Ben Gazzara, who worked with several generations of major Hollywood directors, died at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan at the age of 81.

Gazzara started his career in the 1950s, in various Broadway productions, including Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, A Hatful of Rain, and roles in influential films by John Cassavetes.

He acted in different genres throughout his prolific career. He was recognized after a marvelous performance as a soldier on trial for avenging his wife's rape in Otto Preminger's 1959 courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder.

His lawyer Jay Julien has said that the cause of death was pancreatic cancer. The actor had been battling his sickness from 1999. Pancreatic cancer occurs when uncontrolled cell growth begins in pancreas and continues to form lumps of tissues called tumor. Tumors then interfere with the main functions of the pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer is among the most deadly cancer diseases. According to, in the United States each year, over 30,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Europe sees more than 60,000 cases each year.

His life

Ben Gazzara studied in the same place, Actor studio in Manhattan, with Lee Strasberg. Superstars Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger shared the same platform for studying but Gazzara never achieved Brando's stature, which was partly because of a certain do-nothing policy approach to his career - an early suspicion of film and a disinclination to go after desirable roles.

He was married three times - to Louise Erickson (1951-57), to Janice Rule (1961-1979) and to German model Elke Krivat (since 1982).

He also admitted to have a love affair with co-actress Audrey Hepburn. He had shared the screen with her in Bloodline and They All Laughed.

The Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia while Gazzarra was shooting with his co-actor and friend Robert Vaughn for the movie The Bridge at Remegen.

In autobiography, Moment: My Life as an Actor, he discloses that he and his friend Vaughn escaped Czechoslovakia with the help of a Czech waitress.