To his intimates Elia Kazan was ‘Gadg’, short for ‘Gadget’ – a small thingamajig that fixes things. He came to hate the nickname, but ruefully conceded its appropriateness. He was born Elia Kazanjioglou in Constantinople in 1909 to Anatolian-Greek parents. It was a bad time to be that ethnic mix in that place. The family emigrated (leaving half their surname behind) to ‘America America’, as the title of Kazan’s tender book and film commemorating his family’s uprooting had it.
Elia’s father was a ‘rug merchant’. Anyone who’s bought a carpet in the Levant knows what they do best: haggle and clinch deals. Young Elia worked for a short period in the family business but he was too smart a ‘merchandiser’ (one of his favourite words) for that line of