John Holland Cazale (/kəˈzeɪl/; Italian
pronunciation: [kaˈdzaːle]; August 12, 1935 – March 13, 1978)
was an American actor. He appeared in five films over a period of six
years, all of which were nominated for the Academy Award for Best
Picture: The Godfather, The Conversation,
The Godfather Part II, Dog
Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter. He appeared in archival footage in
The Godfather Part III, also nominated for Best Picture. From his
start as a theater actor, he became one of Hollywood's premier
character actors, starting with his role as the doomed, weak-minded
Fredo Corleone opposite longtime friend
Al Pacino in Francis Ford
The Godfather and its 1974 sequel. Cazale chose to
continue acting despite being diagnosed with lung cancer. He died in
New York City
New York City on March 13, 1978, shortly after completing his role in
The Deer Hunter.
Joseph Papp called Cazale "an amazing intellect, an
extraordinary person and a fine, dedicated artist". A film
documentary tribute to Cazale, I Knew It Was You, was screened at the
Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival and featured interviews with Pacino, Steve
Buscemi, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss,
Francis Ford Coppola, and Sidney Lumet.
1 Early life
8 External links
Cazale was born in Revere, Massachusetts, to an Irish-American
mother, Cecilia Holland, and an Italian-American father, John
Cazale. He had an older sister, Catherine (May 28, 1931 –
February 2, 2000), and a younger brother, Stephen (born 1937).
He attended high school at the Buxton School in Williamstown,
Massachusetts, where he joined the drama club. He studied drama at
Oberlin College in Ohio, transferring to Boston University, where he
studied under Peter Kass.
Upon graduation, Cazale worked as a cab driver, as he started his
theatrical career at the Charles Playhouse, appearing in Hotel
Our Town in 1959. Reviewing his performance as George
Gibbs in Our Town, critic Jean Pierre Frankenhuis said "(Cazale's)
portrayal is absolutely stupendous, hilarious, touching, thrilling. We
found ourselves wishing that there were more scenes with him, such is
the enjoyable performance he gives: a comedian of the first
Cazale moved to
New York City
New York City and supported himself as a photographer,
while looking for acting work. He made one of his first appearances
there in the Equity Library's production of Sidney Howard's Paths of
Off-Broadway production of Archibald MacLeish's J.B. by the Equity
Library Theatre followed on March 17, 1962, at the Master Theatre.
He also acted in a 1962 short film entitled The American Way, directed
by Marvin Starkman.
In 1965, Cazale was part of the National Tour of Lorraine Hansberry's
The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window
He worked as a messenger at Standard Oil, where he met Al Pacino,
another aspiring actor. Pacino recalled: "When I first saw John, I
instantly thought he was so interesting. Everybody was always around
him because he had a very congenial way of expressing himself." In
1966, the two were cast in a play by Israel Horovitz, The Indian Wants
the Bronx, playing at the
Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center
Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center in Waterford,
CT. They reprised their roles in 1968 at the
Off-Broadway Astor Place
Theatre, for which they both won Obie Awards. That same year,
Cazale won another Obie for his role as Dolan in Horovitz's Line.
In 1968, Cazale appeared in his only television role, playing Tom
Andrews in the episode "The Peep Freak" on the cop drama, N.Y.P.D.
In 1969, Cazale joined the
Long Wharf Theatre Company, where he
appeared for the next three seasons in a number of productions,
including Tartuffe, The Country People, The Skin of Our Teeth, The
Iceman Cometh, and You Can't Take It With You.
Cazale reprised his role in Line in a 1971 production at the Theatre
De Lys (now the Lucille Lortel Theatre). Appearing with him were
Richard Dreyfus as Stephen,
Barnard Hughes as Arnall, John Randolph as
Ann Wedgeworth as Molly. During this run, John was
spotted by casting director Fred Roos, who then suggested him to
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola for the role of
Fredo Corleone in The
The Godfather was Cazale's feature film debut. The film's star was one
of Cazale's idols, Marlon Brando. The film broke box
office records and made Cazale and several other previously unknown
co-stars famous. Coppola, impressed with Cazale's abilities in the
small role, wrote the part of Stan for him in his next film, The
Conversation (1974), in which he co-starred with Gene Hackman. He
reprised his role as Fredo Corleone, now significantly expanded, in
The Godfather Part II. Bruce Fretts, in Entertainment Weekly,
wrote that "Cazale's devastatingly raw turn intensifies the impact of
the drama's emotional climax".[better source needed]
Dominic Chianese said: "John could open up his heart, so it
could be hurt. That's a talent few actors
have."[better source needed]
He again starred alongside Pacino in Sidney Lumet's 1975 film Dog Day
Afternoon. The film's screenwriter
Frank Pierson said "the film had
been cast with many of the actors that
Al Pacino had worked with in
New York, including John Cazale, who was a close friend and
collaborator in The Godfather." For his role as Sal he was
nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sidney
One of the things that I love about the casting of
John Cazale was
that he had a tremendous sadness about him. I don't know where it came
from; I don't believe in invading the privacy of the actors that I
work with, or getting into their heads. But, my God — it's there —
every shot of him. And not just in this movie, but in Godfather II
While achieving success in film, Cazale's commitment to the stage
continued. In addition to his work with the Long Wharf Theatre, he
appeared in a number of plays by Israel Horovitz. In May 1975, he
returned to the Charles Playhouse to support Pacino in The Resistible
Rise of Arturo Ui. Ross Wetzston of The Village Voice, reporting on
the production, said Cazale “may be the finest actor in America
today." In 1976, ten years after their first collaboration, Cazale
and Pacino appeared together for the final time in the Public
Theatre's production of The Local Stigmatic. In the summer of that
year, Cazale starred at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park with Sam
Waterston in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. His leading lady was
Yale School of Drama
Yale School of Drama graduate Meryl Streep.
