best film: The Godfather. This is the category for Cazale. He can match “best films” with almost any actor. He was in both early Godfather films; both masterpieces. He was in Dog Day Afternoon, The Deer Hunter and The Conversation as well—all of them were masterpieces. Let me repeat, every single film he was in was a masterpiece. With that as a prologue here, it almost doesn’t matter that The Godfather edges out the others as the best single film. His worst film may be The Deer Hunter or The Conversation and there are many years that they would be the best film of the year.

best performance:   The Godfather Part II. He’s a larger part of the 1974 sequel masterpiece. If you combine the two films it equates to nearly a lead in a smaller film. I think like Hopkins is in 28-30 minutes of Silence of the Lambs and Cazale is probably close to that here. More importantly, he’s in the big scenes. The famous kiss scene with Pacino is one of the greatest actor-led moments in the history of cinema and his “I’m not dumb, I’m smart” scene and speech is immeasurably well done. Cazale makes Fredo an all-time great tragic character.

stylistic innovations/traits: What Cazale did with Fredo is nothing short of genius. I don’t through that word around and there are actors who simply accomplished more during their longer careers (Cazale’s ran 6 years and 5 films of course) who are not as talented as Cazale and who I would not call geniuses (sorry to pick on him but I’ll say Gary Cooper—who had an unarguably better career). Cazale is a supporting actor (mostly with Pacino- a close friend) but stole scenes and added great color and nuance to excellent films and scenes (and actors). He was sick with cancer during The Deer Hunter and died, tragically, at age 42. He’s an unforgettable part of the 1970’s American cinema.

directors worked with:   Francis Ford Coppola (3) and then Lumet and Cimino once. He’s in three best picture winners, 5 best picture nominees, two films in my top 100, five masterpieces,

Top 5 Performances:

  1. The Godfather Part II
  2. Dog Day Afternoon
  3. The Godfather
  4. The Deer Hunter
  5. The Conversation

Archiveable films

1972- The Godfather
1974- The Conversation
1974- The Godfather Part II
1975- Dog Day Afternoon
1978- The Deer Hunter