Mazursky, Paul


Mazursky, Paul
(1930– )
   The directorscreenwriter-actor Paul Mazursky was born Irwin Mazursky on April 25, 1930. While majoring in literature at Brooklyn College, he took up acting and studied at the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg. He appeared on the stage and on TV; while appearing in an off-Broadway play, Mazursky auditioned for the part of Sidney, a soldier, in STANLEY KUBRICK’s first Paul Mazursky in Fear and Desire (1953). (Kubrick estate) feature, FEAR AND DESIRE (1953). “You’ve got the part,” the young Kubrick told him;“but you’ll need to spend a month in California,” since the film was to be shot in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles. Mazursky told Peter Bogdanovich that, while working with Kubrick on his first low-budget feature, he was impressed with Kubrick’s determination. Kubrick had borrowed $3,000 from his uncle Martin, a Los Angeles druggist, to make the picture. The money his uncle invested, however, ran out before the film was finished. “So Kubrick drove down from where we were shooting in the San Gabriel Mountains to see his Uncle Martin, with me and Frank Silvera,” another actor in the movie, in the back seat. Kubrick needed an additional $5,000 to finish the picture, and he said,“I’m gonna get the money from him no matter what. ” Needless to say, adds Mazursky, “he got the money. ” Furthermore, Mazursky was impressed by the way that Kubrick made the film almost singlehandedly: “He had to do everything, all the lighting, the camerawork, the editing. ” In the film four soldiers are stranded behind enemy lines in an unnamed war. They capture a native girl, tie her to a tree, and gag her, so that she cannot give them away to the enemy. Sidney, the youngest of the soldiers (Paul Mazursky), is designated to guard her. Lusting for the girl, he says plaintively, “I know you hate me. Please try to love me. ” He hugs and kisses her; then he unties her, intent on raping her. When she struggles to escape from him, he shouts,“You’re going to tell on me!”The hysterical young soldier then shoots her dead. As she lies face down in the dirt, Sidney disappears into the forest. At film’s end, Sidney remains in a state of shock because of what he has done, while his three comrades plan their escape from enemy territory. In the course of the movie the forest becomes a metaphor for the jungle of the human psyche, the heart of darkness of which Joseph Conrad wrote in his novella, Heart of Darkness. In Sidney’s case, the border he crosses when he enters the forest represents the boundary between the civilized and the savage; for, in his brutal treatment of the native girl, he has turned savage.
   When Fear and Desire was previewed in Los Angeles, Kubrick got some negative feedback from members of the audience who thought Mazursky’s performance was too overwrought. Nevertheless, the movie helped to establish Mazursky as an actor in Hollywood; indeed, it landed him the part of a juvenile delinquent in Richard Brooks’s The Blackboard Jungle (1955), opposite Sidney Poitier and Glenn Ford. In the late 1950s Mazursky took film courses at the University of California at Los Angeles, and in the 1960s acted on TV and became a writer for TV shows. Finally he got his chance to direct a feature film, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969), a film about the permissive society of the 1960s, with Natalie Wood, which launched him as a director. His best films thereafter were An Unmarried Woman (1978), starring Jill Clayburgh as a woman deserted by her husband, and Enemies: A Love Story (1989), a tragicomedy about a holocaust survivor, with Angelica Houston. In the 1990s he turned more and more to acting, in such films as Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1988), while continuing to direct with less frequency. He also played one of the Mafia chief ’s poker-playing buddies in the TV series The Sopranos in 2000. In 1998 he made the television docudrama Winchell, about the controversial newspaper columnist Walter Winchell.
   References
   ■ Bogdanovich, Peter, “What They Say About Stanley Kubrick,” New York Times Magazine, July 4, 1999, pp. 18+.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • MAZURSKY, PAUL — (1930– ), U.S. director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Mazursky began work in films as an actor, playing a small part in Stanley Kubrick s first film, Fear and Desire (1953), and a juvenile delinquent in The… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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