American Masters

A Letter to Elia

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His name was brought front and center to the world again during the buzz and build-up to the March 1999 Academy Awards. Elia Kazan was to be recognized with an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement, an honor that divided Hollywood and fueled social commentary across the country. Then 89 years old and best remembered for his film directing in the 1950s -- On the Waterfront, East of Eden, A Streetcar Named Desire, Gentleman's Agreement, A Face in the Crowd -- Kazan remained a controversial figure. To many, he was personally and permanently emblematic of the sin of "naming names" before HUAC in the darkest days of the Hollywood Blacklist. To others, his extraordinary body of work deserved honors, despite any questionable behavior. One of his strongest supporters was Martin Scorsese, the director of this documentary. The film is a meditation on the nature of art and influence.
 

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