METHOD ACTING Robert Osborne, for TCM, on Method Acting” "The Method.” Those are words which struck terror into the souls of many a Hollywood actor in the 1950s, exactly as the phrase "Talking Pictures" sobered up numerous film players in the late 1920s (and in a few cases did just the opposite, sending them straight to the bottle). Seemingly overnight, the acting style known as "the Method" blew into Hollywood, arriving with a tornado-like force not unlike that big wind which sent Dorothy Gale off to Oz-sending numerous A-, B- and C-grade actors scurrying off to learn this new acting style in order to save their careers. What was, and is, "the Method"? It's a process by which actors behave naturally, stripping themselves of all artifice, using their emotional memory of past experiences and feelings to create a character's motivation. (It's worth noting that the man considered one of the greatest of all screen actors, Spencer Tracy, had been giving naturalistic performances for years, using a method quite his own.) Interestingly, this "Method" ... was far from new at the time Americans embraced it. It started in Russia in the late 1890s, nurtured there by producer-director-theoretician Konstantin Stanislavsky, and was famously given new life (with adjustments) in America by the legendary Group Theatre in New York in the 1930s, then in the 1940s by several teachers such as Lee Strasberg, David Lewis and Elia Kazan at N.Y.'s Actors Studio. Two basic factors caused clamor in the 1950s: the fresh, vivid work being done in the New York theater by such Actors Studio grads such as Kim Stanley, Eli Wallach, Geraldine Page, Ben Gazarra and Maureen Stapleton; the work of two super-naturalistic actors in a pair of films which opened within a four week period in 1951-Montgomery Clift in George Stevens' A Place in the Sun and Marlon Brando in Kazan's film version of A Streetcar Named Desire. (Brando made it known his method came less from the Actors Studio and more from teacher-coach Stella Adler, a Group Theatre alumna.) Both actors had stirred interest in earlier films but it was the one-two punch of the Stevens and Kazan films that really started "the Method" steamrolling in Hollywood, with Clift and Brando each conveying his own, new kind of rare, raw, sensual honesty. Suddenly, the old ways of performing on screen-with the theatrical gusto and clear enunciation-seemed as out-of-date as a telephone party line. "The Method" is a fascinating part of Hollywood's past and present, and we hope you'll join us as we give it focus every Monday this month, starting on January 4 with samplings of work by members of the 1930s Group Theatre, such as the dynamic John Garfield, this month's Now Playing cover boy, who parlayed his early Group Theatre training into a remarkable film career. In succeeding weeks we'll showcase the work of such exponents of "the Method" as Brando, Clift, James Dean, Paul Newman and Patricia Neal, as well as the many others who have brought a multitude of "Method"-fueled-and unforgettable- performances our way for 50-plus years.
NYT Archives, Obituary ANTHONY DEVINCENZO, A BOSS ON DOCKS PORTRAYED IN NOVEL By RICHARD SEVERONOV November 23, 1983, Page 00004 The New York Times Archives Anthony DeVincenzo, a stevedore hiring boss whose struggles against labor racketeering inspired the Budd Schulberg novel ''Waterfront'' and the motion picture ''On the Waterfront,'' died of cardiac arrest last Friday at St. Mary's Hospital in Hoboken, N.J. Mr. DeVincenzo, who had been suffering from cancer, was 74 years old and a resident of Hoboken. Mr. DeVincenzo, an Italian immigrant who had a brief career as a professional boxer, was the basis for the character Terry Malloy, portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar. Though Terry Malloy was depicted as brave, tough and honest, Mr. DeVincenzo later sued the Columbia Pictures Corporation and the producer Sam Spiegel for $1 million, accusing them of having violated his privacy. The studio contended that the character of Terry Malloy was fictional, but Mr. DeVincenzo was awarded $22,800 after Mr. Brando testified that he had been told to study Mr. DeVincenzo for the role. Key Witness in Inquiry Mr. DeVincenzo's problems on the Hoboken waterfront began in 1950. After 20 years on the job, he became fed up with the corruption he saw around him and refused to cooperate with Edward J. Florio, an organizer for the International Longshoremen's Association. When the New York State Crime Commission investigated conditions on the docks in 1952, Mr. DeVincenzo was a key witness. He later lost his job and never returned to the waterfront. He became a superintendent of a park in Hoboken and part-owner of a restaurant. ''I was proud to be a rat,'' he said in 1979. ''We had to struggle. Today they live like kings and queens.'' Mr. DeVincenzo is survived by his wife, Florence; three sons, Vito, Salvatore and Anthony Jr.; a daughter, Kathryn, and 10 grandchildren. A funeral service is scheduled today at 9 A.M. at St. Francis Roman Catholic Church in Hoboken. A version of this obituary appears in print on November 23, 1983, on Page B00004 of the National edition with the headline: ANTHONY DEVINCENZO, A BOSS ON DOCKS PORTRAYED IN NOVEL.
