John Cassavetes

John Cassavetes (December 9, 1929 - February 3, 1989) was an American actor, screenwriter, and director. Cassavetes created an American form of cinema verite with his innovative camera use, bleak outlook, and emphasis on improvisation. Film critic Ray Carney called him "the father of American independent film".

Cassavetes was born in New York City to Greek immigrants. He grew up in Long Island and attended Colgate University before moving to the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts. On graduation in 1950, he continued acting in the theater. By 1953, he was doing small parts in films; he continued to play a James Dean-like "juvenile delinquent" throughout the 1950s. Cassavetes also acted on television, which was still finding its feet as a medium. His experience working within television's budgetary and schedule limits influenced his later film production style.

During this time he met and married actress Gena Rowlands, a fellow television actor. By 1956 Cassavetes had begun teaching method acting in workshops in New York City. An improvisation exercise in one workshop inspired the idea for his writing and directorial debut, Shadows (1960). Cassavetes raised the funds for production from friends and family, as well as listeners to a late-night radio talk show.

Cassavetes was unable to get American distributors to carry Shadows, so he took it to Europe, where it won the Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival. European distributors later released the movie in the United States as an import.

Although the viewership of Shadows in the United States was slight, it did gain attention from the Hollywood studios. Cassavetes directed two movies for Hollywood in the early 1960s — Too Late Blues and A Child is Waiting — but the experience was exasperating. The intervention of the studios, the lack of creative control, and the over-all dumbing down of his work was unbearable. Cassavetes refused to go through the process again.

His strategy, brought on by necessity, was to work as an actor in mainstream movies, and channel the funds he made there into his work as a director. He didn't just clockwatch as an actor, though; he did masterly work in blockbuster hits of the late 1960s, including World War II epic The Dirty Dozen (1967) — for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor — and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968).

His next independent film was Faces, which lay down new themes for later work. Starring Cassavetes's wife Rowlands, Faces depicted a contemporary suburban marriage in the process of slow disintegration, with the accompanying desperate and degrading sexual improprieties. Cassavetes held an unflinching camera on the pettiness and emotional greed of the distancing husband and wife and their lovers, but in the end the pathos of their story gives them an unexpected dignity. Faces was a critical and financial success, nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor and Actress).

After Faces Cassavetes could concentrate more fully on his directorial work. He had enough leverage at this point that he could make movies in the studio system, yet retain full creative control. Husbands (1970) starred Cassavetes himself, with Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara. They play a trio of men escaping their marriages for minor peccadillos. Another in the 1970s include Minnie and Moskovitz, about a misdirected young woman seeking love, and starring Rowlands again with a small part for Cassavetes's mother, Katherine.

His two masterpieces of the 1970s, however, were made independently. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) stars Rowlands as an increasingly eccentric housewife trying to keep her hold on reality. Peter Falk played her husband, who tries to keep up a facade of normality, but ultimately makes the difficult decision of committing her to a mental institution. The characters were nuanced, and the ethical situations were measured in shades of gray. The wife's behavior, while disturbing and disconcerting for those around her, is not obviously dangerous or unstable. Rowlands is an expert collaborator in the story, playing Mabel with subtlety and energy; she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, while Cassavetes was nominated for Best Director.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) was a movie about the experience of men as much as Influence was about women. Ben Gazzara plays Cosmo Vitelli, a small-time strip-club owner with an out-of-control gambling habit, who is convinced by mobsters to commit a murder to pay off his debt. Driven by fear and uncertainty, Vitelli deceives friend and foe alike. Author Christos Tsiolkas said of Bookie that it showed "being a man means knowing gutlessness better than knowing courage, that failure stays with you long after success."

Cassavetes continued to work through the 1980s, although personal troubles with alcohol were beginning to take their toll. Gloria (1980) is a more conventional thriller starring Rowlands as a mob moll who runs off with a young boy orphaned by the mob and soon to be next. Love Streams (1984) starred Cassavetes as an aging lothario who suffers the overbearing affection of his recently divorced sister. Sadly, Cassavetes's last movie, Big Trouble (1986), was a last-minute project picked up as a favor when a younger director friend peremptorily quit the project. The movie, racked by incompatible studio and director edits, was, in Cassavetes's words, "a disaster". Already ill, he was heartbroken that it would be the last film he would do.

Cassavetes's personality was overpowering and driven. He lived to make film, and sacrificed his colleagues and himself to the process. The intense effort took its toll; an alcoholic, Cassavetes died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1989 at the age of only 59. He was survived by Rowlands, who continued to act, and three children. His son, Nick Cassavetes, followed in his father's footsteps, and made 1997's She's So Lovely from the elder Cassavetes's screenplay, and directed 2004's The Notebook.