Mel Gussow of
The New York Times
The New York Times wrote: "Mr. Cazale, often cast as a quirky, weak
outsider, as in The Godfather, here demonstrates sterner mettle as a
quietly imperious Angelo who sweeps down, vulturelike, to deposit
virtue." During the run of the play, Cazale and Streep began a
romance and moved in together. Streep humorously praised her co-star's
abilities by saying, "The jerk made everything mean something." Then
she added, "Such good judgment, such uncluttered thought!"
Cazale's final stage appearance was on April 29, 1977, in the title
role of Agamemnon at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. He appeared only in
the first preview. After the performance, he took ill and withdrew
from the show. It was his only Broadway performance. Shortly
afterward, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Despite the terminal diagnosis, Cazale continued work with his
romantic partner, Meryl Streep, and Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken,
and John Savage, in The Deer Hunter. According to author Andy Dougan,
Michael Cimino "rearranged the shooting schedule with Cazale
and Streep's consent, so that he could film all his scenes first". He
completed his scenes but died before the film was finished.
Twelve years after his death, Cazale appeared in a sixth film, The
Godfather Part III (1990), in archival footage.
The Godfather Part III
was also nominated for Best Picture. This marks a unique achievement
of Cazale's: having every feature film in which he appeared be
nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Despite trying a number of treatments and protocols, the cancer
metastasized to his bones. At approximately 3 a.m. on Monday, March
John Cazale died.
Meryl Streep was at his side, as she had
been throughout his illness. Close friend and Godfather co-star Al
Pacino said: "I've hardly ever seen a person so devoted to someone who
is falling away like John was. To see her in that act of love for this
man was overwhelming."
His close friend and frequent collaborator, Israel Horovitz, wrote a
eulogy, published in the Village Voice on March 27, 1978. In it, he
John Cazale happens once in a lifetime. He was an invention, a small
perfection. It is no wonder his friends feel such anger upon waking
from their sleep to discover that Cazale sleeps on with kings and
counselors, with Booth and Kean, with Jimmy Dean, with Bernhardt,
Guitry, and Duse, with Stanislavsky, with Groucho, Benny, and Allen.
He will make fast friends in his new place. He is easy to love.
John Cazale was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden,
Cazale was cited twice for "Distinguished Performance" by the
Obie Awards in the 1967−1968 season for his
performances in Israel Horovitz's plays
The Indian Wants the Bronx and
His only major film acting recognition came in 1976, when he was
nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting
Actor for Dog Day
Richard Benjamin received the award instead for his work in
The Sunshine Boys.
Although Cazale never received an Oscar nomination, according to Bruce
Fretts, he "was the walking embodiment of the aphorism, 'acting is
reacting,' providing the perfect counterbalance to his recurring
co-stars, the more emotionally volatile
Al Pacino and Robert De
Cazale had learned to put the lack of recognition into context. While
filming The Deer Hunter, he said to Pittsburgh Press reporter Edward
If you have any inclination toward paranoia, that sort of thing will
bring it out in you. You say to yourself, "What do I have to do to get
recognition of that sort?" Then you put it back into perspective and
ask yourself how much that or any award really matters.
Cazale was described by those close to him to be "often shy" and "very
emotionally sensitive". He collaborated with a number of artists
Israel Horovitz dedicated the entire cycle of his
"Wakefield Plays" to Cazale's memory, saying he "played in most of my
plays, from 67-77, including Alfred the Great and Our Father's
James Hammerstein and
Arvin Brown used him
multiple times. He did two plays for Joseph Papp. Francis Ford Coppola
was responsible for the majority of Cazale's film success, having cast
him three times.
Meryl Streep acted with him twice. Close friend and
Al Pacino collaborated with him six times: on three
films and three stage productions. Pacino once commented: "All I
wanted to do was work with John for the rest of my life. He was my
In the following generations, celebrated actors such as Philip Seymour
Hoffman, Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, and
Michael Fassbender named
Cazale as an influence.