NYT Archives | 1997 A McCarthy Era Memory That Can Still Chill By BERNARD WEINRAUBJAN. 16, 1997 The shadow of Elia Kazan still hovers over Hollywood. At the age of 87 and in uncertain health, the director who was arguably the most formidable film maker of the 1950's and 1960's and has had a powerful impact on many film makers today has just been rejected again by the American Film Institute and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for life achievement awards. The reason was simple: Mr. Kazan has not been forgiven by some film critics and members of the Hollywood elite for an appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities on April 10, 1952, when he informed on eight friends who had been fellow members of the Communist Party. Mr. Kazan's testimony took place at the height of the McCarthy era, when the House panel was zealously looking for evidence of Communist influence in Hollywood. Deploring the recent decision by the angrily divided Los Angeles film critics to reject Mr. Kazan, Todd McCarthy, the chief critic for Variety, wrote last week that the director of such classics as ''On the Waterfront,'' ''A Streetcar Named Desire,'' ''Viva Zapata!'' and ''East of Eden'' remained ''an artist without honor in his own country, a celebrated film maker whose name cannot be mentioned for fear of knee-jerk reactions of scorn and disgust, a two-time Oscar winner not only politically incorrect but politically unacceptable according to fashion and the dominant liberal-left Hollywood establishment.'' Instead of selecting Mr. Kazan, the Los Angeles film critics decided to honor Roger Corman, the cult director of ''Attack of the Crab Monsters'' and ''Swamp Women,'' among others. The award was presented today in West Hollywood. Mr. McCarthy said the rejection of Mr. Kazan was ''made exclusively on political grounds, with no regard to artistic matters.'' Reached at his home in New York City, Mr. Kazan spoke with a blend of gruffness and humor about the recent controversies. ''I've been honored enough; I don't need anymore,'' he said with a laugh. ''What more do I want? I'm happy.'' Asked if he was bothered about the level of anger against him, Mr. Kazan replied: ''You want to know the truth? Not one bit. I've had so much praise in my life. Some of it deserved, some of it not deserved. What does it matter?'' He spoke haltingly but unapologetically about the reaction to his appearance before the House panel. ''That whole time wasn't very nice,'' he said. ''People were really hurt by what went on. I was part of it, I suppose. I spoke my mind and I had a right to do it.'' To his critics, many of whom weren't even born in the 1950's, Mr. Kazan's decision to name names 45 years ago was so repugnant that forgiveness seems out of the question. His action remains for some a raw wound that has not healed and probably never will. But to his defenders, Mr. Kazan is viewed as a victim of Hollywood hypocrisy and trendy politics. After all, they say, organizations like the American Film Institute and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which ritualistically bestow life achievement and so-called humanitarian awards, often honor men and women whose tangled personal lives and behavior, while perhaps not political, have wrought more havoc than Mr. Kazan's. Moreover, the movie community has generally forgiven top executives and producers who have forged checks, beat up women, abused employees and engaged in vicious behavior. Citing previous honorees, one high-level movie executive who is a member of the board of the Film Institute and favors an award to Mr. Kazan said today: ''It doesn't matter whether Kazan ratted on his friends. Just as it doesn't matter whether Orson Welles and John Huston treated their wives badly, or Alfred Hitchcock was a misogynist or David Lean was not a terribly nice man. It doesn't matter finally. All that matters is the movies. You're honoring a person's body of work.'' But Joseph McBride, vice president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, who distributed copies of Mr. Kazan's Congressional testimony at a meeting of the group, strongly disagreed. ''When you're honoring someone's entire career you're honoring the totality of what he represents, and Kazan's career, post 1952, was built on the ruin of other people's careers,'' said Mr. McBride, author of ''Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success'' and a coming biography of Steven Spielberg. ''Ironically, Kazan's films became richer and were more morally complex after he informed,'' Mr. McBride said. ''But to give our highest award to him would be ignoring a serious moral issue. We would be passively saying, 'We don't care if people inform on their colleagues.' '' Mr. Kazan's decision to inform on his friends from his days in the Communist Party in the mid-1930's came at a tense, heated time when Hollywood studios demanded that their directors and actors cooperate with the House panel or be blacklisted. Certainly his testimony damaged if not shattered the careers of his former colleagues, Morris Carnovsky and Art Smith, both actors, and