A chronology and list of events
in Cassavetes' early career, 1929 - 1968. To access a chronology and list
of events covering the last ten years of Cassavetes' life and the nineteen years following his death, click
- 1956 / 1957
- 1959 / 1960
-1962 / 1963
here for best printing of text
John Cassavetes (NJC), father of John, arrives in
America with his brother Arthur in 1908 from
Larissa, Greece. They set in Providence, Rhode Island.
1911, NJC enters Harvard on a partial scholarship.
He concentrates in Chemistry. To support himself,
he holds various jobs after school from 6 p.m. to
1915, after leaving school, NJC serves the US
Army as an interpreter, Honorary Secretary and
Director of the Pan-Epirotic Union in America.
April 24 1926, NJC marries Katherine Demetri (KD),
fifteen years his junior. They have two sons:
John Nicholas (JC) on December 9 1929 and
Nicholas John (NC) on December 21 1927. NJC is quiet, serious, thoughtful,
very artistic, creative and original. KD is
extroverted, animated, status-conscious, strong-willed,
opinioned and outspoken. She is fluent in Greek,
Italian, English, and Yiddish. She also has a
great sense of humor and a great love for life.
the Depression, the family is very poor.
the early '30s, the family returns to Greece for
six years. JC is two. When they return, JC doesn't
know a word of English, only Greek.
- During the 1950s
and 1960s, the family moves to
Riverside Drive, Sutton Place, on the East Side of
Manhattan. KD runs a boutique on the Upper East Side and
NJC runs the Olympic Travel Agency at 203 West 42nd
Street. In the early '70s they move to California
to stay close to JC.
- JC enters his teens
and becomes known as a delinquent. The family
moves to the suburbs in Sand Point, Port Washington,
Long Island. In an upper-middle-class town, which is
oppressive and conformist, JC is a white fly.
- During High
School, JC becomes known as "Cassy" and is "always
ready with a wisecrack" and voted "Class wit." After
chipping a front tooth, he develops his
- In June
1947, JC graduates High School and follows his brother to
Mohawk College. When Mohawk closes down, he moves to Champlain.
fails out of Champlain at the end of his first
- JC doesn't
know what to do with his life, whether to hitch-hike down Route
take a holiday in Florida. He decides to enroll at AADA
(American Academy of Dramatic Arts). The main reason (following
friend's suggestion) is the "girls".
- JC enters
AADA on February 8 1949. He brings two pieces: Philip Barry's
The Youngest and The Merchant
of Venice. He is
described as "dark," "short," "Latin
type," a "sensitive
temperament," and a "fine intelligent boy." The
school is located at Carnegie Hall on 57th St. and Seventh Avenue.
the two year program with an April class. He continues
in the senior class of September, then graduates in
mid-March of 1950. Beginning the
second semester he has to pay the $500 a year tuition by
- He meets Fred Draper
and Burt Lane.
- He moves to a little
apartment on 96th St., near Riverside Drive and
shares the flat with 10 people.
- After graduating school he
starts making rounds, going on daily pilgrimages to
casting directors, producers, agents, directors
and writers to ask for a job. He does this
for about 4 years.
- He chains himself to
a radiator to get a part in CBS TV program You
are There in 1953.
- During this period he
does a lot of bit parts on stage: at Chapel
Playhouse in Guilford, Connecticut, in Benn Levy's
Clutterbuck, in 2 Blind Mice,
in the Rhode Island regional Theater.
- To avoid being
drafted he joins Army Reserves with roommate Bill
Stafford (who'll appear in many Cassavetes' works).
- He keeps establishing
his "crazy" reputation, shouting,
jumping and beating his head on a locker to get
the attention of younger AADA students (including
an embarrassed Gena Rowlands). Some think that
maybe his problems with alcohol might have
- He performs in Henry's Hathaway's 14
Hours in 1951 (his scene is cut from the final
print) and Gregory Ratoff's Taxi in
summer 1952 (as a hot-dog vendor)
- After Taxi,
he follows Ratoff as a "gofer" in a TV
series called Cradle of Stars. They
become good friends. He goes to Broadway as
Assistant Stage Manager with Ratoff's Court
Theater production The Fifth Season in January 1953.
Just to make a little money - $85/week
- During a performance,
he meets Sam Shaw (news and film photographer)
backstage. He is clowning around, declaring poetry
and classics, doing back flips. Sam Shaw comes
directly from a session of "actors' freedom" at the
Actor Studio. He's impressed and adopts the boy.
- He introduces
JC to the artistic and cinematic "cream" of
New York (and later will produce many of his
movies and will do most of the photography,
layout, design and writing for press packs, ads
and campaigns). Thanks to him JC discovers poetry,
painting and jazz.
- Shaw introduces JC to
Robert Rossen during pre-production of Alexander
the Great. JC doesn't get the part, but the
blacklisted director and the young actor become
friends and Rossen will greatly help him during
- JC finally gets an agent,
Robert Lang. They stay together for
less than one year.
- He has a minor
TV role on Kraft with Richard Green in
late 1953. He plays a man in an iron mask. He
asks his friends to watch and in particular a
young woman he's trying to court, Gena
As you can imagine the relationship will be not
exactly smooth as velvet... (and we'll come back
to this subject sooner or later)
- He hires a
new agent, William McCaffrey, and finally gets a good opportunity:
role of a bullfighter in Omnibus' episode "Paso
Doble" in January 1954. The performance is a hit.
There is wide media coverage (superbly orchestrated by JC,
his agent and Sam Shaw) to get his name in print.
Even Hedda Hopper becomes a huge supporter.
- Thanks to Hopper, JC
gets a chance to test for Michael Curtiz's The
Egyptian. This is his first taste of Hollywood. Edmund Purdon,
however, gets the part.
- In March 1954, JC
quits his job at Court Theater.
- On March 19 1954, JC
marries Gena Rowlands at the Little Church Around
- JC acts in more than
26 TV shows in the rest of 1954, 23 in 1955 and
12 in 1956 (working with writers like Reginald
Rose, Robert Allen Arthur, Tad Moselle, Paddy
Chayefsky, David Shaw, J.P. Miller, Horton Foote).
On June 21 1955, JC and GR appear in Time for Love,
on NBC's Armstrong Circle Theater. They do it
again on October 9 on Goodyear Television
Playhouse. GR is noted by Josh Logan who is going
to cast her in Paddy Chayefsky's The Middle of
- JC hires a
new agent, Marty Baum, who spots him at the Newborne Agency.
recommends JC for
The Night Holds Terror. He will be his agent up into the 1970s.
- JC's salary rises from
$500 to $25000 in 1957. JC and GR sign a long-term
contract with MGM. They move from the apartment
in 36E 36th St. to another at 162W 54th St. to a
penthouse at 40E 75th St in 1956 (you can see it
in many scenes from Shadows).
in the Streets in 1955, Edge of the
City and Affair in Havana in
1956, Saddle the Wind and Virgin Island in 1957.
These films provide life-long friends, like Don
Siegel, Sal Mineo and Sidney Poitier, but were
unsatisfactory from an artistic point (except for
Edge of the City).
- In 1956, Rowlands
starts acting in The Middle of the Night, JC
remains at home or hangs out in bar. He is not
happy with the course of his life and after a
tour in Connecticut to play Tennessee Williams'
Twenty-Seven Wagons, he decides it's time to do
something different and meaningful with his life.
- 1956 / 1957
- 1959 / 1960
-1962 / 1963
A chronology and list of
events in Cassavetes' early career, 1963-1968. To access a chronology
and list of events covering the last ten years of Cassavetes' life and
the nineteen years following his death, click