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John Cassavetes
Biography and filmography
John Cassavetes

John Cassavetes (1929–1989), the New York-born American actor and film auteur of Greek origin, is now recognized as the father American independent cinema. He claimed he made his way to cinema by accident. Starting out as an actor in the 1950s specializing in rebellious and independent characters, he very quickly found acting too limiting. By the end of the decade, with the help and financial support of some friends, he made his first independent movie Shadows, which was a huge success on the East Coast and in Europe. The young director drew the attention of Hollywood, but after a series of difficult experiences while making two more movies (Too Late Blues and A Child Is Waiting), Cassavetes returned from Hollywood to New York.

Several years of relative inactivity followed. He moved back to Los Angeles with Gena Rowlands, his wife, companion, muse, and main protagonist of many of his future movies. The end of the 1960s brought a new, mature period of his oeuvre. His acting in Hollywood productions was only to raise money for his independent movies. In total, he would make nine independent films. In addition to the above-mentioned Shadows, there were successively: Faces, Husbands, Minnie and Moskowitz, A Woman Under the Influence, Killing of the Chinese Bookie, Opening Night, Gloria, and Love Streams. He died in 1989 after a long struggle with cirrhosis of the liver.

From the beginning, Cassavetes’ films aroused controversy. Approached with caution in the United States, he was greeted enthusiastically in Europe. Krzysztof Mętrak keenly summed up, in a broad sense, the director’s films, when he referred to them as Cassavetes pulp, a phrase that can be attributed multiple meanings. Cassavetes rejected formal and thematic conventions, serving his viewers the pulp. More importantly, he did not suggest any solutions. He touched very painful issues in a very precise way, ultimately showing no way out, no simple solution but pulp. Viewers who made the decision to immerse themselves in Cassavetes’ world, might well feel beaten to a pulp.

(Elżbieta Durys)

Filmography

1959 Cienie / Shadows

1961 Spóźniony blues / Too Late Blues

1963 Dziecko czeka / A Child Is Waiting

1968 Twarze / Faces

1970 Mężowie / Husbands

1971 Minnie i Moskowitz / Minnie and Moskowitz

1974 Kobieta pod presją / A Woman Under the Influence

1976 Zabójstwo chińskiego bukmachera / The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

1977 Premiera / Opening Night

1980 Gloria

1984 Strumienie miłości / Love Streams

1986 Wielki kłopot / Big Trouble


TV films

Johnny Staccato, odcinki / TV episodes: Murder for Credit (1959), Evil (1959), A Piece of Paradise (1959), Night of Jeopardy (1960), Solomon (1960)

The Lloyd Bridges Show, odcinki / TV episodes: A Pair of Boots (1962), My Daddy Can Beat Your Daddy (1963)

Bob Hope Presents Chrystler Theatre, odcinek / TV episode: In Pursuit of Excellence (1966)

Columbo, odcinek / TV episode: Étude in Black (1972)

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