Ben Gazzara (1930-2012)


The original Brick. Sold his talent to be a movie star: his words not mine.

@Benedick: Brick?

Remember him from QBVII … I was a kid, but I loved it.

All I remember is Some Detective Show, and Some Cassavetes Movie.

Oh, and Lebowski, of course.

@blogenfreude: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The role Paul Newman played in the movie.

@Mistress Cynica: Thanks. And had forgotten about Lebowski – he was so smarmy.

@blogenfreude: Exactly. He created Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof then sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Not unlike Brando.

How is it you people don’t know Brick? You know Gatsby? The Comedie Francaise is producing the play this year, their first ever American play. While the rest of the world thinks we’re Rick Palin, T Williams reminds Paris that we have a distinguished artistic legacy. BTW. This play is, in my completely uninformed opinion the response to A Miller’s pompous 2nd rate ‘greek tragedy’ A View From the Bridge.

I imagine Tom waking late, after two whole quarts of brandy, in some hotel room thinking “Greek tragedy? I’ll show you a tragedy, motherfuckers!” His play has the most exquisite construction: Act 1, Brick talks to Maggie; Act 2, Brick talks to Big Daddy; Act 3, Brick talks to Chorus. This is how he wrote it. Elia Kazan, namer of names, destroyer of careers, talked our premier writer of the theatre into a 2 Act structure that brought back Big Daddy and undermined both Brick and Maggie. However, in a world of ephemera in which there is nothing more ephemeral than a performance in a play let’s remember that Mr. Gazzara introduced one of the great characters of the American theatre to the stage. In his silk pajamas. And crutch. In all his closeted sexuality – Brick’s not Ben’s. Brick loved Scooter. But Scooter’s dead. Let’s see how them silk PJs cling to Brick’s muscled rump. Brick as Achilles: Maggie as all of life that brings the hero down; Big Daddy as the willingness to compromise.

Gazzara used to boast of all the parts he’d turned down. That’s an American tragedy in my book. Talent slimed by money and vanity.

@Benedick: Gatsby is so basic … Cat less so. At least to me …

@blogenfreude: I disagree. I think that Gatsy’s an extraordinarily overrated book: third tier Forster. The kind of book we read at 14 and never quite get over. Cat, on the other hand, in its original conception is the real thing: mysterious, bracing, wounded. And above all, elegant.

This is where the written literature clashes with the theatre.

And let’s not forget Big Mama. Polly Holiday was magnificent in a silly revival with K Turner, too old and hopelessly outclassed by the text.

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