America, America

America, America
Film poster
Directed by Elia Kazan
Produced by Elia Kazan
Written by Elia Kazan
Starring Stathis Giallelis
Frank Wolff
Elena Karam
Estelle Hemsley
Narrated by Elia Kazan
Music by Manos Hadjidakis
Cinematography Haskell Wexler
Edited by Dede Allen
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • December 15, 1963 (1963-12-15)
Running time 174 minutes
Country United States
Language English

America, America (British title The Anatolian Smile—a reference to an on-going acknowledgment of Stavros's captivating smile) is a 1963 American dramatic film directed, produced and written by Elia Kazan, from his own book.


In this tale, loosely based upon the life of Kazan's uncle, the director uses little-known cast members, with the entire storyline revolving around the central performance of Greek actor Stathis Giallelis (born 1941), twenty-two years old at the time of production, who is in virtually every scene of the nearly three-hour movie.

The film begins in the late 1890s, as young Cappadocian Greek Stavros Topouzoglou (Giallelis), living in an impoverished village below Mount Argaeus in Turkish Anatolia, witnesses brutal oppression by the Turkish authorities of the Greek and Armenian minorities (Hamidian massacres). The life of the Cappadocian Greeks and Armenians of Kayseri is depicted, including the traditional cliff cave dwellings in which Stavros' grandmother still lives. Stavros is entrusted by his father with the family's financial resources in a mission of hope to the Turkish capital Constantinople (renamed Istanbul in 1930), where he would work in the carpet business of his father's cousin (Harry Davis), although his own dream is to reach the faraway land of opportunity, America. His odyssey begins with a long voyage on a donkey and on foot through the impoverished towns and villages on the way to Constantinople. Due to his kind nature and naivete, he dissipates all the money and arrives at the cousin's home penniless. The older man is deeply disappointed at this turn of events since he was counting on the infusion of funds to rescue his failing enterprise. Nevertheless, he attempts to salvage the situation by proposing that Stavros marry a wealthy merchant's (Paul Mann) young daughter (Linda Marsh). Stavros realizes that such a marriage would mean the end of his American dream and adamantly refuses, abruptly leaving the angry cousin.

Now homeless on the streets of the capital, Stavros survives by eating discarded food and working at backbreaking and hazardous jobs. After nearly a year of scrimping and self-denial, he has some savings, but an encounter with an enticing beauty (Joanna Frank) leaves him, once again, penniless. Sinking even lower, he now finds himself living in an overcrowded subterranean hovel, which becomes a scene of chaos and bloodshed when it is attacked with gunfire by authorities purportedly searching for anarchists and revolutionaries. Severely injured in the mayhem, the unconscious Stavros is thrown among piles of dead bodies slated for disposal into the sea. He subsequently topples from the cart transporting the bodies and painfully makes his way to the cousin's residence. The relative takes pity on the young man and allows him to recover at his home. Deprived now of all resistance, Stavros agrees to marry his intended bride. Upon being questioned by her regarding his moodiness, however, he admits that he still plans to emigrate to America, using the dowry money to pay for his passage.

At this point Stavros becomes reacquainted with Hohannes (Gregory Rozakis), a young Armenian, whom Stavros aided with food and clothing during his original voyage to Istanbul. Hohannes informs him that he is being sponsored to America by an employer seeking labor. Stavros manages to secure his own passage with the aid of the middle aged wife (Katherine Balfour) of an older American businessman (Robert H. Harris), a client of his prospective father-in-law. He tells his intended bride that he could not marry her, and subsequently embarks on the voyage on board SS Kaiser Wilhelm. There is, however, another major impediment—an affair with the wife (Katherine Balfour) of the older businessman (Robert H. Harris). The older man lodges a criminal charge against Stavros, and rescinds his offer of employment, which would result in deportation back to Turkey. As everything looks bleak, however, the tubercular Hohannes exchanges documents with Stavros, allowing him to enter America in Hohannes' place.

With the climactic image of the Statue of Liberty as the boatload of immigrants docks in New York Harbor, Stavros puts his tribulations behind him, starting out as a shoeshine boy and gathering the pennies and dollars that will eventually bring his family to the land where their descendants, including Elia Kazan, will have the chance to fulfill their potential.


Additional cast members are:

Awards and nominations

Ceremony Awards Nominations
36th Academy Awards Best Art Direction : Gene Callahan[1]
21st Golden Globe Awards
San Sebastián International Film Festival 1964 Golden Shell for best movie
Directors Guild of America Awards 1964 Outstanding Directing – Feature Film : Elia Kazan
National Film Registry 2001 Selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Technical details, premiere dates and DVD release

America, America was filmed in 1.66:1 aspect ratio on 35-millimeter film and had its New York premiere on December 15, 1963. Kazan makes a voice-only introduction during the opening scenes, a short voice-only epilogue in the closing scene, and a voice-over recitation of the lead actors and technical personnel of the film. It was filmed on location at the Alfa Studios in Athens, Greece, as well in rural Greece, Istanbul, New York City, and at the Warner Bros. Studios in Hollywood. Between summer 1964 and spring 1965, it was seen in virtually every major Western European city. Its VHS release came on November 28, 1994 and a French (region 2) DVD boxed set (with Kazan's Baby Doll and A Face in the Crowd was released on December 3, 2002). The film was finally released by Warner Bros. on DVD in the US on February 8, 2011.


  1. ^ "NY Times: America, America". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-25. 

External links

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