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Jim Valentine, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Jim Valentine, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

5 Things You Didn't Know About John Cazale

Jim Valentine, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Jim Valentine, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

John Cazale may not be a household name, but if you enjoyed classic films from the 1970s, chances are you'd recognize the vulnerable Italian-American character actor from his handful of memorable roles in films like The Godfather, where he played doomed Corleone brother Fredo. Although Cazale's career was cut short when he died from bone cancer at just 42, his brief stay in Hollywood generated one of the more interesting bodies of work in modern film. Let's take a look at five things you might not have known about Cazale:

1. He Batted a Thousand With the Academy

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While Cazale never earned an Oscar nomination himself, his films fared significantly better; every feature film in which he appeared received a nomination for best picture. Three of his films, The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, and The Deer Hunter took home the top prize. The other two films Cazale made during his life, The Conversation and Dog Day Afternoon, both got nominations but didn't win. Here's the real kicker, though: The Godfather: Part III, which didn't come out until 12 years after Cazale's 1978 death, featured archival footage of Cazale in the Fredo Corleone role. It got a best picture nod, too.

2. Cazale and Al Pacino Worked the Oil Biz Together

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Cazale studied acting at Oberlin College before transferring to Boston University, where he trained with Olympia Dukakis. Acting gigs weren't easy to come by, though, so after graduation Cazale found himself working as a messenger for Standard Oil. Through his job, he met a fellow aspiring young actor named Al Pacino, and the two became fast friends, even living together in a communal house.

The two friends wouldn't stay in the oil business for long, though. Eventually they ended up performing in an off-Broadway performance of Israel Horovitz's one-act play The Indian Wants the Bronx in 1968. The play was an immediate hit with critics, which earned Pacino an Obie Award for Best Actor, while Cazale grabbed the Obie for Best Supporting Actor.

The Pacino-Cazale hookup wasn't finished bearing fruit, though. Cazale supposedly auditioned for his role in The Godfather at Pacino's invitation. Although the "I know it was you" scene between Cazale's Fredo and Pacino's Michael is one of the most memorable parts of the whole trilogy, the two buddies might have clicked even better in Dog Day Afternoon, the often hilarious adaptation of a bizarre real-life bank robbery. Although Pacino allegedly had to hound director Sidney Lumet to even give his buddy an audition for the film, Cazale's subtly nervous, sad-eyed portrayal of the gunman Sal provides the perfect counterpoint to Pacino's addled, hyperkinetic bank robber Sonny. (If you haven't seen Dog Day Afternoon, check it out; it's one of the most thoroughly entertaining movies you'll ever see.)

3. He Could Ad Lib a Line

Cazale ad-libbed one of Dog Day Afternoon's most memorable lines as he and Pacino's Sonny character discuss the specifics of their getaway. Rather than spoil the line, here's a not-so-great YouTube clip of the Cazale's improvised response to the Pacino's question of whether or not there's any special country he'd like to go to:

4. He Was Lucky in Love

Although Cazale was already famous as Fredo Corleone by 1976, he was still spending some time working in theater. That summer he starred in the New York Shakespeare Festival's performance of Measure for Measure. Although Cazale was 40, the 27-year-old blonde Yale grad playing Isabella caught his eye. The actress was unknown at the time, but you'll undoubtedly recognize her name now: Meryl Streep. After the play's premiere, Cazale and Streep admitted they had feelings for each other, and she moved into his apartment. Cazale soon proposed to Streep, and they would have eventually been married if not for his terminal bone cancer diagnosis. When Cazale was ill, Streep put her career on hold to live with him in his hospital room in an effort to cheer him up.

They weren't just romantic partners, though; Cazale and Streep had good luck in their one piece of screen work together. They co-starred in the Vietnam drama The Deer Hunter, which wasn't released until after Cazale's death, and Streep received a Best Supporting Actress nomination (the first of many Oscar nods) for her portrayal of Christopher Walken's fiancé.

5. He Was Tough to Insure

When casting for The Deer Hunter began, Cazale had already received his terminal bone cancer diagnosis. Director Michael Cimino really wanted Cazale to play the role of Stanley, but since the severe nature of Cazale's illness made the actor uninsurable, the studio wasn't so keen on the idea. Cimino stood his ground, though, and apparently Streep and De Niro both threatened to walk if Cazale didn't get the part. Eventually, the studio relented; Streep later theorized that the studio gave in after De Niro secretly secured the bond for Cazale's casting. The cancer had so weakened Cazale that Cimino had to film all of Cazale's scenes before shooting any other part of the movie.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs, but there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams' mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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5 Things You Should Know About Robert Todd Lincoln
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Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln's oldest son and the only Lincoln child to survive into adulthood. While he didn't make quite the mark on history that his father did, Robert Lincoln had a pretty interesting life himself. Let's take a look at five things you might not know about him:

1. He Was on Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Staff

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Part of Abraham Lincoln's mystique lies in his humble roots as a self-made man who found education where he could. His eldest son didn't have to go through quite as many trials and tribulations to do some learning, though. Robert left Springfield, Illinois, to attend boarding school at New Hampshire's elite Phillips Exeter Academy when he was a young man, and he later graduated from Harvard during his father's presidency.

