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Rest In Peace Ben Gazzara

Hey guys. Quint here to put a few words down about Ben Gazzara who just passed away at the age of 81 after a fight with pancreatic cancer.



While most modern movie geeks would know him for his bit part as Jackie Treehorn in The Big Lebowski or as Jimmy Brown in Buffalo ‘66, the man had an incredible career on the stage and in film starting in the ‘50s. Most notable was his work with John Cassavetes in Husbands, Opening Night and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

Gazzara studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio and had that same naturalistic, authentic feel to his performances that Brando and other Actor’s Studio graduates made famous. On stage he originated the character of Brick in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Paul Newman portrayed the character in the film version.

But Gazzara always followed the beat of his own drum, taking character roles that interested him while passing on leading roles that would have made him a star.

Two of my favorite Gazzara performances are as the famous gangster in CAPONE alongside Cassavetes, Sly Stallone and Dick Miller and in Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack.



Saint Jack is a forgotten masterpiece that was introduced to a theater full of nerds by Tarantino at one of the QT Fests. If I’m not mistaken it was actually Bogdanovich’s personal, never-run 35mm print that was screened and blew everybody away. Set in Singapore, Gazzara plays a hustler named Jack Flowers who has to juggle his nefarious activities with the onset of the Vietnam war. Denholm Elliot and George Lazenby co-star in this really bizarre character study of a movie, but it’s Gazzara himself who elevates this story through sheer likeability. It’s an amazing performance.

Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is always going to be the jewel in Gazzara’s crown, though. That’s the one film scholars will study for decades and teach to eager young film-loving kids. His Cassavetes work is exemplary and is just one of those perfect matches of material, actor and director. They worked perfectly together. And it made his appearance with Gena Rowlands in Paris je t’aime even that much more poignant.



Whether it was Husbands or Anatomy of a Murder or Road House, Gazzara always brought a little class to everything he was a part of. There aren’t a lot out there like Gazzara and he will be greatly missed. My thoughts are with Gazzara’s friends, family and fans.















-Eric Vespe
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Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 3, 2012, 8:47 p.m. CST

    RIP Ben

    by murray_hamilton

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 8:49 p.m. CST

    Probably have to watch some Roadhouse this weekend

    by murray_hamilton

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 8:49 p.m. CST

    Brad Wesley

    by thelordofhell

    The Road House curse strikes again

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 8:56 p.m. CST

    He was awsome in Buffalo 66..

    by gus

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 8:58 p.m. CST

    he made a mean caucasion

    by rebel299

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 8:59 p.m. CST

    Death Of Richie

    by zer0cool2k2

    I'll always remember him as the Dad forced to kill his own son (Robby Benson), in that TV movie (which I have on DVD). He was great as the asshole villian in Road house too though.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 9:05 p.m. CST

    etta james

    by jon pertwee

    angelo dundee so the trilogy is done for a week or two

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 9:09 p.m. CST

    Small screen, too...

    by Dasinfogod

    I first caught wind of Gazzara with re-runs of the series RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, but he made a helluva impression in QBVII, opposite another acting discovery of the time, Anthony Hopkins. Interesting bloke and a good actor all around; never a household name, but we're probably better off he didn't go off that route anyway...

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 9:43 p.m. CST

    I remember him from TV

    by matineer

    Always a pleasure to watch. Goodbye.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 9:48 p.m. CST

    Rest in peace, Ben.

    by Fremen

    He was another one of those terrific actors with a great voice. Sometimes while watching one of his movies, I'd just sit back and listen with my eyes closed. - You'll be missed, Mr. Gazzara.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 9:49 p.m. CST

    JC Penny came because of him.

    by TheNotoriousDRB

    You ask anybody...they'll tell you. RIP Sir.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 9:51 p.m. CST

    My favorite of his

    by dukeroberts

    It will always be Anatomy of a Murder. He was such a white trash, dirtbag soldier in that. And you couldn't believe a word he said, well, at least the characters in the movie couldn't. You, as a viewer, were taken in by the mess he portrayed on the screen.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 9:58 p.m. CST

    Segment in Paris, je t'aime

    by David_Denmans_Beard

    Him, Gena Rowlands - one of the better segments in that film overall. Easy to overlook since some of the segments in that run the gamut of kooky to sentimental dreck but there are some gems stuck in there to be sure.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 10:15 p.m. CST

    Very sad

    by Denty420

    I've seen many examples of Mr Gazzara's work, including some of the fine films Quint has already mentioned, but for me he will always be Jackie Treehorn. His one scene in the Big Lebowski was memorable. He will be very sadly missed.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 10:19 p.m. CST

    This one hurts....

