The Associated Press
In the mid 1960’s, Ben Gazzara starred in 86 episodes of a television series titled RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. But the chase is over. Ben passed away on Friday, February 3rd, aged 81.

In a screen career that kicked off in 1952, he chalked up TV and telemovie experience and ended the decade on a high note by starring in ANATOMY OF A MURDER with power players of the day including James Stewart, Lee Remick and Eve Arden. Despite this promising exposure and while incorporating feature films such as RAGE TO LIVE with Suzanne Pleshette and IF IT’S TUESDAY IT MUST BE BELGIUM again with Suzanne, the 60’s saw him more focused on television work along with his regular forays back to theatre where he first honed his craft. (In 1955 he starred in the original productions of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and A HATFUL OF RAIN for which he was nominated for a Tony the following year).

So for a man who initially dismissed Cinema as second rate compared to live theatre – his cinematic union with John Cassavetes heralded a new era.

From 1970’s HUSBANDS to 1977’S OPENING NIGHT with Gena Rowlands and incorporating the 1976 KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE, his three Cassavetes collaborations changed his perceptions that Cinema had no place for ‘serious actors’. The 70’s then saw him amassing numerous movie roles (BLOODLINE, SAINT JACK, THEY ALL LAUGHED, CAPONE, VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED) and TV series and telemovies (QBVII, THE TRIAL OF LEE HARVEY OSWALD ).

The 1980’s to the 2000’s had him working constantly in film, television and theatre. In a career spanning 60 years and incorporating Golden Globe and Emmy nominations (he won an Emmy in 2003 for HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS) and over 130 different screen roles – he was still working currently. At the time of his death, he had just completed a film titled MAX ROSE with Jerry Lewis, Claire Bloom and Peter Bogdanovich.

Married three times (one of which was to Janice Rule, an actress whose work I enjoyed enormously) he also had an affair with Audrey Hepburn around the late 70’s – early 80’s when his marriage to Janice was collapsing.

An interesting piece of trivia. Filming of the multi starred war movie THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN was underway in Czechoslovakia (as it then was) when the Warsaw Pact invaded the country. Filming was halted and the cast and crew were temporarily detained before being allowed to leave (the film was later completed in West Germany).

Ben Gazzara and Robert Vaughn smuggled a Czech waitress whom they had befriended, into Austria in a car that was waved through a border crossing that had not yet been taken over by Soviet troops.

Vale Ben Gazzara 1930 – 2012

 





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