Posted at 7:40 AM on December 15, 2005
by Euan Kerr
I have been working my way through Richard Schickel's "Elia Kazan: a biography." It's pretty riveting stuff. It's worth reading even just the prologue where he revisits the Oscar controversy of 1999. At the urging of Karl Malden, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to give and honorary Oscar to Kazan, the director of a host of films including "On the Waterfront," "A Streetcar Named Desire", and "East of Eden."
The decision launched months of controversy because decades before Kazan had 'named names' before the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities. Some people in the industry mounted a campaign to stop Academy members giving Kazan the customary standing ovation when he recieved the award.
Schickel, the film critic for Time magazine, is a self-admitted admirer and friend of Kazan. He gives the background to what actually happened both around the time of the special award, and around the time leading up to when Kazan testified. While it is still up to the reader to decide who was in the wrong here, the context makes fascinating reading.
I am looking forward to getting into the part where he actually starts making films!