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article imageBen Gazzara passes away of pancreatic cancer at age 81

By Nancy Houser     Feb 4, 2012 in Entertainment
New York - Ben Gazzara, a one-of-a-kind American-Italian actor known for his trademark brooding looks, passed away Friday after a long bout with pancreatic cancer. Born on August 28, 1930, in New York City during the Great Depression, he died at age 81.
Gazzara was best recognized for his roles in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "A Hatful of Rain," "Anatomy of a Murder," "The Big Lebowski," and everybody's television favorites, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and the 1960s series “Run for Your Life.”
According to ABC, in 1998, Ben Gazzara told Charlie Rose that, "he went from being mainly a stage actor who often would turn up his nose at film roles before, much later, becoming a ubiquitous character actor who 'turned very little down, almost nothing.' ”
Gazzara was born when the nation was a timeline of homeless encampments and hoovervilles; even New York's Central Park had its own shantytown. Gazzara was born Biagio Anthony Gazzara to Italian immigrants who entered the country during a rough time, living in the tough immigrant working class neighborhood of New York's lower East Side. Today, this area includes the East Village, Alphabet City, Chinatown, Bowery, Little Italy, and NoLIta.
Ben Gazzara had acting in his blood at a very young age. He attended Madison Square Boys and Girls Club drama program while going to New York City's Stuyvesant High School. A boy's school commonly referred to as Stuy, it never became coeducational in 1969. Throughout his life, he admitted that if he had not been so involved with acting, his life would have turned out much different. In the 1950s, Gazzara began appearing on the New York stage as a regular and was a member of Manhattan's famous Actors Studio, "known for producing method actors including Marlon Brando."
"Method acting is any of a family of techniques used by actors to create in themselves the thoughts and emotions of their characters, so as to develop lifelike performances. It can be contrasted with more classical forms of acting, in which actors simulate the thoughts and emotions of their characters through external means, such as vocal intonation or facial expression."
Many famous actors and notable people have died of pancreatic cancer in addition to Ben Gazzara: Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze, Luciano Pavarotti, Michael Landon, Joan Crawford, and Dr. Ralph Steinman --- a Canadian immunologist and cell biologist at Rockefeller University, who died three days before he won the 2011 Nobel prize in medicine for his extraordinary work and contributions to cancer research.
Yahoo!News reports that new research shows that links the diabetes drug metformin to fewer cases of pancreatic cancer -- at least in women -- but finds other diabetes medications are associated with a higher risk of the disease. "Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare as far as cancers go, but progresses quickly; most people don't survive more than a couple years after diagnosis."
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