After completing his undergrad degree, Robert stuck around Cambridge to go to Harvard Law School, but that arrangement didn't last very long. After studying law for just a few months, Lincoln received a commission as a captain in the army. Lincoln's assignment put him on Ulysses S. Grant's personal staff, so he didn't see much fighting. He did get a nice view of history, though; Lincoln was present as part of Grant's junior staff at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

After the war ended, Lincoln moved to Chicago with his mother and brother and wrapped up his legal studies.

2. The Booth Family Did Him a Favor

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In 1863 or 1864, young Robert Lincoln was traveling by train from New York to Washington during a break from his studies at Harvard. He hopped off the train during a stop at Jersey City, only to find himself on an extremely crowded platform. To be polite, Lincoln stepped back to wait his turn to walk across the platform, his back pressed to one of the train's cars.

This situation probably seemed harmless enough until the train started moving, which whipped Lincoln around and dropped him into the space between the platform and train, an incredibly dangerous place to be.

Lincoln probably would have been dead meat if a stranger hadn't yanked him out of the hole by his collar. That stranger? None other than Edwin Booth, one of the most celebrated actors of the 19th century and brother of eventual Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln immediately recognized the famous thespian "“ this was sort of like if George Clooney pulled you from a burning car today "“ and thanked him effusively. The actor had no idea whose life he had saved until he received a letter commending him for his bravery in saving the President's son a few months later.

3. He Had a Strange Knack for Being Near Assassinations

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Lee's surrender wasn't the only history Lincoln ended up witnessing, although things got a bit grislier for him after Appomattox. As he arrived back in Washington in April 1865 Lincoln's parents invited him to go see Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater with them. The young officer was so exhausted after his journey that he begged off so he could get a good night's sleep. That night, of course, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln's father, and Robert Todd was with the celebrated president when he passed away the next morning.

By 1881, Lincoln's political lineage and prominence as a lawyer qualified him for a national office, and he became Secretary of War under the newly inaugurated James A. Garfield. That July, Lincoln was scheduled to travel to Elberon, New Jersey, by train with the President, but the trip never took off. Before Lincoln and Garfield's train could leave the station, Charles Guiteau shot the Garfield, who died of complications from the wound two months later.

Oddly, that wasn't all for Lincoln, though. Two decades passed without a presidential assassination, but Lincoln's strange luck reared its head again in 1901. Lincoln traveled to Buffalo at the invitation of President William McKinley to attend the Pan-American Exposition. Although he arrived a bit late to the even, Lincoln was on his way to meet McKinley when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice at close range.

Following these three bits of bad luck Lincoln refused to attend any presidential functions. He dryly noted that there was "a certain fatality about the presidential function when I am present."

4. He Realized His Mom Was a Little Nutty

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Mary Todd Lincoln is fairly widely renowned today for being mentally ill, but it wasn't quite such an open secret when she was still alive. Robert, however, realized that his mother needed psychiatric help so she didn't become a danger to herself or an embarrassment to her family, so he had her involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 1875 following a hearing that declared her insane.

Mary Todd was none too pleased about this plan. She not only snuck letters to her lawyer to help her escape from the institution, she also wrote newspaper editors in an effort to convince the public of her sanity. Mary Todd's ploy worked; at a second sanity hearing in 1876 she was declared sane and released from the Batavia, Illinois, sanatorium to which she'd been confined. However, by this point she'd been publicly humiliated and never really patched up her relationship with Robert before her death in 1882.

5. He Made Some Serious Dough on the Railroads

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Once he got his legal practice up and running, Lincoln found a particularly lucrative clientele in the booming railroad industry. He spent most of his career working as a corporate lawyer for various railroads and train-related companies; the only breaks were his four-year stint as Secretary of War under Garfield and successor Chester A. Arthur and a four-year hitch as a minister to Britain under President Benjamin Harrison.

One of Lincoln's major clients was the Pullman Palace Car Company, for which he served as general counsel. When founder George Pullman died in 1897, Lincoln became president of the company, and in 1911 he became chairman of the Pullman Company's board. His lofty position in one of the country's most lucrative companies made him a millionaire and enabled Lincoln to build a sprawling estate, Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont.

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