Farewell to actor Ben Gazzara, dead at 81. Cinephiles point to Gazzara’s work in groundbreaking two John Cassavetes films, Husbands and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Most Baby Boomers first saw him as the star of the 60s TV series Run for Your Life. Along the way he was married to Janice Rule and had an affair with Audrey Hepburn.
Although I’m a big fan of Gazzara in Chinese Bookie and Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack, I immediately thought of the Coolest Movie Character Ever, John Russo in Peter Bogdanovich’s They All Laughed. Despite being a middle-aged guy with a receding hairline, John Russo is a streetwise private detective who is adored by his tween daughters and can disarm any woman with a glance and a smile. For my money, John Russo is right up there with Bogart’s Rick Blaine and the coolest Mitchum and Clooney characters.
And here’s a tidbit about his performance in They All Laughed. According to the New York Times, Gazzara “I was in a depression during the whole shooting, and I was terrific in that film,” he said. “And I don’t remember doing it.”