Elia Kazan, the controversial theatre director who became an Academy Award-winning screen director, will add another Academy Award to the pair of Best-Director Oscars already on his mantle. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this decision Jan. 11, 1999.
The Honorary Award will be given to Kazan at the 71st annual ceremony March 21, "in appreciation of a long, distinguished and unparalleled career during which he has influenced the very nature of filmmaking through his creation of cinematic masterpieces," the Board of Governors of the Academy stated.
Kazan, 89, an Istanbul native who came to the U.S. with his Greek parents at age four, studied at Williams College and Yale's graduate theatre department and apprenticed with the Group Theatre. He direct groundbreaking hits of the American theatre, including The Skin of Our Teeth (1942), All My Sons (1947), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), Tea and Sympathy (1953) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), among others.
Despite being one of the most influential directors of his period, and bringing his vision to the film version of Streetcar, Kazan is also remembered for naming friends and colleagues as having Communist ties before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952.
His testimony is said to have ruined the careers of actor Morris Carnovsky, playwright Clifford Odets and others during the period when Washington politicians were rooting out so-called subversive influences in Hollywood. Among Kazan's films are "On the Waterfront" (Best Director Oscar), "Gentleman's Agreement" (Best Director Oscar), "East of Eden" and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."
-- By Kenneth Jones