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Ben Gazzara

Performer, Other
( b. Aug 28, 1930 New York, New York, USA - d. Feb 03, 2012 New York, New York, USA ) Male
Also known as: Biagio Anthony Gazzara [Birthname]
Relations: Husband of Janice Rule (1961 - 1979) divorced

Ben Gazzara was an intense actor of stage and film who created the role of Brick in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Darkly handsome, with a brooding, manly persona, the New York-born, Italian-American actor—born Biagio Anthony Gazzara—caught the acting bug when still a teenager. Though he majored in electrical engineering at City College, he soon after was taking acting classes at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator.

Thereafter, he joined the Actors Studio, and quickly became one of the most visible proponents of its performance theories. (In those early days, he was frequently compared to Marlon Brando.) He made his Broadway debut in 1953 in End as a Man, a stage adaptation of Calder Willingham's novel (written by Willingham) about life at a brutal southern military academy. It opened at the Theatre de Lys in Greenwich Village and soon transferred to Broadway. Mr. Gazzara won a Theatre World Award for his performance.

Two years later he was a star, creating the role of Brick in Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and, later in 1955, playing morphine-addicted war veteran Johnny Pope in Michael V. Gazzo's A Hatful of Rain. His deep, gruff voice (one writer called it a "buzzsaw basso"; Mel Gibson was known to imitate it when on the set of his movies), focused gaze, and intensity of manner lent an innate manliness to both parts. It would prove a trait he would bring to most every performance.

His being cast in the Williams drama—playing a disaffected, alcoholic, injured ex-athlete who freezes out his beautiful young wife—was a particularly poetic stroke of luck. Mr. Gazzara decided to become an actor after seeing Laurette Taylor perform in Williams' The Glass Menagerie. Though Mr. Gazzara would forever be associated with Cat, it was Hatful for which he received a Tony Award nomination.

Mr. Gazzara repeated his role in End as a Man in the film version of the play, titled "The Strange One" (1957). But he would lose the movie part of Brick to Paul Newman. Thus set the pattern for an erratic film career in which prime opportunities were juxtaposed with long fallow periods of poor choices and inactivity.

In the 1970s, his movie career revived when his filmmaker friend John Cassavetes cast him in several of his critically praised films, including "Husbands" (1970), "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" (1976) and "Opening Night" (1977). The actor called the first and second among the favorite films he ever made.

After disappearing from view for several years, Mr. Gazzara experienced a career renaissance in the late 1990s and early 2000s, after a host of independent filmmakers rediscovered his work with Cassavetes. He took on key supporting roles in films by David Mamet ("The Spanish Prisoner"), Vincent Gallo ("Buffalo '66"), the Coen brothers ("The Big Lebowski"), Todd Solondz ("Happiness"), John Turturro ("Illuminata"), Spike Lee ("Summer of Sam") and Lars von Trier ("Dogville").

Mr. Gazzara returned to the stage regularly, acting in The Night Circus in 1958 (which had a short run, but introduced him to his second wife, actress Janice Rule); a revival of Strange Interlude in 1963; and Traveler Without Luggage in 1964. He starred in a 1975 revival of O'Neill's Hughie, and as George opposite Colleen Dewhurst's Martha in a 1976 production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? His final Broadway appearance was as the grandfather in a 2006 revival of Odets' Awake and Sing!, for which he won a Drama Desk Award. He was nominated for Tonys for Hughie and Woolf.


ProductionsDate of Productions
Golden Boy
[Play, Drama, Revival]
  • This production is dedicated to the memory of Ben Gazzara
Dec 06, 2012 - Jan 20, 2013
Awake and Sing!
[Play, Drama, Revival]
  • Performer: Ben Gazzara [Jacob Berger]
Apr 17, 2006 - Jun 25, 2006
[Play, Original]
  • Starring: Ben Gazzara [Eric Dawson]
Apr 23, 1992 - Apr 25, 1992
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
[Play, Drama, Revival]
  • Starring: Ben Gazzara [George]
Apr 01, 1976 - Jul 11, 1976
Hughie / Duet
[Play, Revival]
  • Performer: Ben Gazzara ["Erie" Smith]
[Play, Revival]
  • Performer: Ben Gazzara [Leonard Pelican]
Feb 11, 1975 - Mar 08, 1975
Traveller Without Luggage
[Play, Original]
  • Starring: Ben Gazzara [Gaston]
Sep 17, 1964 - Oct 24, 1964
Strange Interlude
[Play, Drama, Revival]
  • Starring: Ben Gazzara [Edmund Darrell]
Mar 11, 1963 - Jun 29, 1963
The Night Circus
[Play, Drama, Original]
  • Performer: Ben Gazzara [Joy]
Dec 02, 1958 - Dec 06, 1958
A Hatful of Rain
[Play, Drama, Original]
  • Starring: Ben Gazzara [Johnny Pope]
Nov 09, 1955 - Oct 13, 1956
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
[Play, Drama, Original]
  • Also Starring: Ben Gazzara [Brick]
Mar 24, 1955 - Nov 17, 1956
End as a Man
[Play, Original]
  • Performer: Ben Gazzara [Jocko de Paris]
Oct 14, 1953 - Jan 16, 1954
2006 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Ensemble Performance
winner Awake and Sing! [winner]
Performer: Ben Gazzara
2004 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Solo Performance
Ben Gazzara (for "Nobody Don't Like Yogi") [nominee]
1977 Tony Award® Best Actor in Play
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? [nominee]
Starring: Ben Gazzara
1976 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Play
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? [nominee]
Starring: Ben Gazzara
1975 Tony Award® Best Actor in Play
Hughie / Duet [nominee]
Performer: Ben Gazzara
1956 Tony Award® Best Actor in Play
A Hatful of Rain [nominee]
Starring: Ben Gazzara
1954 Theatre World Award
winner End as a Man [recipient]
Performer: Ben Gazzara
Find out where Ben Gazzara and are credited together