A Note On Improvisation

Rowlands has stated that the role of improvisation in Cassavetes films has frequently been misunderstood. Though Cassavetes allowed and even encouraged his actors to ad lib while filming, only very rarely, she says, were entire scenes filmed as they were being improvised. Rather, Rowlands reports, the actors would improvise from Cassavetes' scripts during rehersals, then Cassavetes would rewrite scenes based on the improvisations.

Tributes

Fugazi, a rock music group who shared Cassavetes' independently-minded aesthetic, titled a song after the filmaker on their 1993 In On The Killtaker album. Lyrics include: "complete control for Cassavetes/if it's not for sale you can't buy it"

Selected Filmography

  • Shadows (1959)
  • Faces (1968)
  • Husbands (1970)
  • Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)
  • A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
  • The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
  • Gloria (1980)
  • Love Streams (1984)

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Lyrics include: "complete control for Cassavetes/if it's not for sale you can't buy it". as a bit or walk on part). Fugazi, a rock music group who shared Cassavetes' independently-minded aesthetic, titled a song after the filmaker on their 1993 In On The Killtaker album. Crosby's films included (an incomplete listing):. Rather, Rowlands reports, the actors would improvise from Cassavetes' scripts during rehersals, then Cassavetes would rewrite scenes based on the improvisations. On his passing, Bing Crosby was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Though Cassavetes allowed and even encouraged his actors to ad lib while filming, only very rarely, she says, were entire scenes filmed as they were being improvised. Most reference works give his year of birth as 1903, but his gravestone – on the instructions of his family – gives his birth year as 1904.

Rowlands has stated that the role of improvisation in Cassavetes films has frequently been misunderstood. There is some uncertainty about the year in which Bing Crosby was born. His son, Nick Cassavetes, followed in his father's footsteps, and made 1997's She's So Lovely from the elder Cassavetes's screenplay, and directed 2004's The Notebook. The duet went on to attain cult status and charted well in countries around the world. He was survived by Rowlands, who continued to act, and three children. Crosby recorded a version of Little Drummer Boy with David Bowie just one month prior to his death. The intense effort took its toll; an alcoholic, Cassavetes died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1989 at the age of only 59. Two of his children, Lindsay and Dennis, committed suicide.

He lived to make film, and sacrificed his colleagues and himself to the process. After his death, his eldest son from his first marriage, Gary, wrote a controversial memoir (Going My Own Way) depicting him as an autocratic and abusive father. Cassavetes's personality was overpowering and driven. Crosby had been married twice (his second wife, actress Kathryn Grant, being considerably younger), and effectively had two families, his children from the marriages being of different generations. Already ill, he was heartbroken that it would be the last film he would do. It was after playing a round of 18 holes at La Moraleja Golf Club outside of Madrid in 1977 that he collapsed and died from a massive heart attack at the age of 73 or 74. The movie, racked by incompatible studio and director edits, was, in Cassavetes's words, "a disaster". Crosby was a keen amateur golfer who appeared in many charity events.

Sadly, Cassavetes's last movie, Big Trouble (1986), was a last-minute project picked up as a favor when a younger director friend peremptorily quit the project. History repeated itself when he was asked to do a television show, demanded that it be prerecorded, and spurred the development and adoption of videotape. Love Streams (1984) starred Cassavetes as an aging lothario who suffers the overbearing affection of his recently divorced sister. Crosby's desire to prerecord his radio shows was a significant factor in the development of, and radio industry's adoption of magnetic tape recording. Cassavetes continued to work through the 1980s, although personal troubles with alcohol were beginning to take their toll. Gloria (1980) is a more conventional thriller starring Rowlands as a mob moll who runs off with a young boy orphaned by the mob and soon to be next. Crosby also had regular radio shows from the 1930s–1950s, starred in a network television sitcom in 1964–1965, and made numerous short films and television appearances. Author Christos Tsiolkas said of Bookie that it showed "being a man means knowing gutlessness better than knowing courage, that failure stays with you long after success.". His style of singing soon won him the title of "Crooner of the Century".

Driven by fear and uncertainty, Vitelli deceives friend and foe alike. From then on he was a top stage and radio performer and a top-selling recording artist. Ben Gazzara plays Cosmo Vitelli, a small-time strip-club owner with an out-of-control gambling habit, who is convinced by mobsters to commit a murder to pay off his debt. He came to national attention while with the popular Whiteman Orchestra, with whom he made his film debut in King of Jazz (1930). The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) was a movie about the experience of men as much as Influence was about women. Crosby and Rinker used Bailey's connections and joined Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys almost straight after graduating from the University of Chicago. Rowlands is an expert collaborator in the story, playing Mabel with subtlety and energy; she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, while Cassavetes was nominated for Best Director. Bing Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington and grew up with Al Rinker, the younger brother of singer Mildred Bailey.

