Reconsidering the legacy of Elia Kazan

Loc_james_kavallines-e1418244210544Wendy Smith at The American Scholar:

The uncomfortable fact about Kazan’s HUAC testimony is that it liberated him to be himself—at least in film. His relationship to the theater echoed his marriage with Thacher: genuine devotion curdled by the furious sense that making it work required denying his instincts. Kazan did have to compromise when dealing with movie executives, but that was business, and he didn’t compromise much. His four films following the back-to-back successes of On the Waterfront and East of Edenput him squarely in the forefront of the struggle to make American cinema more honest and adult.

They were very different in tone and content: Baby Doll was a gothic comedy, A Face in the Crowd a prescient portrait of media-fueled political demagoguery, Wild River a provocative reconsideration of New Deal social engineering, Splendor in the Grass a romantic melodrama. But all four had a forthright sexuality that alarmed the industry’s censorship board. In his correspondence with his studio bosses, Kazan drew a firm line: he would negotiate over trims to get the required Production Code Administration’s seal of approval, but he would not cut material he deemed essential to the story or crucial to understanding the characters, nor would he make concessions to appease pressure groups such as the National Legion of Decency.

more here.