Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Farewell Ben Gazzara

Just look at this now-poignant Life cover from 1969. Three of the finest actors of their generations — all good pals — have got themselves dolled up for the photographer. It’s Peter Falk, John Cassavetes and Ben Gazzara. Don’t they …

Sat, Feb 4, 2012, 21:28

   

Just look at this now-poignant Life cover from 1969. Three of the finest actors of their generations — all good pals — have got themselves dolled up for the photographer. It’s Peter Falk, John Cassavetes and Ben Gazzara. Don’t they look indescribably suave as they prpare for Cassavetes’s great Husbands? With the death of Gazzara on Friday all three are now longer with us and the world seems a tad more wan. Gazzara, who was 81, appeared in quite a few mainstream films. He was also a great theatre actor and originated the role of Brick in the first production of Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. You can see him in The Big Lebowksi, Anatomy of a Murder and the enjoyable remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. He was super in Dogville. But he will, surely, be best remembered for the handful of films he made with Cassavetes. The twitchy naturalistic class of cinema the men developed has had a mighty influence on American film. When Cassavetes made Shadows in 1959, Brando and Clift had already done some mumbling, but this class of realism was, in American terms, still a preserve of outrĂ© short film-makers. Collaborations between Gazarra and Cassavetes such as Husbands, Opening Night and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie managed to combine that grittiness with real narrative drive. Chinese Bookie is probably still the best place to go to see both men at their best.

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