    by sundancekeed

    Ben Gazzara was one of those guys who made it look easy. He often acknowledged that it wasn't, but he made it look that way. And he was just good. Never a superstar. Always an actor. Rest In Peace.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 10:30 p.m. CST

    Rent "Tales of Ordinary Madness"

    by cookylamoo

    Great movie and funny. When Buckoski is crashing into garbage cans and comes up with a Groucho nose and glasses it's a moment of comic gold. The wine scene at the foundation is also a riot.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 10:53 p.m. CST

    Saint Jack was underrated

    by IamZardoz

    and a damn good flick. RIP

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11 p.m. CST

    He was truly one of the great ones.

    by gotilk

    He will be missed.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:08 p.m. CST

    The HUSBANDS unite in heaven

    by MooseMalloy

    Very sad news.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:10 p.m. CST

    God forbid, I have a piece of meat!!

    by Billyeveryteen

    Ah Buffalo 66, and the Ricci of the perfect tits. Jakie Treehorn KILLED as Jimmy. "Mr. Treehorn draws a lot of water in this town. You don't draw shit, Lebowski." Indeed...

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:10 p.m. CST

    Or as I should have written, "reunite"

    by MooseMalloy

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:15 p.m. CST

    Anatomy of a Murder

    by OutsideChance

    Held his own with Stewart and Scott and you were never sure just how guilty he was or wasnt R I P

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:24 p.m. CST

    So weird that he and Nicol Williamson would die

    by DougMcKenzie

    a week apart. Both men were similar in their opinions of fellow actors and their bullshit.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:27 p.m. CST

    Now he can really ask Elvis to play something with balls...

    by oneragga

    Rest easy Ben.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:28 p.m. CST

    Gazzara has just joined Swayze at the Road House in the sky.

    by Napolean Solo

    Here's to you guys. Love to you both. NS

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:32 p.m. CST

    My favorite Dick Cavette moment:

    by Anti-fanboy

    When he was doing a stint on Later, and interviewing the sexy as fuck Dana Delany, and she asked him if he remembered meeting her outside some office building, in the rain, her carrying an umbrella, and he asked her if she was wet underneath, too? Don't remember what he said, but his expression was priceless.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:55 p.m. CST

    The Strange One/End as a Man

    by Fred

    So young. Him, Peppard, James Olson.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 11:59 p.m. CST

    Terrific Actor

    by KelVarnson

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 12:24 a.m. CST

    He certainly deserved a much wider recognition.

    by Roy.Batty

    But life is unfair that way. And every way.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 12:42 a.m. CST

    Oh Yeah he was the asshole in Road House.

    by btc909

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 12:47 a.m. CST

    Quality actor, through and through...

    by Stegman84

    Big role, small role, film or tv, didn't matter. Man always delivered the quality.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 1:12 a.m. CST

    He drew a lot of water in Malibu

    by Horace Cox

    Tonight I think I'll find a rug that really ties a room together and piss on it in his honor.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 1:34 a.m. CST

    Don Cornelius died and yall posted NOTHING

    by Jonathhan Kana

    this no name dies and HE gets a talkback? You guys do sooooo much to refute the whole nordic racist issue this site has.

  • And thinking I'd not seen it for a while so I was gonna watch it tonight after work anyway. Come from the shower, fired up Safari and Brad Wesly is dead. Spooky. RIP Ben.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 2:15 a.m. CST


    by Dollar Bird

    I just watched "The Big Lebowski" yesterday by sheer coincidence, though my introduction to him was as the narrator in a paleontology series on Discovery Channel. Paleoworld? I'll have to look it up. He only did the 1st season, but my mother loved watching the show with me to hear Gazzara's voice.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 2:40 a.m. CST

    "He treats objects like Women man".

    by Keith Maniac

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 2:49 a.m. CST

    One of the Greatest

    by Flexfill

    Ben was from the old school when actors had craft and integrity. They don't make 'em like that anymore. The man is now legend and like Cassavetes... will be sorely missed in cinema.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 2:51 a.m. CST

    Spoke To Him Once

    by psychedelic

    First off, I completely agree in Quint's love for Saint Jack. Gazzara is amazing in it and the movie is far too overlooked. Check it out if you ever get the chance. Many years ago Gazzara spoke at a film festival I attended. I got to ask a couple of questions. His answers can be seen if you scroll to the bottom of my coverage. Check out the following link. You will be remembered, Mr. Gazzara

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 3:36 a.m. CST

    I dug the way he did business, man.

    by phit_demon

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 4:21 a.m. CST

    RIP.He was great as the baddie in Road House.

