New York City mourns the death of a beloved actor: Ben Gazzara died over the weekend. Gazzara grew up on New York’s Lower East Side and later attended Stuyvesant High, City College, and the dramatic workshop at the New School—you don’t get any more New Yorkey than this.
Did you know that Gazzara was in line for the lead role in Elia Kazan’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? He had, after all, starred in the Broadway production. He eventually lost out to Paul Newman.
Gazzara was an actor’s actor, a character’s actor who made his name with a number of television roles in the sixties, picking up a few Emmy nominations along the way. His entire filmography spans six decades, however, starting with Jack Garfein’s The Strange One in 1957.
If movies make the actor immortal, Gazzara will continue to live on the big screen through his roles in John Cassavetes’s movies: Husbands (1970) and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). In 1977, Gazzara plays Manny Victor, a stage director who has to contend with the star of his show who is mentally unstable (played by Gena Rowlands). Look at who he worked with in the nineties: David Mamet, the Coen Brothers, Spike Lee and Todd Solondz, to name a few—not a bad track record at that. Gazzara kept on working until nearly the very end, in 2003 appearing in Lars Von Trier’s ensemble cast movie Dogville.
He was 81.
Peter Bogdanovich, who cast Gazzara in his film They All Laughed, told Indiewire, “I don’t think they make actors like Ben anymore.”
Cliché but true.
Watch the trailer for Husbands here (we don’t think they make movies like this anymore):