picture would get a C rating. And I refused to make changes of any kind. I finally convinced Wamer Brothers that the notoriety would help the picture. Furthermore, I had the idea of putting a big sign on Broadway, right over where my office now is, Carroll Baker lying in the crib with her thumb in her mouth! It was such a big sign! A whole city block! It was like defying the Legion of Decency, it was a great pleasure to do it.

Cardinal Spellman always went to Korea to spend Christmas with the troops. When he came back, he got up in his church, St Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, and he said: 'Here I am, I go and see these boys, they're risking their lives for their country and giving everything they have for the safety of our society, and what do I find when I come back? Baby Doll!' That was a fantastic joke around New York, you know, black comedy, this damn fool gets up in church and says: 'What do I find when I come back - Baby Doll!.' And then - here's the interesting part of it - I for some reason got an idea that he hadn't seen the picture, that he'd just got reports from his various bishops and subordinates. I had a friend who was writing for the New York Herald Tribune and I suggested to him that he call up the 'powerhouse' - the nickname for the office of St Patrick's Cathedral - and ask directly if the man had seen the picture. Well, my friend never could get an answer. Then the New York Post, which is slightly more to the left, got the idea, and they published an interview with me in which I said that he had not seen the picture. My statement was never challenged. The New York Post put it in the headlines: 'Spellman Didn't See Baby Doll' 'Spellman vs. Baby Doll, or whatever. And then they had an editorial saying it was un-American not to see the picture! And the funniest part of it all was that with all this publicity, with all the front-page pictures of Spellman, and of Carroll Baker and of everybody, and the headlines all about the picture - a tiny little picture, a miniaturist's work! - after all that ... business was just so-so in New York, and very bad in the rest of the country. The Catholic Church, which is well-organised, had priests in the lobbies of the motion picture theatres taking down the names of their parishioners who came to see Baby Doll - which of course kept some of them away, and frightened the hell out of the theatre managers and owners, who refused to book the film. So it was an effective piece of censorship. But it didn't teach me a lesson! Now, when you see the picture, it's so mild that you wonder what in hell all the fuss was about.

Kazan discusses his film East of Eden, from: Kazan on Kazan, page 121:
In that story, of course, what attracted me was nothing very mysterious: the story of a son trying to please his father who disapporved of him was one part of it. Another part of it was an opportunity for me to attack puritanism; the absolute puritanism of 'this is right and this is wrong'. I was trying to show that right and wrong get mixed up, and that there are values that have to be looked at more deeply than in that absolute approval-or-disapproval syndrome of my Left friends.
Kazan on Kazan, pages 129-130:
This film [East of Eden] is terribly autobiographical in its feelings. I felt people had been right to hate me in 1951, but I mustn't hate them. I must forget it and go on with my life. I must also forgive my father, I must write a book called America America about my father and understand why he became that way, why Greeks are crafty and hidden, why Jews feel outsiders all the time. I have to rid myself of hate. See, I have been psychoanalysed. And one of the things I learned was not to blame other people for my problems but to look at myself. One of the most important things you learn in psychoanalysis is when you start saying: 'But my wife did this, but my father did that,' the analyst, if he's any good, turns you around and says: 'Yes, but what did you do?'

When were you psychoanalysed?

I was twice. The first one wasn't much help. It started in 1945, because I had left my wife and I still loved her. I'd left her and I was living with another girl in California; and although I loved her in many ways, too -- I realised that you can love two women at once, or three; you can love a lot of people -1 was also unhappy, and I missed my children and my wife. And I decided to leave this other girl and go back to my wife. Then I began to be psychoanalysed so I could find out who I was, and what I felt; but it didn't help much. I couldn't explain to him that deep in my heart I was dissatisfied with my life. That success didn't mean anything to me. So I finally said: this man is trying to make me adjust to a society, a state of affairs, that I don't like. I went further: I said, anyone who adjusts to this society is a bastard. Anyone who says you should live and be happy within the society is no good. And I quit the man.

I was really psychoanalysed in 1959, before Splendor in the Grass. I went to the man and I said to him: 'I want you to be tough. Don't tell me I'd get along; I don't want to. I want to write my own stories, I want to write books, I want to write my own films. And something is preventing me from doing it, some lack of confidence, some lack of belief in myself. That's what I'm here for. Don't tell me I'm a famous director and have money in the family and all that. I don't care about those things.' And, due to my work with him, I wrote America America. The Arrangement is full of psychoanalysis. Although I make fun of it, the book is in praise of psychoanalysis, the book is a concealed psychoanalysis, through the action of the man. The second psychoanalysis affected my whole life.

Kazan on Kazan, pages 131-132:
As I remember my script [for Wild River], what was kept was the basic concept of the woman on the island. The island was going to be inundated, she resisted it and was finally overcome. Those are good and solid elements. My hero [in the film] was a Jew. The Jew was all right with Ben Maddow, but not particularly good for Calder Willingham, and all right for me, but not good fo Paul Osborn. [Maddow, Willingham, Osborn and Kazan were all writers of the script.] ...the other conflict is a mechanical one: Jew vs Gentile. It's too obvious; it's even a cliche. So Jews and Gentiles don't get along--bullsh--!

But making Chuck Glover a Genile was immediately to make the conflict on the basis of city vs. country, intellectual vs. uneducated, bureaucrat vs. emotionally committed peasants. And that's much deeper and much more real, and it's the conflict of the story -- not New York City Jew vs. a country person. Then, I did an awful lot of research, a lot of walking around, taking holidays there. I was chased off several places where I worked--they didn't like my looks. When they got to know me, they liked me, but when they first saw me they said: 'There's a New York Kike [a perjorative term for 'Jew'] come down here to make trouble.'

I meant to make it as good a picture as I could... a basic, primitive, Biblical story...

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