Both an accomplished character actor and leading man, Ben Gazzara has made a name for himself on the stage, screen, and television. The son of an Italian immigrant, Gazzara was born in New York City on August 28, 1930. He channeled his excess energy into acting after dropping out of the engineering department at the City College of New York. After studying at the Actors Studio and with private coach Erwin Piscator, Gazzara exploded onto the Broadway scene in 1953, playing warped military academy upper-classman Jocko De Paris in End as a Man. He went on to create the role of Brick in the original 1955 production of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He later starred in Michael V. Gazzo's A Hatful of Rain, only to see his role go to Don Murray in the 1957 movie version, just as Paul Newman would portray Brick in the 1958 film version of Cat.
Fortunately, Gazzara was permitted top film billing in 1957, reprising his stage role in End as a Man in the heavily laundered film-version, The Strange One. Two years later, Gazzara played arrogant murder-trial defendant Lieutenant Manion -- the one with the "irresistible impulse" -- in Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder, slyly stealing scenes from the film's "official" star, James Stewart. After this promising beginning in films, Gazzara had trouble finding adequate movie roles. He turned to television in 1963, first as a co-star with Chuck Connors in the experimental 90-minute crime weekly Arrest and Trial. In 1965, Gazzara starred as Paul Bryan, an ex-lawyer with only a short time to live, on the TV popular series Run for Your Life; in spite of his character's fatal illness, Gazzara was able to remain with Run for three healthy seasons.