Elia Kazan (1909-2003) was known for the many literary adaptations he produced and directed on stage and screen. Born Elias Kazanjoglou in Turkey, he emigrated to the United States with his family in 1913. He attended Williams College and the Yale School of Drama before acting with the New York Group Theater during the 1930s, when he was also briefly a member of the Communist Party. As a director on Broadway, he had great success, winning three Tony Awards for Best Director: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1956), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1958), and Sweet Bird of Youth (1960). Kazan received two additional Tony Awards for Best Play--The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Tartuffe (1965)--in his capacity as producer. His other notable Broadway productions include All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Kazan, an advocate of Stanislavian Method Acting, also co-founded the Actor's Studio in 1947.
While Kazan worked in Hollywood for almost forty years, his filmography rests on quality, not quantity. He won two Best Director Academy Awards for the films Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and On the Waterfront (1954), and received three additional nominations for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), East of Eden (1955), and America, America (1963). For his work on America, America, he was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. His other films include The People of the Cumberland (1937), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Splendor in the Grass (1961), and his last picture, The Last Tycoon (1976). Unfortunately, Kazan's professional reputation was overshadowed for many years by his testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee, in which he named Communist associates, in 1952. However, the lasting importance of his body of work was emphasized when he received an Honorary Academy Award in 1999.