The wife's behavior, while disturbing and disconcerting for those around her, is not obviously dangerous or unstable. He appeared in dozens of movies from the 1930s–1960s, and received the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1944. The characters were nuanced, and the ethical situations were measured in shades of gray. His popularity as a singer was matched only by his success as an actor. Peter Falk played her husband, who tries to keep up a facade of normality, but ultimately makes the difficult decision of committing her to a mental institution. In 1962 he became the first recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) stars Rowlands as an increasingly eccentric housewife trying to keep her hold on reality. He collected 21 other gold records, including "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "Too-Ra-Lo-Ra-Loo-Ral" and "Swinging on a Star".

His two masterpieces of the 1970s, however, were made independently. His biggest musical hit was his recording of the Irving Berlin classic "White Christmas", which he first sang in 1942, and which became one of the best-selling recordings of all time. Another in the 1970s include Minnie and Moskovitz, about a misdirected young woman seeking love, and starring Rowlands again with a small part for Cassavetes's mother, Katherine. Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby (May 3, 1903 - October 14, 1977) was a popular American singer and actor whose career spanned multiple generations. They play a trio of men escaping their marriages for minor peccadillos. Download sample of "White Christmas". Husbands (1970) starred Cassavetes himself, with Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara. Road to Hong Kong (1962) ( Dorothy Lamour is in the movie but onlya.

He had enough leverage at this point that he could make movies in the studio system, yet retain full creative control. Road to Bali (1952). After Faces Cassavetes could concentrate more fully on his directorial work. Road to Rio (1948). Faces was a critical and financial success, nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor and Actress). Road to Utopia (1946). Cassavetes held an unflinching camera on the pettiness and emotional greed of the distancing husband and wife and their lovers, but in the end the pathos of their story gives them an unexpected dignity. Road to Morocco (1942).

Starring Cassavetes's wife Rowlands, Faces depicted a contemporary suburban marriage in the process of slow disintegration, with the accompanying desperate and degrading sexual improprieties. Road to Zanzibar (1941). His next independent film was Faces, which lay down new themes for later work. Road to Singapore (1941). He didn't just clockwatch as an actor, though; he did masterly work in blockbuster hits of the late 1960s, including World War II epic The Dirty Dozen (1967) — for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor — and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968). the comedy road movies, with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, including:

    . His strategy, brought on by necessity, was to work as an actor in mainstream movies, and channel the funds he made there into his work as a director. The Country Girl (1956).

    Cassavetes refused to go through the process again. High Society (1954) (with Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong). The intervention of the studios, the lack of creative control, and the over-all dumbing down of his work was unbearable. White Christmas (1954). Although the viewership of Shadows in the United States was slight, it did gain attention from the Hollywood studios. Cassavetes directed two movies for Hollywood in the early 1960s — Too Late Blues and A Child is Waiting — but the experience was exasperating. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court(1949). European distributors later released the movie in the United States as an import. Blue Skies (1946).

    Cassavetes was unable to get American distributors to carry Shadows, so he took it to Europe, where it won the Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival. Mary's (1945). Cassavetes raised the funds for production from friends and family, as well as listeners to a late-night radio talk show. The Bells of St. An improvisation exercise in one workshop inspired the idea for his writing and directorial debut, Shadows (1960). Going My Way (Crosby won an Academy Award for Best Actor) (1944). By 1956 Cassavetes had begun teaching method acting in workshops in New York City. Holiday Inn (1942).

    During this time he met and married actress Gena Rowlands, a fellow television actor. Birth of the Blues (1941). His experience working within television's budgetary and schedule limits influenced his later film production style. Rhythm on the River (1940). Cassavetes also acted on television, which was still finding its feet as a medium. Rhythm on the Range (1936). By 1953, he was doing small parts in films; he continued to play a James Dean-like "juvenile delinquent" throughout the 1950s. Mississippi (1935).

    On graduation in 1950, he continued acting in the theater. The Big Broadcast (1932). He grew up in Long Island and attended Colgate University before moving to the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts. Cassavetes was born in New York City to Greek immigrants. Film critic Ray Carney called him "the father of American independent film".

    John Cassavetes (December 9, 1929 - February 3, 1989) was an American actor, screenwriter, and director. Cassavetes created an American form of cinema verite with his innovative camera use, bleak outlook, and emphasis on improvisation. Love Streams (1984). Gloria (1980). The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976).

    A Woman Under the Influence (1974). Minnie and Moskowitz (1971). Husbands (1970). Faces (1968).

    Shadows (1959).

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