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John Cassavetes

Cassavetes, John 1929–89, American film actor and director, a pioneer of independent filmmaking, b. New York City. The son of Greek immigrants, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and began his acting career in 1950s television. He appeared in numerous Hollywood movies; his best-known roles were in The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Rosemary's Baby (1968). His directorial debut, Shadows (1960), an innovative and largely improvised feature, was made on a shoestring budget on 16-mm film. Cassavetes gathered around him a group of talented actors, such as Gina Rowlands (his wife), Peter Falk, and Ben Gazzara, who collaborated in the filmmaking process. His films are largely domestic dramas that have an edgy realism and cinéma vérité style and often deal with questions of identity, love, and marriage. They include Faces (1968), Husbands (1970), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), A Woman under the Influence (1974), and Gloria (1980). He wrote most of his films and acted in many of them. Never very successful commercially, he maintained a modest but enthusiastic following and strongly influenced such filmmakers as Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese.

See R. Carney, ed., Cassavetes on Cassavetes (2001); biography by M. Fine (2006); studies by R. Carney (rev. ed. 2000) and T. Charity (2001); M. Ventura, dir. I'm Almost Not Crazy: John Cassavetes (documentary film, 1984) and D. Cazenave, dir., Anything for John (documentary film, 1995).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on John Cassavetes from Infoplease:

  • John Cassavetes - John Cassavetes director, actor, screenwriter, producer Born: 12/9/1929 Birthplace: New York City ...
  • Husbands - Starring Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk, John Cassavetes, Jenny Runacre, Jenny Lee Wright
  • Opening Night - Starring Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Ben Gazzara, Joan Blondell, Paul Stewart
  • Shadows (1959) - Starring Lelia Goldoni, Hugh Hurd, Ben Carruthers, Anthony Ray, Dennis Sallas
  • Mikey and Nicky - Starring John Cassavetes, Peter Falk, Ned Beatty

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Film and Television: Biographies

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