Celebrating the Life of John Cazale on His Birthday

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Throughout the 1970s, American cinema was a playground for talented actors. Starring in films from directors who were either on the precipice of infamy or at the height of their careers, the men and women who populated our screens carved out the framework for a new set of Hollywood rules, revitalized a generation, and forever changed the medium. We worship the players like Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and Dennis Hopper, but there was one man whose brief but memorable performances continue to live on after his all too sudden death: the wonderful John Cazale.

It’s difficult to believe but Cazale was only in five films ever, yet every single one of them went on to be nominated for Best Picture Academy Awards, with most taking them home. Between Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part I & II, Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, Michael Chimino’s The Deer Hunter, and Coppola’s The Conversation, Cazale’s idiosyncratic characters and subtle, indefinable acting style played an integral role in these films that soon exist as proper cinematic classics. “I sometimes wonder if the inability to find oneself makes one seek oneself in other people, in characters,” he said, and it’s a terrible shame we never got the chance to see him disappear into more of them. But as today is his birthday, we thought we’d celebrate his life by taking a look at some of his most memorable on screen moments, as well as the documentary, I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale.

I KNEW IT WAS YOU, PART 1.

DOG DAY AFTERNOON.

AL PACINO ON CAZALE.

I KNEW IT WAS YOU, PART 2.

THE GODFATHER PART II.

I KNEW IT WAS YOU, PART 3.

DOG DAY AFTERNOON, WYOMING SCENE.

THE CONVERSATION.

AL PACINO AND MERYL STREEP ON CAZALE.

THE DEER HUNTER.