Ben Gazzara Biography

Birthday: 1930-08-28
Place of Birth: New York City, New York
Height: 5' 10½" (1.79 m)
Wiki Biography: Ben Gazzara's screen career began with two critically acclaimed roles as heavies in the late 1950s. He turned to television in the 1960s but made a big screen comeback with roles in three John Cassavetes films in the 1970s. The 1980s and 1990s saw Gazzara work more frequently than ever before in character parts. If he never became the leading man his early films and stage work promised he has had a career notable for its longevity. He was born Biagio Anthony Gazzara on August 28, 1930 in New York City. The son of a Sicilian immigrant laborer, he grew up on New York's tough Lower East Side. After seeing Laurette Taylor in "The Glass Menagerie", Gazzara decided he wanted to become an actor. He studied engineering (unhappily) but quit after receiving an acting scholarship (he worked under well-known coach Erwin Piscator). Gazarra then joined the Actors' Studio where a group of students improvised a play from Calder Willingham's novel End as a Man. The tale of a brutal Southern Military academy reached Broadway slightly changed in 1953 but with Gazzara still in the principal role. It was a star making part (he won a Theatre World award) and he then played leads in the original productions of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1955) and "A Hatful of Rain" (1955) (he was nominated for a Tony). Bigger names Paul Newman and Don Murray played those last two roles on the big screen but Gazzara made his movie debut in The Strange One (1957) the film version of "End as a Man". The film was a critical but not commercial success. His next role was as the defendant in Anatomy of a Murder (1959) which was a big hit. Gazarra followed this with an Italian venture co-starring Anna Magnani, The Passionate Thief (1960), two Hollywood films The Young Doctors (1961) and Convicts 4 (1962) and then another Italian film Conquered City (1962). None of these did much for his career and he turned to television. He appeared in the successful series "Arrest and Trial" (1963) and "Run for Your Life" (1965). In between, he made A Rage to Live (1965), a film version of John O'Hara's novel. He returned to films in The Bridge at Remagen (1969) and with a cameo appearance in If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969). His buddy in the cameo was John Cassavetes who directed and co-starred with him in Husbands (1970), a critical success. Gazzara made two more well-received films with his good friend Cassavetes: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) and Opening Night (1977). Gazzara's other films in the 1970s were undistinguished apart from the sprawling Voyage of the Damned (1976) and a rare leading role in director Peter Bogdanovich's Saint Jack (1979). Bloodline (1979) and They All Laughed (1981) (also directed by Bogdanovich) were only notable because of Gazzara's off-screen relationship with co-star Audrey Hepburn (ironically, Gazzara had declined to make his screen debut in War and Peace (1956) starring Hepburn). Tales of Ordinary Madness (1981) was another lead for Gazzara but it received a mixed critical reception. Other big screen roles in the 1980s were scarce apart from Road House (1989), a Patrick Swayze vehicle which Gazzara believed out of all his films has been the most repeated on television. He worked much on the small screen, including the ground-breaking television movie An Early Frost (1985) (TV), playing the father of an AIDS victim. The 1990s saw Gazzarra working like never before, appearing in 38 films. Most were for free-to-air television or cable but he also worked on the big screen in The Spanish Prisoner (1997), The Big Lebowski (1998), Happiness (1998) and Summer of Sam (1999). His television work included a guest appearance as an executive assistant attorney in a 2001 episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999) - a nice touch since "Arrest and Trial" (1963) was the predecessor of "Law & Order" (1990) and its spin-off series. Gazzara has often returned to the stage throughout his career - in "The Night Circus" (1958) (where he met second wife Janice Rule), "Strange Interlude" (1963), "Traveller Without Luggage" (1964), Hughie/Duet (1975) (nominated for a Tony), "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1976) (again Tony nominated) and "Shimada" (1992). He has also worked as a director on episodes his series "Run for Your Life" (1965) and "The Name of the Game" (1968) and the television movies "Columbo: A Friend in Deed (#3.8)" (1974) and "Columbo: Troubled Waters (#4.4)" (1975) featuring his friend Peter Falk. The unreleased Beyond the Ocean (1990) (which he also wrote) is his final film as a director to date. In 2003, Gazarra appeared in the independent Dogville (2003) adding Lars von Trier to the list of interesting and acclaimed directors with whom he has worked. There can't be many actors who can boast that they have acted in films by Otto Preminger (Anatomy of a Murder (1959)), John Cassavetes, Joel Coen (The Big Lebowski (1998)), Spike Lee (Summer of Sam (1999)) and Lars von Trier, among others. Ben Gazarra died at age 81 of pancreatic cancer on February 3, 2012.

