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Elia Kazan (1909 -- 2003)

The son of a Greek rug trader, Elia Kazanjoglous emigrated to New York with his family, aged four, and was raised in Harlem. He attended Yale University drama school and took up acting, but in the 1930s switched to directing. He established his reputation as an actors' director in the '40s while pioneering the Method in stage plays on Broadway.

For his celebrated film work, he often chose stories that dealt with adolescence, and gave breaks to many young actors. Kazan made Gentleman's Agreement (1947) starring Gregory Peck, for which he received the Best Director Oscar®; On the Waterfront (1954), with Marlon Brando, which won eight Oscars®; East of Eden (1955) with James Dean; Baby Doll (1956) with Carroll Baker, Karl Malden and newcomer Eli Wallach; and Splendor in the Grass (1961) with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty.

In McCarthy-era 1952, Kazan named eight colleagues when testifying before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, set up to rid the US of Communist influences after World War II. The controversy lingered: in 1999, some people did not applaud when Kazan collected a special Oscar® for his life's work. Three times married, he died at his home in New York aged 94.