Books by Jeff Young

Released: June 1, 1999

The artistically lauded but politically tainted film director reveals his method and insights in this capacious interview collection. In 1971, director (later producer) Young persuaded Kazan, his favorite director, to sit for hundreds of interviews, on the stipulation that they would be published in book form only after Kazan's autobiography appeared. It was worth the wait. Young's book records Kazan's views on each of his films, from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) through The Visitors (1972), with Young commenting on Kazan's final work, The Last Tycoon (1976), for which there was no interview. The most interesting material provided by this psychologically oriented director (co-founder of the Actors Studio) is his takes on actors, about whom he is extremely perceptive, and on the role of character in films. Kazan says his films are sparked by a protagonist with an "inner conflict" that results in meaningful change. Brando was ideal for him: "mature and adolescent at the same time." In James Dean he immediately spotted "vicious hatred and anger because of love frustrated." Whether discussing actors, editing, or scoring, Kazan presents himself as a humanist. Though pressed, he refuses to codify his technique: "You develop your own methodology each time out." As for Kazan's decision to name names to the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952, Young (whose family was affected by the blacklist) probes but opens no new ground. The director reiterates that he acted "out of principle . . . I thought that was the right thing to do." Kazan's revelations prompt interest in less-seen films (Wild River) and generate questions about what makes for enduring art. What is the alchemy of immediacy and universality that makes On the Waterfront a classic but Gentlemen's Agreement an antique? Though debate over Kazan's ethics continues, his works stand, and his reflections on them make this a valuable piece of film history. (60 b&w illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >