Elia Kazan, the American immigrant and director

Essay by zeitgeistCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2004

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Elia Kazan, the American immigrant and director

Elia Kazan, his Turkish name "Kazanjoglous," was born in Constantinople (now Istanbul), Turkey to Greek parents. At the age of four he moved with his family to the United States and settled in New York City. Elia Kazan attended formal education at Williams College in Massachusetts; he later studied at prestigious Yale University's Drama school. Kazan was known of "Gadget" later on his life due to the fact, as he says it, "I am short, compact and eccentric--like a gadget."

Kazan acted in a few films; however, his real talent was shown in his ability to direct. He began his career as an actor and stage manager for New York's Group Theatre Company (a strong leftist organization), which was just recently established. His involvement in the group led him to join the "American Communist Party" in 1934. He was only involved with the Communist Party for a short time; however, he was quickly recognized as a potential communist by the "House of Un-American Activities Committee," a group that was investigating the motion picture industry because of growing concern of communists working in the industry.

A blacklist of names was being circulated, and those on the list could be in serious trouble and be denied to work in the film industry again. The committee called people to "rat out" others, many refused, however; Elia Kazan gave the committee the names of eight communists of the same party he was, and his reasoning was he did not want to be on the blacklist. Any member found to be on the blacklist had their credits removed from any film they had participated in. Names he gave out also included "friends" who had worked with him in The Group Theater. Recently, debates were circulating over...