Elia Kazan’s body of work says a lot about the costs of freedom in the 20th century.

The short list of best American film directors will forever include Elia Kazan, whose cinematic efforts include many good films, several great ones, and a couple of immense quality that have fallen through the cracks due to poor timing, comparison to his other landmark accomplishments, or perhaps critical negligence.

Identified by none other than Stanley Kubrick as “without question, the best director we have in America,” Kazan rebounded from the public relations disaster of testifying as a friendly witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952, where he gave up the names of eight former associates with whom he shared Communist Party affiliations nearly 20 years earlier.

Whatever his regrets and explanations, they were never sufficient to assuage the left’s anger, and many used his testimony as a cause célèbre, choosing to sit on their hands rather than applaud when Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award in 1998.

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