John Cazale: The movies' unsung legend
Granted, one can be in great movies and not do anything memorable in them. However, Cazale was not just an extra; he had major supporting roles in every one of his films. In the "Godfather" movies, he played Fredo, the sleazy brother who gets “offed” by Pacino in a very memorable scene at the end of Part II, and delivers a fabulous and very understated performance as Pacino’s insane, apathetic, and extremely creepy partner in "Dog Day Afternoon." He did his scenes in "The Deer Hunter" while fighting cancer, and died shortly after the film's completion. He was extremely close with Al Pacino, and was the fiancÃ©e of Meryl Streep. However, it seems in order to be remembered, you need to be young, handsome and go out with a bang.
John Cazale in a pivotal scene of "Dog Day Afternoon":
I have no doubt Cazale would have gone on to greatness given the chance. Just look at the other legends that got their start with the same movies: Pacino, DeNiro, Streep, Duvall, Ford, Walken, Caan... the list goes on and on. These are films that serve as a veritable who’s who of acting. Yet Cazale’s name doesn’t even appear in 501 Movie Stars, an otherwise very complete reference for stars of cinema, but from which he was ousted by the likes of Jet Li, Ben Stiller and Cheech and Chong. I really can see no reason that he isn’t remembered like James Dean and Heath Ledger other than the fact that he was considerably less attractive and died from cancer, as opposed to an OD or a wild car crash.
Is our society really so superficial that people won’t recognize a great artist if his life doesn’t make for some juicy tabloids? Then again, I would venture to guess that more people know Van Gogh gave his ear to a prostitute than have ever seen or even heard of "The Starry Night."
Still, it doesn’t seem fair that Cazale gets the short end of the stick due to the fact that he was a fairly ordinary man, wholly uninteresting to your average reader. Don’t get me wrong; I in no way mean this as a slight to Dean or Ledger. They are certainly worthy of their fame; they’re amazing actors. However, John Cazale deserves to be celebrated as the great actor that he was, not just have the occasional sad rant about him in a local newspaper.
Josh Kaplan is a student at Pioneer High School.