This fully annotated selection of Elia Kazan’s letters reveals all the passion, vitality, and raw honesty that made him such a towering figure in American theater and film.
Kazan’s determination to be a “sincere, conscious, practicing artist” resounds through every phase of his career: his apprenticeship with the Group Theatre, his co-founding of the Actors Studio and co-direction of the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center, and his innovative directing on Broadway (A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman) and in Hollywood (On the Waterfront and East of Eden). Kazan collaborated with some of the greatest writers of the era, including Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Thornton Wilder, and John Steinbeck. His letters to and about Marlon Brando, James Dean, Warren Beatty, Robert De Niro, and others are full of insights on acting and directing. We see his heated dealings with studio moguls, his principled resistance to censorship, the upheavals of testifying before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. We glimpse his inner life in his startlingly candid letters to his first wife and those to and about his children. The Selected Letters provides an extraordinary portrait of a complex, intense, monumentally talented man who engaged the political, moral, and artistic currents of the twentieth century.
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“Fascinating. . . . Vibrant. . . . Essential. . . . A valuable contribution to theater history.” —The New York Times
“Kazan’s unstoppable drive and restless energy . . . spring from almost every page of this meaty volume. . . . His complicated personality bristles forth, like a constant chorus of firecrackers.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Vivid, pungent and forceful, Elia Kazan’s letters immerse us in the life of a working director. . . . An honest look at a complicated artist.” —The Washington Post
“The candid Kazan voice is at full throttle. . . There are blow-by-blow accounts of Kazan’s creative path on most of his major film and stage projects. . . . No less fascinating are exchanges about some of his more instructive failures.” —The New York Review of Books
“The letters chart his tireless activity, his remarkable combination of combativeness and self-deprecation, charm and (where possible) loyalty . . .Above all we get a sense of the cost to himself and others of [his] extraordinary achievements . . . the struggles and the vision, sustained across decades, that brought them to fruition.” —London Telegraph
“Insightful, dynamic, and culturally important, Kazan . . . was that rarity—an articulate first-class mind, engaged and in action. These 300 letters are a marvelous pool to illuminate Kazan’s backstage processes, both personal and creative.” —Choice
“Engrossing . . . An impressive work of scholarship, this collection offers a sweeping look at sixty years of American popular culture and an intimate portrait of one complex man whirling at its center.” —Kirkus Reviews
“These vibrant, muscular, outspoken, take-no-prisoners letters tell you everything you will ever need to know about the theater, relationships between artists, Hollywood illusions, affairs of the heart, family. Kazan had an amazing life and a brilliant career, and he wrote with eloquence, passion, and truth. These letters are to be treasured.” —André Bishop, Producing Artistic Director, Lincoln Center Theater
“Elia Kazan’s letters crackle with the impulsive exuberance of a vital, brilliant, ambitious man wholly devoted to craft. And they tell the not-to-be-missed story of American politics and American art, deeply entwined, during the fatally conflicted era that is our inheritance.” —Brenda Wineapple, author of White Heat
“Compulsively readable . . . Few entertainment figures had the particular combination of passion, feistiness, diligence, and longevity that made Kazan such a prodigious letter writer. The Selected Letters is a history of the golden age of Broadway and Hollywood as seen through the eyes of a man who irrevocably transformed both industries.” —Julian Sancton, Departures
“Elia Kazan lived, directed, and wrote from his gut. He was a powerhouse. His scrupulously edited Selected Letters carries the same unflinching, instinctive, brilliant wallop: vividly alive, self-aware, fervent, resourceful. . . . They are incandescent witness to the century he so fiercely bustled in.” —John Lahr