Ben Gazzara, 81

Ben Gazzara, an actor with almost sixty years of experience in fims, television and the Broadway stage, died today in Manhattan after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81.

Born Biagio Anthony Gazzara to Italian immigrant parents on the East Side of Manhattan in 1930. He became enraptured by the world acting after seeing a play as a young child. He studied at the Actors Studio in New York City. His professional career began in the early 1950s on television and on the Broadway stage, where he originated the role of Brick in Tenessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. He was replaced by Paul Newman when the play was made into a film in 1958, but a year later Gazzara would gain notice playing Lt. Frederick Manion opposite Jimmy Stewart in Otto Preminger’s film version of Anatomy of a Murder.

The 1960s would lead Gazzara to more television work, most notably as Paul Bryan in Run for Your Life, which ran from 1965 to 1968 on NBC.

He would return to the big screen in a partnership with director John Cassavettes, who would direct Gazzara in Husbands (1970), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), and Opening Night (1977). Gazzara would go on to garner pivotal roles in a diverse array of films including Road House (1989), The Spanish Prisioner (1997), Buffalo ’66 (1998), The Big Lebowski (1998), Happiness (1998), Summer of Sam (1999), The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) and one of the earliest TV movies to cover the AIDS crisis, 1987’s An Early Frost. In a grim coincidence, his Road House co-star Patrick Swayze would also die from pancreatic cancer in 2009.

Source: New York Times, IMDB.

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About William Gatevackes 1936 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.

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Mr. Gazzara is still in my thoughts and prayers. I am such a fan. He was made to be an actor. Much of his work takes me back to a time of male mid-life crisis (much like my own father) that was prevalent in the early 1970’s. Men of that time had few outlets for dealing with these emotions of, say a broken or unhappy marriage. Men had their male buddies to drink away their sorrows, and they became more sloppier philosophers the more they drank. Then the real raw nasty emotions reared their ugly head. Mr. Gazzara was in… Read more »