American Masters: A Letter To Elia
Airs Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 12 p.m. on KPBS TV
Originally published October 1, 2010 at 4:19 p.m., updated July 9, 2013 at 1:57 p.m.
Elia Kazan’s name was brought front and center to the world again during the buzz surrounding the March 1999 Academy Awards. He was to receive an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, an honor that divided Hollywood.
Then 89 years old, Kazan was primarily remembered for his impressive directorial body of work in the 1950s — "On the Waterfront," "East of Eden," "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Gentleman’s Agreement," "A Face in the Crowd" — but remained controversial.
To many, he was singularly and permanently emblematic of the sin of “naming names” before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. To others, his extraordinary work deserved recognition.
More About The Film
Read the transcript of a conversation with Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones on the making of "A Letter To Elia."
One of his strongest supporters — one of the men who stood tall with Kazan in front of that divided Hollywood audience in 1999 — was the filmmaker Martin Scorsese, the director of this documentary, a personal and poignant meditation on art and the creative impulse.
"A Letter To Elia" is composed of minimal elements: Scorsese on camera and off; snippets of Kazan interviews; readings from his writings; photos, posters and a wealth of film clips; and music. There is biography and autobiography — Kazan’s life, his sense of himself as an immigrant, as an outsider — and Scorsese’s early experiences seeing Kazan’s films for the first time — and being forever influenced.
This episode originally aired in 2010.