Today is August 3 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you easy to love?” John Cazale was an American actor who appeared in five films over seven years, all of which were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture: The Godfather (1972), The Conversation (1974), The Godfather Part II (1974), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and The Deer Hunter (1978), with the two Godfather films and The Deer Hunter winning.
Cazale started as a theater actor in New York City during the 1960s, ranging from regional, to off-Broadway, to Broadway acting alongside Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Sam Waterston. To earn income during this time Cazale also worked as a cab driver and messenger. His theatrical work eventually led him to be discovered by casting director Fred Roos who suggested him to director Francis Ford Coppola for the role of Fredo Corleone in The Godfather.
After acting in four critically acclaimed films The Godfather (1972), The Conversation (1974), The Godfather Part II (1974), Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Cazale went back to theater in 1976. In the summer of that year, Cazale starred at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park with Sam Waterston in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. His leading lady was the recent Yale School of Drama graduate Meryl Streep.
The two would begin a romantic relationship soon after starting to work together. Streep was 29 years old, a gosling in the New York theater world and would eventually move in to his loft on Franklin Street. He was 14 years her senior and a legend among his peers. As Maureen Callahan wrote “Of the two, Cazale was the famous one, but they were still starving artists. Cazale would take Streep to dinner in Little Italy, where restaurant owners, awed to have Fredo in the room, insisted they eat for free. They were the envy of the New York theater world — she the most naturally gifted actress in generations, he the most naturally gifted actor, until one day in May 1977.”
During his rehearsals for the Greek tragedy Agamemnon, Cazale had been feeling ill enough to miss performances. Theater producer Joseph Papp was concerned enough to get Cazale an emergency appointment with his own doctor on the Upper East Side. Within days, Streep and Cazale were sitting in the doctor’s office with Joe and Gail Papp. The diagnosis: Cazale had terminal lung cancer. It had spread throughout his body. Cazale dropped out of Agamemnon immediately.
Streep and Cazale tried to keep the severity of his condition between them. Even Cazale’s brother, Stephen, didn’t realize how bad it was until one day, after the three of them had lunch in Chinatown, Cazale stopped on the sidewalk and spat up blood. With medical bills pilling up, Streep reluctantly took a lead role in the nine-hour TV miniseries “Holocaust” solely for the money. The show was filmed in Austria and Cazale was too weak to go. For two and a half months Streep was separated from her dying boyfriend. With Streep unavailable, fellow actor Al Pacino took Cazale to radiation treatments.
Upon her return Streep stayed by Cazale’s side as he performed in what would become his last film, The Deer Hunter starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, and Streep.
All scenes involving Cazale, who had terminal cancer, were filmed first. Because of his illness the studio wanted to dismiss him but Streep and director Michael Cimino threatened to walk away if they did. He was also uninsurable, and according to Streep, De Niro paid for his insurance because he wanted Cazale in the film. This was Cazale's last film, as he died shortly after filming wrapped. Cazale never saw the finished film
Streep said of his death: I didn't get over it. I don't want to get over it. No matter what you do, the pain is always there in some recess of your mind, and it affects everything that happens afterwards. I think you can assimilate the pain and go on without making an obsession of it.”
When speaking to the New York Times during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Godfather, Pacino revealed that he didn’t believe Cazale ever got the credit he deserved for his contribution to Coppola’s movies. “John Cazale, in general, was one of the great actors of our time — that time, any time. I learned so much from him. I did a lot of theatre and three films with him. He was inspiring; he just was. And he didn’t credit for any of it. He was in five films, all Oscar-nominated films, and he was great in all of them. He was particularly great in Godfather II, and I don’t think he got that kind of recognition.”
His close friend and frequent collaborator, Israel Horovitz, wrote a eulogy, published in The Village Voice on March 27, 1978. In it, he said: “John Cazale happens once in a lifetime. He was an invention, a small perfection. It is no wonder his friends feel such anger upon waking from their sleep to discover that Cazale sleeps on with kings and counselors, with Booth and Kean, with Jimmy Dean, with Bernhardt, Guitry, and Duse, with Stanislavsky, with Groucho, Benny, and Allen. He will make fast friends in his new place. He is easy to love.”
How often are you easy to love?
How often are you loved by others?
How often do others look up to you?
How often do you make fast friends?
How often do you take a chance on love and being loved?