Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan – Panic in the Streets [+commentary] (1950)

Synopsis:
Filmed entirely on location in New Orleans, Panic in the Streets stars Richard Widmark as a city medical officer, racing against time to stop a plague epidemic. The carrier was an illegal alien, who has been murdered by criminals Jack Palance and Zero Mostel. At first facing opposition from rule-bound police captain Paul Douglas, Widmark is finally able to work hand-in-glove with Douglas in tracking down Palance and Mostel, who have themselves become plague carriers. Read More »

Elia Kazan – Viva Zapata! (1952)

Synopsis:
In 1909, Emiliano Zapata, a well-born but penniless Mexican Mestizo from the southern state of Morelos, comes to Mexico City to complain that their arable land has been enclosed, leaving them only in the barren hills. His expressed dissatisfaction with the response of the President Diaz puts him in danger, and when he rashly rescues a prisoner from the local militia he becomes an outlaw. Urged on by a strolling intellectual, Fernando, he supports the exiled Don Francisco Madero against Diaz, and becomes the leader of his forces in the South as Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa is in the North. Diaz flees, and Madero takes his place; but he is a puppet president, in the hands of the leader of the army, Huerta, who has him assassinated when he tries to express solidarity for the men who fought for him. Read More »

Elia Kazan & John Ford – Pinky (1949)

Synopsis:
Pinky, a light skinned black woman, returns to her grandmother’s house in the South after graduating from a Northern nursing school. Pinky tells her grandmother that she has been “passing” for white while at school in the North. In addition, Pinky has fallen in love with a young white doctor, Dr. Thomas Adams, who knows nothing about her black heritage. Pinky says that she will return to the North, but Granny Johnson convinces her to stay and treat an ailing white woman, Miss Em. Meanwhile, Dr. Canady, a black physician from another part of the state, visits Pinky and asks her to train some African American students, but she declines. Read More »

Elia Kazan – Pinky (1949)

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. Read More »

Elia Kazan – Man on a Tightrope (1953)

Plot Synopsis by Mark Deming:

Elia Kazan directed this drama inspired by a true story. Karel Cernik (Fredric March) is the leader of a troupe of Czechoslovakian circus performers who have been plying their trade in Eastern Europe for years. When Czechoslovakia falls under Communist rule, the proud and independent Cernik finds that he is no longer free to operate his circus as he sees fit. Many of his performers are conscripted into military service, and his equipment and possessions are declared government property, though the state fails to maintain it properly, or even to give him access to the material to fix it himself. Finally, when Cernik’s remaining performers are ordered to insert pro-Communist messages into their acts, he decides that he can take no more and begins making plans to escape to Bavaria during an upcoming tour. Read More »

Elia Kazan – Panic in the Streets [+Extras] (1950)

Synopsis from AMG:
Filmed entirely on location in New Orleans, Panic in the Streets stars Richard Widmark as a city medical officer, racing against time to stop a plague epidemic. The carrier was an illegal alien, who has been murdered by criminals Jack Palance and Zero Mostel. At first facing opposition from rule-bound police captain Paul Douglas, Widmark is finally able to work hand-in-glove with Douglas in tracking down Palance and Mostel, who have themselves become plague carriers. Many of the actors in Panic in the Streets are local nonprofessionals, selected by director Elia Kazan because of their “rightness” within the framework of the story; the rest of the cast is peopled by such film veterans as Barbara Bel Geddes, Tommy Cook, Emile Meyer and H.T. Tsiang. Widmark’s son is played by an uncredited Tommy Rettig, four years before he starred on the Lassie TV series. Though Elia Kazan liked to claim that much of Panic in the Streets was improvised, there was a script, adapted by Richard Murphy and Daniel Fuchs from a story by Edward Anhalt and Edna Anhalt. — Hal Erickson Read More »

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. Read More »