Photo from xSlayer Movies.
On this hot and muggy late August day, I am reminded of a quintessential August film, Dog Day Afternoon (1975), set in the stifling and claustrophobic desperation of 1970s working-class Brooklyn. A young Al Pacino earned his fourth Oscar nomination for his riveting performance as Sonny, the half-mad instigator of a bank robbery gone wrong.
Portraying Sal, Sonny’s partner in crime, was John Cazale, a 39-year-old stage actor and frequent collaborator of Pacino.
Today, Cazale is unfortunately not widely known. He was only 42 when he died of lung cancer in 1978.
Cazale garnered high praise for the sensitivity of his screen performances. Most remarkable about him, though, is his nearly perfect record in script selection.
In his all-too-brief career, Cazale made only five films, each of which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture:
The Godfather (1972)
The Conversation (1974)
The Godfather Part II (1974)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
The Deer Hunter (1978).
Three of the five films — The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and The Deer Hunter — won Best Picture. Each of the five ranks among the best movies of the 1970s and of all time.
Here is Cazale in one of his most famous scenes from The Godfather Part II.
Fredo may not have been very smart, but John Cazale was clearly a genius at choosing movie scripts!