John Nicholas Cassavetes (December 9, 1929 – February 3, 1989) is regarded as the "father of the American Independent Film".
In 1959, Cassavetes shot a low-budget film about the lives of African-American siblings in New York, which moreover featured an interracial relationship. This film was made outside the Studio System with little-known actors, featured extensive location shooting, and contained a score by jazz genius Charles Mingus. The name of the film was Shadows, and after playing at film festivals worldwide, it won the admiration of experimental filmmakers and arthouse directors, and Cassavetes, previously seen as a rising theatre and television star who appeared in some movies, was regarded as a great talent in American cinema. Funnily enough, the movie was also liked by the Hollywood studio, who asked Cassavetes to work with them. This resulted in him directing a Judy Garland vehicle, A Child Is Waiting, produced by Stanley Kramer of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner fame. The Executive Meddling Cassavetes dealt with on the film led him to vow never make a movie in Hollywood studios again. note
He made all his films after that outside the system, many of them funded by his acting fees in several famous Hollywood films like The Dirty Dozen, Rosemary's Baby, The Fury and Don Siegel's The Killers (1964) (which featured future President Ronald Reagan as the villain). He was also The Mentor for several young filmmakers who worked as assistants on his films. Martin Scorsese was a lifelong friend and worked as assistant director on Minnie and Moskowitz, and a young Steven Spielberg snuck onto one of his sets, with Cassavetes noting his already-precocious skills even then.
Cassavetes' films feature a regular Production Posse of Peter Falk, Seymour Cassel, Ben Gazzara, and above all his wife Gena Rowlands. His films are renowned for their performances and unique style, as well as their "difficulty", as Cassavetes believed and practiced the philosophy that True Art Is Angsty. Famously, he re-edited Opening Night when previews showed the audience taking it "too well" and made it even harder to sit through in the final version. The great irony is despite how American his subjects and films were, they were better regarded in Europe and Asia more most of his lifetime. After his death, his fame has increased as more and more directors recognized his idiosyncratic style and influence on the medium.
- The Killers (1964 version by Don Siegel)
- The Dirty Dozen
- Rosemary's Baby
- If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
- Columbo, episode "Etude in Black"
- Mikey and Nicky
- The Fury
- Brass Target
- Too Late Blues
- A Child Is Waiting
- Minnie And Moskowitz
- A Woman Under the Influence
- The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
- Opening Night
- Love Streams
- Big Trouble