Come on and join author Melissa Bradley as she sets off on her latest adventure...


If you are not 18, please exit stage left. While there is normally nothing naughty here, I do write and review erotica so there are links to spicy stuff and the occasional heated excerpt.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, John Cazale

Today I am taking some time to talk about one of my favorite character actors of all time, John Cazale, on what would have been his 76th birthday. Best known as Fredo, the weak link in the Corleone crime family, John is considered by his colleagues to be one of the greatest actors of his generation. If he had lived, he would be mentioned in the same breath as Pacino, De Niro, Duvall, Hoffman, Hackman and Streep. Pacino has said that "all I ever wanted to do for the rest of my life was act with John. He was my acting partner." High praise indeed.

He only made five films, yet all five were nominated for Best Picture: The Godfather, The Godfather, Part 2, Dog Day Afternoon, The Conversation and The Deer Hunter. John himself was never nominated, though he did receive a Golden Globe nod for his turn as Sal in Dog Day Afternoon. He was recognized for his amazing accomplishments on stage, though, receiving OBIE awards for his performances in The Indian Wants The Bronx and Line. How's this for awesome, he appears through archival footage in The Godfather, Part III and this, too was nominated for Best Picture.

John had the kind of intensity that gets into your bones, drawing you unerringly into his character. You hate the person he's playing, he's weak and broken. Who wants to be the clown, the loser, the guy who falls apart? But he had a way of seeing inside those people, of finding their pain and bringing it to the surface. You despise Fredo and yet, you understand him. He's not the man he imagined himself to be. He never planned on being third best. Or Sal, the guy in fucked up circumstances that just snowball. John was not afraid to tackle these kinds of roles, having a well of compassion for them that showed in his performances. He was so good, he made the actors around him better. Michael Corleone would not be the guy he is without Fredo.

That intensity and cool extended to his personal life as well. Known for being a bit of a Romeo, John always had the luck with the ladies. He met and fell madly in love with Meryl Streep when they worked together in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. He remarked to Pacino that he had "met the greatest actress in the history of the world." And considering her accomplishments, it's safe to say he was right. Meryl, herself, has said that John taught her about acting, to see other "possibilities" within the characters.

Tragically, John succumbed to lung cancer on March 12, 1978. He was just 42 years old. Meryl was by his side right through to the end. He made The Deer Hunter in the last stages of his disease, dying before its release. Because of his illness, he was not able to get the required insurance so Robert De Niro stepped in and paid for him. His star burned brilliantly for the briefest of times and it leaves one with a tremendous sense of what might have been.

Richard Shepherd directed and Brett Ratner produced this incredible documentary short, I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale which was featured at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and aired on HBO last year. It is an in-depth look at Cazale's brief career with lots of amazing interviews and commentary. In a rare moment of disclosure, Meryl opens up at length about John and their time together. It's a unique chance to see some of our greatest actors in another light as they talk about their friend and fellow thespian.

I have the film below in three short parts. If you have the time, please watch. It is well worth the effort. Parts 1 and 3 are here, but Part 2 is linked because for some reason the embed code has been disabled.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


  1. I just watched the whole thing, really great. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Appreciated.


  2. John Cazale was every bit as talented as Pacino and De Niro. He left us with 5 stellar performances in 5 timeless films. And cinema just lost an incredible talent way too early. It's great to read your wonderful tribute to the amazing star, Mel.

  3. Taken before his time. He may not have made many, but they were awesome movies.

  4. What a wonderful tribute to a truly great actor. 5 for 5; the greatest track record in cinema history. I'm sorry we lost him so early. Terrific tribute, Melissa - thanks for remembering and giving us the opportunity to celebrate his too-short but artistically triumphant life.

  5. I have seen 4 of the 5 movies and yes a real tragedy when talent like that is taken to soon.
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  6. Must admit I've never heard of him, but I see he died exactly one month before I was born :(

  7. Yes, sadly I'm one that didn't know his name. I have seen the Godfather films and could pick him out but I don't know much about him. Thanks for the tribute.

  8. I've heard of John Cazale, of course, but if I have to be honest, I'm not familiar with any of his roles. Sorry about that. Happy Birthday to him and big hugs for you, Mel.

  9. Ah, to have such a career! And such talent.

  10. I loved him in Dog Day Afternoon; his performance left a lasting impact on me. I also loved
    the movie "Deer Hunter" my friends made fun of me, because of it. I loved all of the emotions, I felt when I saw this film. Yes, it was bittersweet, but so is life. I loved the authenticity; this is what he brought to film and he captured it brilliantly! I'm going to go check out Netflix and see if I can watch one of his flicks! I remember him; thank you for shining the spotlight on this star. Great post~ He was a true star!

  11. Yay for The Deer Hunter - one of the greatest movies ever!

  12. @mood You are most welcome. :) I am so happy you watched and enjoyed this.

    @Jaccstev Thanks! John really was an amazing actor and though he was taken too soon, he left a wonderful legacy.

    @Alex You're so right. What an incredible mark he left with these amazing and renowned films.

    @Craig Thanks! John really does have the best track record. No one else can say all their films were Best Picture nominees. I can only imagine what more greatness he had in him.

  13. @Jules I can only imagine what else John could have done. Such a relative unknown giant of cinema he is.

    @Dez Exactly one month before you were born? Wow! That's eerie.

    @Clarissa I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. John was definitely a hidden gem among actors.

  14. @Nebular If you get a chance, you should check out his films. You might really like Dog Day Afternoon. He and Pacino are electric in here and I think he steals the show from Al.

    @MPax John really was a incredible actor. He sure knew how to make you feel something for these odd, down and out people.

    @Ella I'm happy you enjoyed my tribute to John. He really took risks and brought to life some broken people. Dog Day Afternoon and Deer Hunter are two of my favorites. Such amazing cinema. Now I have to go watch these two again. :)

    @Deniz the Deer Hunter is incredible. I love how it captures that steel town era and that small town life where opportunity only came from the factory, the military or the church. I'm going to have to go and watch it again asap. :)

  15. Definitely a great actor. It hurts, its early loss has deprived us of enjoying his talent.

  16. I wasn't familiar with him. But man, I just love actors who exude that intensity that gets under your skin. Gary Oldman is my fave. he just gives me chills--so believable. Also, Edward Norton and Anthony Hopkins.

  17. Mel, I think that anybody who plays with Pacino steals the show from him. LOL.

  18. He was good. I never questioned that he was acting. He was always completely convincing in whatever role he played. He didn't make movies. He made life.

    By the way, found your blog through Alex's movie blogfest. Doralynn

  19. @leovi It is such a shame when great talent is silenced early. You can only wonder what else he might have accomplished.

    @Pk I love Gary Oldman, too. That list of actors you have is quite impressive. I just love watching them work.

  20. @Nebular LOL Somehow I knew you were going to say that, sweetie.

    @Doralynne Hi and welcome! I'm so happy you found your way here and I look forward to return visits. I'm so looking forward to the blogfest. Movies are a passion of mine, good, bad and ugly. ;)

    "He made life." I love this! It is so very true, it was like John really became those characters. He made them real. I could watch him over and over again.

  21. Great post shared by author. I appreciate it. Thanks for sharing this informative post. Keep posting updates.
    Ninja Gear


I love, love comments, so please leave your thoughts. I may not always be able to answer directly, but please know that what you say is very important to me.