Almost all of my blog posts this week have been about actors so I think I'll end the week by writing about one more -- the late, great Ben Gazzara.
The quintessential character actor, Gazzara had a long and impressive career. A native of NYC, a child of Italian immigrants growing up in Kips Bay, Gazzara got his start in local theater and the Actors Studio before his big break, starring in the original production of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955, directed by Elia Kazan.
Numerous plays, films and TV appearances followed through the 1950s, '60s, and 70s, including A Hatful of Rain and movies with the John Cassavettes including the classic Husbands in 1970 and Opening Night in 1977.
Gazzara's brief flirtation with movie stardom happened in the 1970s when he starred as Al Capone in Capone (1975) and the Peter Bogdanovich classic Saint Jack in 1979, playing an American running a prostitution ring in Singapore -- a thriller about the depths of human greed and depravity.
Gazzara continued to work into the 1980s and 1990s, and I became aware of him when he had another golden era in the late 1990s with such classics as David Mamet's brilliant thriller The Spanish Prisoner, the super dark comedy Happiness by Todd Solandz, and as the sleazy Jackie Treehorn in the The Big Lebowski.
Then in 2002 he won an Emmy for his role in the HBO movie Hysterical Blindness.
A few years later I saw him on the Broadway stage in a revival of the Clifford Odets play Awake and Sing! He was an adorable, charming presence in that first-class revival.
Gazzara died in 2012, leaving behind an amazing body of work. A great NYC, the last of a great acting breed.