R.I.P. Ben Gazzara

Stage and film veteran Ben Gazzara, whose career spanned five decades and included a stint directing television, has died at age 81 in New York. According to The New York Times, Gazzara succumbed to pancreatic cancer today in Manhattan, where he lived. Let's bid a fond farewell to the Emmy-winning, Golden Globes-nominated Gazzara by remembering some of his most indelible work.

After getting his start in the 1950s in television and on stage in productions like Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955, for which he originated the role of Brick. Film highlights include Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder (1959), although he may be best known for his collaborations with John Cassavetes (Husbands, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Opening Night) and later highlights in Road House, Buffalo '66, The Big Lebowski, and Todd Solondz's Happiness.

For me and many of my generation the Gazzara role I've rewatched a zillion times is his turn as Jackie Treehorn in The Big Lebowski; Click here for the film's memorable (but nonembeddable) Jackie Treehorn scene and let's take a brief hopscotch through the actor's filmography over the years.


  • Jake says:

    What a powerhouse this guy was. He was tremendous in Happiness, Husbands, Anatomy of a Murder... but my favorite was always when he played Vince Gallo's dad in Buffalo 66. When he sings that old standard for Ricci... that was so great. It was even an old recording of Gallo's real father. Some actors pass away and it's sad. But this passing is a tragedy. Ben, you will be missed. RIP

    - Jakey

  • Artist-hating Charles says:

    Gazzara certainly wasn't the world's most expressive actor, but when he landed a role that suited his oily charm, he could be quite effective. One of my favorites is his turn as a Charles Bukowski-type character in Marco Ferreri's crazy, sexually explicit Tales of Ordinary Madness.

  • CC Coleman says:

    Ben had plenty of bad movies but he always improved a bad movie. He was an actor content to be a strong background actor but he showed he could be the lead. Appreciated by many but under appreciated by most. One of the best in our time.