Jan 2024 UCE

West Coast Anniversary Series Launches with Director Elia Kazan’s 1954 feature, On the Waterfront

January 23, 2024 A DGA Special Projects Committee Event

On January 23, the Special Projects Committee debuted their new film series with a 70th Anniversary screening of Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront in the Guild’s Los Angeles Theater. The new series will screen classic films on an anniversary of their initial release, often followed by a discussion about the Director's contribution to the world of cinema. This West Coast version of the Anniversary series joins the already existing East Coast version, as well as the Committee’s other series: The Documentary Series, Global Cinema Series and Founders Series.

The screening was preceded by an introduction by Special Projects Committee Chair Jeremy Kagan and Committee member Arthur Allan Seidelman, who discussed the goals for the new film series, gave the audience an introduction to Kazan’s importance to the world of film and recalled his famous article, “On What Makes a Director.”

“He said the life of a Director is a totality,” quoted Kagan. “They learn as they live, and everything is valuable. To be a Director you have to have a very tough skin and a very sensitive soul simultaneously. Above all, though, you have to have courage.”

Speaking about the film, Seidelman said, “I think the best of what we create has its seeds in our own stories of our pain, anger, fear, triumph, and love. So did Kazan’s. Out of his pain and fear and anger and out of 1950s divided America’s pain and fear and anger, he created a great work of art. It’s 70 years old and just as new as tomorrow.”

Following the screening, Seidelman was then joined onstage by Directors Patty Jenkins and Robert Townsend for a discussion of both the importance of the film and the lasting legacy of Kazan.

During the conversation, Jenkins said, “Kazan’s work has been incredibly influential to me. It always has very high drama, but within that, this incredible subtlety of human behavior. That was something sort of revelatory to my viewing. It really blew my mind to see this combination of big drama that I associate more with the theater. You’ve seen plenty of it in film, but you just hadn’t seen it embodied in such subtlety and humanity. The incredible power and momentum of the message he's subconsciously trying to address is palpable.”

Townsend shared his memory of meeting the iconic Director. “I had the honor to meet him here in this building. Jack Shea was the President and I said, ‘Jack, my favorite Director is Elia Kazan because his movies — when I was ten years old in the West side of Chicago, I would watch these movies and be like, “This is different. Wow! These performances. Wow!” And so, Jack Shea calls me and says, ‘Robert. You got your wish. They're giving Kazan an honorary Oscar. We're gonna have a little reception for him in the executive dining room.’ And I said, ‘I'm in!’ I sat across from Kazan and I'm just awkward. I'm just excited to meet this guy.”

See video from this event in the gallery below.

Jan 2024 UCEAbout Elia Kazan

Known for his creative stage direction, Elia Kazan was born Elias Kazantzoglou on September 7, 1909 in Constantinople, Ottoman Empire (now Istanbul, Turkey). He influenced the films of the 1950s and 1960s with his provocative, issue-driven subjects. Director Stanley Kubrick called him, "without question, the best Director we have in America, and capable of performing miracles with the actors he uses."

A DGA member since 1946, Kazan was elected six times to the DGA National Board between 1973 and 1987, serving as Assistant Secretary-Treasurer from 1973 to 1975, and was elected 6th Vice President of the Guild from 1978-1985, Kazan also served seven terms on the Eastern Directors Council from 1970 to 1985. He received DGA Award nominations for his productions, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952), East of Eden (1955), A Face in the Crowd (1957), Splendor in the Grass (1961) and America, America (1963). Kazan took home the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for On the Waterfront (1954). In 1983, he was the recipient of DGA’s Honorary Life Membership Award and in 1987, Kazan was honored with the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Feature Film.

About the Film

Jan 2024 UCEOn the Waterfront — Dockworker Terry Malloy was an up-and-coming boxer until a powerful local mob boss persuaded him to throw a fight and ruin his career. When a longshoreman is murdered before he can testify about the mob's control of the Hoboken waterfront, Terry teams up with the dead man's sister and a streetwise priest to testify against the advice of the mob boss's lawyer, Terry's older brother.

Considered one of the greatest films ever made, On the Waterfront received 12 Academy Award nominations and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Brando, Best Supporting Actress for Saint, and Best Director for Kazan, who also won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film.

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