    by KilliK

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 7:39 a.m. CST

    The 'run for his life' is over

    by The StarWolf

    I remember him from the RUN FOR YOUR LIFE series where his character is given anywhere from nine months to a year-and-a-half to live by his doctor. The series lasted three years. Another example of elastic Hollywood time.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 8:19 a.m. CST

    Every single time one of these old timers dies

    by proevad

    I post that he was fantastic on Columbo

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 8:33 a.m. CST

    johnathankana, Harry be dissin' the crackers too sho nuff

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    Roy Disney, Ed McMahon, John Quade, Harry Morgan.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 8:43 a.m. CST


    by Darth Busey

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 8:43 a.m. CST


    by Darth Busey

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 8:44 a.m. CST


    by Darth Busey

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 9:15 a.m. CST


    by Sandy

    No mention of the genre film The Neptune Factor in which he starred alongside Ernest Borgnine, Walter Pigeon & Yvette Mimieux?!

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 10:23 a.m. CST

    Run for your Life

    by Raptor Jesus

    I watched that show as a kid...good stuff.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 10:24 a.m. CST

    The man treats objects like women.. man.

    by UltraTron

    R.I.P. I never let anyone point a knife at me on a table after buffalo 66.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 10:38 a.m. CST

    johnathankana: Wolverines..

    by UltraTron

    A conundrum of a miracle of evolution really. One of the toughest animals on the planet but they mostly die giving birth. Unfortunately you didn't die and somehow made it to an age where you were capable of typing words with no meaning. See I told you the little info about wolverines because I like to leave people a little smarter when I'm telling them to eat shit and die.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 10:41 a.m. CST

    Happiness: true story..

    by UltraTron

    Saw the opening scene and thought it was a funny opening. My friend asked for a recommendation and I guess I suggested it. So he rents it and watches it with his visiting family. This was in the age before the Internet you understand. Pretty funny back then.

  • An unknown Cult Classic and better than Rourke's portrayal of Buke in Barfly, imo. Also, his films with Cassavettes. Truly a fantastic actor and an under-appreciated one. Not by me. One of my all time favorites. R.I.P.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 11:20 a.m. CST

    I always think of that Gilbert Gottfried bit

    by OutsideChance

    Accosted by a spaceship full of aliens, Gottfried is approached by their leader, who asks: ``Ben Gazzara`s a good actor-why can`t he get a series?``

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 11:38 a.m. CST

    Ben Gazzara treats objects like women!

    by Royston Lodge

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 12:02 p.m. CST

    Resist the "RIP"

    by MisterManReturns

    Drop that damn phrase, please. it belongs in the trailer park.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 12:09 p.m. CST

    What the hell.......

    by D o o d

    He is a legend in my home. Sorry for the loss to the family and the world! :((

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 2:02 p.m. CST

    Thanks for your indirect responsibility for the Rough House Rifftrax!

    by Immortal_Fish

    No kidding.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 2:04 p.m. CST

    Awesome in Buffalo 66

    by phifty2

    Don't point that knife at me! RIP.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 2:45 p.m. CST

    I met him once

    by Amfpsych

    I was a student at the American academy and he came by. So nice and authentic, and a great actor as well.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 2:46 p.m. CST

    Sh-boom, sh-boom, ya-la-la-la-la-la ya-la-la-la-la-la

    by Tikidonkeypunch

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 6:57 p.m. CST

    here's your Don Cornelious obit

    by Arcadian Del Sol

    Raise our glasses to the old black dude from that forgotten TV show who recently blasted off the left side of his head with a gun because he didn't want to pay for his divorce.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 7:09 p.m. CST

    Loved him in everything, but Husba

    by AzulTool

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 10:19 p.m. CST


    by MainMan2001


  • Feb. 4, 2012, 10:45 p.m. CST

    i Can watch this dude breath

    by MainMan2001

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 11:45 p.m. CST


    by MrLongbaugh

    Maybe he and Swayze will have a drink at the big Roadhouse in the sky.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 11:48 p.m. CST


    by MrLongbaugh

    Dude, that was so uncool. No class at all.

  • Feb. 5, 2012, 1:16 a.m. CST

    An actor's actor.

    by Queefer Sutherland

    He was never interested in the star system. He valued the work over the fame. Pure class all the way and I'm truly sorry he's gone. What a HELL of a legacy he left, though. Few have been so lucky.

  • Feb. 5, 2012, 1:45 a.m. CST

    Ben in Happiness...

    by sanford and gun

    Was dope son!! R.I.P.

  • Feb. 5, 2012, 8:49 a.m. CST

    Well said geoffrey_fourmyle

    by Stalkeye

  • RIP, Mr. Gazzara.

  • Feb. 5, 2012, 5:16 p.m. CST


    by orryn

    that is all