The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe asked: "Why was Cazale so influential? In part, it
was because of his commitment to the craft of acting." To Streep, he
was "monomaniacal", which had an effect on his co-stars, who were then
"challenged to take their own games up a notch".
Cazale has a theater named after him, the McGinn/Cazale Theatre
(currently inhabited by the company Second Stage Theatre), located at
2162 Broadway at 76th Street in New York City. The theatre is co-named
for Cazale and his friend, the actor Walter McGinn, who had died in a
car accident in 1977. The theatre was dedicated on March 12, 1984.
His life and career were profiled in the documentary film, I Knew It
Was You, directed by Richard Shepard, which premiered at the 2009
Sundance Film Festival.
See also: List of actors who have appeared in multiple Best Picture
Academy Award winners
Cazale appeared in five full-length feature films while alive, plus a
sixth using archival footage. All six films were nominated for the
Academy Award for Best Picture. The Godfather,
The Godfather Part II,
The Deer Hunter
The Deer Hunter all won the award.
The American Way
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather Part II
Francis Ford Coppola
Dog Day Afternoon
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting
Actor – Motion
The Deer Hunter
The Godfather Part III
Francis Ford Coppola
^ Callahan, Maureen (April 23, 2016). "The tragic romance that shaped
Meryl Streep's life". New York Post.
^ a b "John Cazale,
Actor on Stage and Screen". The New York Times.
1978-03-14. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
^ a b AP Movie News (January 18, 2009). "Sundance doc wants people to
know 'it's Cazale'". Associated Press. The Insider. Archived from the
original on 23 January 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
^ a b Piccalo, Gina (2010-05-31), John Cazale, A Godfather of Acting,
The Daily Beast, retrieved 2012-01-22
John Cazale profile, TVGuide; accessed March 7, 2015.
^ "TCM profile - John Cazale".
^ "Who's Who in the Cast - Agamemnon Playbill".
^ A Small Perfection -
John Cazale and the Art of Acting Jonjo Powers,
^ "Review - Our Town" (PDF).
^ J.B. Archived 2012-10-11 at the Wayback Machine. Lortel.com
^ "The American Way (1962)". Retrieved 2009-10-13.
^ a b "Inside Playbill Gallery - Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 6
^ a b c Fretts, Bruce. "Unfortunate Son". Entertainment Weekly. Feb.
^ "1967–1968 Obie Awards". infoplease.com. Retrieved 24 June
^ "New York News and Events - The Village Voice". The Village Voice.
Retrieved 24 June 2015.
^ "The Peep Freak". 3 December 1968. Retrieved 6 February 2018 – via
^ Lortel Archives
^ Seal, Mark (February 4, 2009). "
The Godfather Wars". Vanity Fair.
Retrieved 26 September 2017.
^ Jones, Jenny M. (2009). Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay
with Commentary on Every Scene, Interviews, and Little-Known Facts.
Hachette Books. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
^ a b Radeska, Tijana. "Great Tracked Record: John Cazale, acted in
only five movies – all nominated for the Academy Award". The Vintage
News. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
^ Pierson, Frank. Dog Day Afternoon, interviews
^ Lumet, Sidney. Dog Day Afternoon, feature commentary
^ Life On the Wire: The Life and Art of Al Pacino, Andrew Yule, 1992
^ Her Again - Becoming Meryl Streep, Michael Schulman, Harper, 2016
^ League, The Broadway. "Agamemnon – Broadway Play – 1977 Revival
- IBDB". www.ibdb.com. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
^ Dougan, Andy. Untouchable: A Biography of Robert De Niro. (2003)
Thunder's Mouth Press.
^ John Cazale, A Eulogy Israel Horovitz, 1978
^ "Deer Hunter Star
John Cazale Likes to Meet Local Fans" by Edward L.
Blank, Pittsburgh Press, July 17, 1977
^ The Wakefield Plays, Israel Horovitz, 1985
^ "Alicia Vikander and
Michael Fassbender on Their Romantic Drama".
Retrieved 6 February 2018.
^ "A-list actors recall a short but sterling career" Boston.com, June
^ Second Stage Playbill DEDICATION OF THE WALTER McGINN / JOHN CAZALE
THEATRE, March 12, 1984
John Cazale on IMDb
John Cazale at the Internet Broadway Database
John Cazale at the Lortel Archives
eFilmCritic.com Interview with director
Richard Shepard on the John
Cazale Documentary I Knew It Was You[permanent dead link]
Natural Born Plumbers:
John Cazale and the Character Actors of the
John Cazale at Find a Grave
John Cazale: Stepped Over at Alternate Takes
ISNI: 0000 0001 0989 8433
BNF: cb140296735 (data)