John Cazale was an American actor who appeared in only five films during his career, but all of them were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Despite his limited filmography, Cazale is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors in the history of American cinema.
Cazale was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1935. He attended Boston College and later studied acting at the Actors Studio in New York City. He got his start as an actor in the late 1960s with roles in various stage productions.
Cazale’s film debut came in 1972, when he appeared in “The Godfather” as Fredo Corleone, the older brother of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). The film was an instant sensation, and Cazale’s performance as the weak and vulnerable Fredo was widely praised and has become iconic over the years.
Cazale went on to appear in three more films directed by Francis Ford Coppola: “The Conversation” (1974), “The Godfather: Part II” (1974), and “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975). All of these films were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Cazale received critical acclaim for his performances in each of them.
In 1977, Cazale appeared in his final film, “The Deer Hunter,” which was directed by Michael Cimino and featured an amazing cast that included Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep. Cazale and Streep were in love at this time.
Despite his success, Cazale’s career was cut short by his untimely death in 1978 from lung cancer at the age of 42.
Despite his limited filmography, John is remembered as one of the greatest actors of his generation, and his work continues to be celebrated and admired by audiences and critics alike.
“I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale” (2003)
This excellent documentary about the life of Cazale is a must-see for anyone who loves his work or loves the movies in general. It’s a fitting tribute to a brilliant talent who was taken too soon. You can see the trailer here.
Fredo introduces Mo Greene to Michael in Las Vegas
In this classic scene from “The Godfather” we see Cazale as the hapless Fredo in Las Vegas being schooled my Michael.
Cazale as Sal in “Dog Day Afternoon”
Cazale’s understated and nuanced performance is brilliant in this film, and this scene with Pacino is hilarious.
Brotherly Love on the Big Screen
We took a look back at some of the most interesting movie characters who were brothers, which naturally included the brothers from “The Godfather”:
The Brothers Corleone are as distinct as movie siblings get – three very different sides of a loving, yet violent coin. Sonny (James Caan) has his likable qualities, but he’s at heart a street-smart but simple-minded thug whose first thought when facing a problem is: who do I have to intimidate/beat-up/kill to solve it? Fredo (Cazale) is of a gentler disposition, but he’s lacking not only in street smarts but smarts of any kind. Worse, he’s an emotional weakling who is instantly enthralled by whatever superficially strong personality he happens to be within 10 feet of. Michael (Al Pacino), the classic “good son” is blessed with intelligence and psychological strength — yet for all his talk of getting out of crime and the importance of family, has no clue how to achieve success without killing the occasional close relative. It’s just business. – Bob Westal
Fredo: Mike! You do not come to Las Vegas and talk to a man like Moe Greene like that!
Michael: Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.