“The actors, whether by technique or accident, gave you pieces of their lives, which is certainly the ultimate generosity of the artist, and they did it unabashed. You were the witness to a final intimacy. These artists spoke to your secret self, the one you hide. They offered you more than cleverness or technique. They gave you the genuine thing, the thing that hurt you as it thrilled you.” Elia Kazan
This is from Elia Kazan: A Life, his autobiography. The controversy over “naming names” to the House Committee on Unamerican Activities is just one piece of it, and not even the most interesting one— though he did win me over to his side. Other threads: his wife Molly was a playwright and a theater critic. He describes the heartbreak of her writer’s block. And he was an Anatolian Greek kid at whitey Yale in the late nineteen twenties, a complete outsider, the son of first-generation immigrants. He “waited table” at a fraternity there.
Kazan writes openly about his lifelong feelings of shame, which impressed me for a guy of his era, and his status. After I finished the book, I looked at a youtube clip of his acceptance speech for his honorary award at the Oscars, and it made me cry, for a hundred different reasons, all of them sitting on their hands.