Elia Kazan – Wild River (1960)

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DESPITE a tempestuous title, “Wild River,” which came to both the Victoria and Sixty-eighth Street Playhouse yesterday, emerges as an interesting but strangely disturbing drama rather than a smashing study of a historic aspect of the changing American scene.

In focusing his color cameras on the South and the Southerners affected by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the early Nineteen Thirties, producer-director Elia Kazan, oddly, enough, distracts a viewer with a romance that shares importance with the social and economic upheaval that unquestionably is closest to the heart of this movie matter. In following two courses simultaneously, the potential force of “Wild River” has been diminished. Continue reading Elia Kazan – Wild River (1960)

Elia Kazan – On the Waterfront (1954)

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synopsis
This classic story of Mob informers was based on a number of true stories and filmed on location in and around the docks of New York and New Jersey. Mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) rules the waterfront with an iron fist. The police know that he’s been responsible for a number of murders, but witnesses play deaf and dumb (“plead D & D”). Washed-up boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) has had an errand-boy job because of the influence of his brother Charley, a crooked union lawyer (Rod Steiger). Witnessing one of Friendly’s rub-outs, Terry is willing to keep his mouth shut until he meets the dead dockworker’s sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint). “Waterfront priest” Father Barry (Karl Malden) tells Terry that Edie’s brother was killed because he was going to testify against boss Friendly before the crime commission. Because he could have intervened, but didn’t, Terry feels somewhat responsible for the death. When Father Barry receives a beating from Friendly’s goons, Terry is persuaded to cooperate with the commission. Featuring Brando’s famous “I coulda been a contendah” speech, On the Waterfront has often been seen as an allegory of “naming names” against suspected Communists during the anti-Communist investigations of the 1950s. Continue reading Elia Kazan – On the Waterfront (1954)

Elia Kazan – America, America (1963)

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One of the greatest movies about immigrant experience of coming to America is Elia Kazan’s epic journey America, America based on the stories of his uncle coming from Turkey to the United States in the early 1900’s. The title has been available previously in France and in 2010 it was released as part of Fox’s mega-set Elia Kazan Collection, but this film marks its debut on stand-alone region 1 disc. The dual-layered disc features a progressive black-and-white transfer with very good contrast and no damages on the print. There are a few problematic shots, but those were mostly from the stock footage.
The decent mono soundtrack is in English only and the disc features English and French subtitles. The lone extra is an informative commentary by Foster Hirsch. This is a highly recommended release of an underrated film that needs to be rediscovered by a wider audience.

– Gregory Meshman @ DVD Beaver Continue reading Elia Kazan – America, America (1963)

Elia Kazan – Pinky (1949)

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synopsis

Elia Kazan directed this, one of Hollywood’s early attacks on racism, starring Jeanne Crain as Patricia “Pinky” Johnson. Patricia is a light-skinned black woman who is studying nursing at a New England medical institute. A white doctor, Thomas Adams (William Lundigan), has fallen in love with Patricia and wants to marry her, but Patricia refuses his proposal. Convinced their interracial union would never work out, Patricia believes Thomas would never be able to endure the acrimony that would be heaped upon their marriage. Patricia leaves New England to return to her childhood home in the South, where her grandmother (Ethel Waters) works for rich widow Miss Em (Ethel Barrymore). When Miss Em takes ill, Patricia cares for her. Upon Miss Em’s death, it is discovered that she has bequeathed her entire estate to Patricia. Miss Em’s family disputes the will because Patricia is black, and a courtroom battle ensues over the estate.- by Paul Brenner Continue reading Elia Kazan – Pinky (1949)

Elia Kazan – Boomerang! [+Extras] (1947)

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Boomerang, directed by Elia Kazan, is a chilling film noir, the true story about the murder of a priest, the subsequent arrest and trial of a jobless drifter, and the efforts of young state’s attorney Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews) to uncover the truth. Closely based on the actual 1924 murder of Fr. Hubert Dahme in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the film was directed by the young Elia Kazan in a highly effective, semi-documentary style. Kazan shot most of the film on location, using high-contrast cinematography and an extremely mobile camera to create a palpable sense of urgency. The screenplay, expertly crafted by Richard Murphy received an Academy Award nomination. Continue reading Elia Kazan – Boomerang! [+Extras] (1947)

Elia Kazan – Man on a Tightrope (1953)

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This little movie is an exciting sleeper. It is a fictional story of a real incident about a small circus in an Eastern Bloc country that planned to escape to the West during the cold war. With uniformly excellent performances by all one of its unique accomplishments is the creation of a real sense of place. Although most of the cast is North American and speak in English, through the use of carefully written dialog, well thought out characterizations and wordrobe you have no doubt that you are in a foreign country listening to people speaking in their own language. Continue reading Elia Kazan – Man on a Tightrope (1953)

Elia Kazan – Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

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From Classic film:

One of the earliest films about anti-Semitism in the U.S.A. (though Oscar Best Picture winner, The Life of Emile Zola (1937) dealt with the subject in France), this Best Picture winner ironically competed against another (better?) film based on the same, Crossfire (1947). The former is a story about a gentile writer who pretends to be Jewish and then experiences the prejudice firsthand, while the latter explores a murder whose anti-Semitic motive is at first unknown. Additionally (even stranger?), these two similar films competed with a Dickens classic & two traditionally Christmastime films The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947). But Best Actor nominee Gregory Peck & Director Elia Kazan (winning an Oscar with his first nomination) proved a more powerful combination than the three Roberts (Young, Mitchum, Ryan – though Robert Ryan was nominated for Best Supporting Actor) & Director Edward Dmytryk, who received his only Academy Award nomination. Additionally, Celeste Holm beat fellow Gentleman’s Best Supporting Actress nominee Anne Revere and Crossfire’s Gloria Grahame for that award. Both pictures also lost in the Editing & Writing categories. This was probably a very closely contested “race” considering the direct competition by genre. It’s a wonder the other nominee, Great Expectations (1947), didn’t win except for the fact that (up until that point) the British never had (which was “corrected” the following year with Laurence Olivier’s self-directed Hamlet (1948))! Continue reading Elia Kazan – Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)