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In the Moment: My Life as an Actor    by Ben Gazzara order for
In the Moment
by Ben Gazzara
Order:  USA  Can
Carroll & Graf, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In the Moment is an intimate narration by Ben Gazzara of his fifty plus years as an actor, on the stage and in film, in the United States and abroad. Gazzara's repertoire of engagements includes memorable roles in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Hatful of Rain, and in the television series Arrest and Trial, with more recent credits in the film, The Big Lebowski.

Gazzara is candid about alcohol, women, his bout with throat cancer, and depression. Of the latter he says, 'I think depression is a cancer. A cancer of the soul. Aging is a bitch, I was beginning to see its approach and it frightened me'. The author reminisces about his immigrant Italian parents and brother Tony, and recalls his life on the Lower East Side in New York City. Gazzara's interest in acting began at age twelve at the Madison Square Boys Club. To further his career, in 1952, Gazzara entered the Actors Studio, of which he speaks positively and devotedly. Gazzara worked with many creative directors including, Elia Kazan, Peter Bogdanovich, and Lee Strassberg.

Gazzara is most appealing when he describes working with friends, Peter Falk, and John Cassavetes (the latter as an actor, writer, and director), in 'scriptless filmmaking', such as Husbands - a tale of three men who bond while mourning a deceased friend. It was the work of Cassavetes and his companions in the 1970's that helped launch the independent film industry. James Dean, James Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Geraldine Page, Anna Magnani, and Anthony Hopkins are among the greats Gazzara acted alongside. Otto Preminger's Anatomy of Murder was Gazzara's Hollywood debut, and Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof garnered national attention and recognition of a major talent.

The book places readers on the movie sets, revealing how films were created. Ben Gazzara offers an inspiring, honest, emotional, and straightforward account of his past and present life. He explains method acting, making a character 'his own', and applying 'sense memory' (recalling a similar incident in his life) to a role. It becomes obvious that Gazzara loved his profession, and he writes from the heart as if he is conversing with the reader in a one-on-one meeting. Though Gazzara never won an Oscar, he writes 'I was never jealous of another actor, 'cause I was really pleased with myself, with my talent. I knew I had the goods.'

Though the memoir is at times heavy in accounts of Gazzara's 'trysts' with women, and with sometimes lengthy accounts of events, In the Moment is an enjoyable reminiscence about popular films from the 1960's onwards, recalling performers during that era.

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