John Cazale


John Holland Cazale (August 12, 1935 – March 13, 1978) was an American actor. He started as a theater actor in New York City, ranging from regional, to off-Broadway, to Broadway acting alongside Al Pacino, Meryl Streep (whom he was romantically involved with from 1976 until his death), and Sam Waterston.

Cazale soon became one of Hollywood’s premier character actors, starting with his role as the doomed, weak-minded Fredo Corleone opposite longtime friend Pacino in Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather (1972), with Marlon Brando, James Caan, Talia Shire, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton; Coppola’s The Conversation, with Gene Hackman, Terri Garr, and Harrison Ford; The Godfather Part II (1974), and Sidney Lunet’s Dog Day Afternoon (1975), with Pacino, Charles Durning, Carol Kane, and Chris Sarandon.

Cazale chose to continue acting despite having been diagnosed with lung cancer. He died in New York City on March 13, 1978, shortly after completing his role in Michael Cimino‘s The Deer Hunter, with Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Streep. He has the distinction of all the films he appeared in being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, with Godfather Part I and II, and The Deer Hunted winning.

Theatre producer Joseph Papp called Cazale “an amazing intellect, an extraordinary person and a fine, dedicated artist.” A film documentary tribute to Cazale, I Knew It Was You, was screened at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, featuring interviews with Pacino, Steve Buscemi, Streep, De Niro, Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Coppola, and Lumet.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • The Godfather (1972) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola
  • The Conversation (1974) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola
  • The Godfather Part II (1974) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola
  • Dog Day Afternoon (1975) – directed by Sidney Lumet
  • The Deer Hunter (1978) – directed by Michael Cimino – posthumous release