the playwright Clifford Odets. Other figures in entertainment also named names, among them the actors Lee J. Cobb and Burl Ives and the choreographer Jerome Robbins. But none of them had had the success or fame of Mr. Kazan, whose movie career would have been seriously damaged had he not testified but whose theatrical career as Broadway's top director would probably have flourished anyway. The day after his appearance in Congress, Mr. Kazan took out a full-page ad in The New York Times that denounced Communism as a ''dangerous and alien conspiracy'' and said that ''liberals must speak out.'' In his autobiography, ''A Life,'' published by Knopf in 1988, Mr. Kazin said, ''I wanted to name everybody, break open the secrecy'' of the Communist Party. But there was a firestorm of criticism against him at the time, as he was described as an opportunist selling out his friends for a lucrative movie career. His career flourished after 1953, with such films as ''On the Waterfront,'' in which the character played by Marlon Brando informs on the mob, ''East of Eden,'' ''A Face in the Crowd,'' ''Wild River,'' ''Splendor in the Grass'' and ''America, America.'' His final film, ''The Last Tycoon'' in 1976, was a box office disappointment. His stage work in the 1950's and 1960's included ''Tea and Sympathy,'' ''Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,'' ''Dark at the Top of the Stairs,'' ''J B,'' ''Sweet Bird of Youth'' and ''After the Fall,'' the autobiographical drama by Arthur Miller that reunited the playwright with Mr. Kazan after the two had become estranged over the director's Congressional testimony. Some of Hollywood's most vocal liberals worked with Mr. Kazan after his testimony, including Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, Kirk Douglas and the cinematographer Haskell Wexler. Even his critics acknowledge that Mr. Kazan, who started the careers of Mr. Brando and James Dean, has had a powerful impact on contemporary acting. He has influenced many directors, too, including Mr. Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, who is to receive a lifetime achievement award next month from the American Film Institute, an organization supported partly by movie studios and Government money to preserve films and advance film studies. In his book, ''A Biographical Dictionary of Film,'' David Thomson wrote of Mr. Kazan: ''For good and ill, this is one of the great lives in American theater arts.'' Mr. Kazan has received awards outside Hollywood. In 1987 he was honored by the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York. Four years earlier he was a Kennedy Center honoree. But Hollywood has consistently ruled him out for honors. In 1989 the American Film Institute, whose board includes Robert A. Daly, Sherry Lansing and Ron Meyer, all top studio executives, heard Mr. Kazan's name suggested for its prestigious lifetime achievement award. But Gail Ann Hurd, the producer of such current films as ''The Relic'' and the coming ''Dante's Peak,'' strongly objected. Ms. Hurd said in an interview that at the time, she felt artists were under attack by the religious right and there was a threat of blacklists similar to those of the 1950's. She said she felt it was inappropriate to present an award to Mr. Kazan. Today Ms. Hurd said she was ambivalent about opposing the director. ''He's a very fine film maker whose work is at the foundation of a lot of films made today,'' said Ms. Hurd, 41, who had not been born when the director appeared before the House panel. ''But what he did is still a highly charged issue. I don't have an answer.'' Jack Valenti, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America and a member of the board of the Film Institute, endorses an honor for Mr. Kazan. ''The award is not for political merit or demerit or how well you do at a Congressional hearing,'' he said in an interview. ''It has to do with the rarest of all skills, cinematic artistry. And on that basis Elia Kazin is one of the great figures of this generation.'' Still, the institute's board has ignored Mr. Kazan. Its most recent honorees were Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson, Mr. Spielberg and Clint Eastwood. One board member said privately that Mr. Kazan's track record was more impressive. Technically the board did not reject Mr. Kazan outright as much as ignore him; his name has often been been placed in nomination in recent years, but Ms. Taylor, Mr. Nicholson and the others received majority votes. Jean Picker Firstenberg, director of the film institute, said the board conducted its deliberations by secret ballot and discussions were private. She said the awards were for those in ''mid-career.'' Tom Pollock, the institute's new board chairman and a former top executive at MCA Inc., said he had been strongly in favor of honoring Mr. Kazan. ''I have personally nominated Kazan before, and I believe that any artist's personal politics has nothing to do with whether their body of work is honored or not,'' Mr. Pollock said. But the majority of the board does not agree.
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