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TV Title Appeared As Year Genre
Kraft Television Theatre Moony - Story #3 1947 - 1958
The Young Doctors 1961 Drama
Arrest and Trial Det. Sgt. Nick Anderson 1963 Crime
Run for Your Life Paul Bryan 1965 - 1968
Happiness! Lenny Jordan 1998 Comedy
Happiness 2001 - 2003 Comedy
Movies Title Appeared As Year Genre
Il Camorrista 0000
The Strange One 1957 Drama
Anatomy of a Murder Lt. Frederick Manion 1959 Comedy, 0
The Young Doctors 1962 Drama
Convicts 4 1963 Drama
Carol for Another Christmas 1964 Drama, Fantasy
A Rage to Live 1965 Drama
The Thomas Crown Affair 1968 0, Biography, Comedy
The Bridge at Remagen 1969 0, Romance, 0
Husbands Harry 1970
Capone Al Capone 1975
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie Cosmo Vittelli 1976 Game Show, Comedy
Saint Jack 1979
Bloodline Rhys Williams 1979
They All Laughed 1981 Comedy, Romance
A Question of Honor 1982 Crime, Drama, Action
Inchon 1982 Drama, History
Uno scandalo perbene The man with no memory 1984 Crime, Drama
Figlio mio, infinitamente caro... Avv. Antonio Morelli 1985 Drama
An Early Frost 1985 Drama
Il giorno prima Mike Zella 1987 Drama, Thriller
Don Bosco Don Bosco 1988 Drama, History
Road House Brad Wesley 1989 Action, Crime, Thriller
Quicker Than the Eye Ben Norrell 1990 Drama, Thriller
Champagne amer Paul Rivière 1994 Drama
Nefertiti, figlia del sole Amanophis III 1995
Les gens d'en face John 1995
The Zone Dick Althorp 1996 Action, Drama, Thriller
Farmer & Chase Farmer 1997 Comedy
Shadow Conspiracy 1997 Action, Thriller
Stag Frank Grieco 1997 Action, Drama, Thriller
Buffalo '66 Jimmy Brown 1998 Biography, 0, Comedy
The Spanish Prisoner Mr. Klein 1998 Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Happiness 1998 Drama, Comedy
Too Tired to Die John Sage 1998 Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Summer of Sam 1999 Crime, Drama, Romance
Poor Liza The Narrator 2000 Drama
Blue Moon Frank Cavallo 2000 Comedy, Drama
Believe Ellicott Winslowe 2000 Family, Horror
Very Mean Men Gino Minetti 2000 Comedy, Crime
Shark in a Bottle The Arranger 2000 Action, Crime, Drama
Jack of Hearts Bartossa 2000 Crime, Thriller
The List D.A. Bernard Salman 2000 Thriller
Undertaker's Paradise Jim 2001 Drama, Comedy
Nella terra di nessuno L'avvocato Scalzi 2001 Drama
L'ospite segreto Solomos 2003
Dogville 2003 Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Hysterical Blindness Nick 2003 Drama
Bonjour Michel Michele Terranova 2005 Drama
Schubert Don José 2005 Drama
Quiet Flows the Don Gen. Secretov 2006 Drama
Holy Money Vatican's Banker 2009 Thriller
Looking for Palladin 2009 Comedy
Christopher Roth Paul Andersen 2010 Horror, Thriller
Paradise Cove Duke Mantee 2011
Chez Gino Oncle Giovanni 2011 Comedy
Opening Night Manny Victor 2016 0, 0