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Movie Mom

Movie Greats: John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands

posted by Nell Minow

John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands were at the forefront of a revolution in cinema that led to a new era of naturalism in subject matter and performance. Cassavetes, best known as an actor for starring opposite Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. But as a director, he was a pioneer of independent film. Working with his wife, Gena Rowlands and friends like Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara, he made movies of startling intimacy and honesty. Every film that is (or appears to be) improvised by its actors is inspired by Cassavetes and Rowlands.

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Leonard Maltin calls Cassavetes’ 1959 film, “Shadows,” “a watershed in the birth of American independent cinema”.

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Rowlands was nominated for an Oscar for her fearless performance in “A Woman Under the Influence,” a 1974 film that piercingly portrayed her character’s mental collapse.

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Their son, Nick Cassavetes, became a director as well, and featured his mother in his best film, The Notebook.

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BFI’s Film Forever site has a terrific tribute to this ground-breaking couple.

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