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Inside Meryl Streep’s Love Story with ‘The Godfather’ Star John Cazale

Titi Dokubo
Jun 22, 2022
10:50 A.M.
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Meryl Streep and "The Godfather" star, a successful character actor, John Cazale, met in the 1970s. Even though they were very much in love, their relationship was short-lived as the Golden Globe-nominated actor passed away. Here's an inside look into their love story.

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According to critics, Mary Louise Streep, popularly known as Meryl Streep, is one of the greatest living actresses, and she celebrated her 73rd birthday on June 22, 2022. The actress, who has appeared in several Broadway productions, began her career on stage in the late 1960s.

She was drawn to acting when she was six, enjoyed singing as a teenager, took opera lessons at 13, and was active in her high school drama club. After college, she went to Yale School of Drama for three years.

Photo of Meryl Streep circa 1981 | Source: Getty Images

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In the late 1970s, Streep transitioned from stage to films with a role in "Julia" followed by "The Deer Hunter" and "Holocaust." For her role in "Holocaust," she won her first Primetime Emmy, and her role in "Kramer vs. Kramer" made her win her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

The gifted and versatile actress soon became one of Hollywood's most in-demand actresses. Decades later, Streep has accumulated 21 Oscar nominations with three wins. As of November 2019, Streep has had 356 nominations and 176 wins.

Despite being one of only four actors nominated for acting awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for more than five decades, the actress has kept a very tight lid on her personal life.

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John Cazale in his role as Fredo Corleone in "The Godfather" | Source: Getty Images

JOHN CAZALE WAS THE FIRST GREAT LOVE OF MERYL STREEP'S LIFE

John Holland Cazale, born on August 12, 1935, made only five feature films during his lifetime, but they were all classics. Before his film debut, the actor had won numerous Obie Awards for his stage performances.

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In 1962, he starred in "The American Way," but it was not until ten years later that he played the role of Fredo Corleone "The Godfather" and reprised his role in "The Godfather Part II."

John Cazale and Meryl Streep behind Al Pacino at the 75th Birthday Party for Lee Strasberg on November 29, 1976 | Source: Getty Images

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Between 1974 and 1978, the actor, who often played depressed characters, starred in "The Conversation," "Dog Day Afternoon," and "The Deer Hunter." All the films he appeared in were nominated for Best Picture, and three of them won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Cazale met Streep in 1976 when they starred together in "Measure for Measure," a Shakespeare in the Park production, and even though he was not yet a star, they instantly connected.

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Despite being 14 years older than her, Cazale and Streep started living together. Streep said:

"He wasn't like anybody I’d ever met. It was the specificity of him, and his sort of humanity and his curiosity about people, his compassion."

Unfortunately, their love, which made them the envy of the New York theater world, was short-lived. In May 1977, Cazale was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Meryl Streep on the set of "Holocaust" | Source: Getty Images

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Streep wanted to quit working to be with Cazale, but both of them were struggling with medical bills, so she reluctantly took the lead role in the miniseries "Holocaust."

However, she stayed by his side every moment, putting up funny acts and reading from the newspaper in different voices. On March 12, 1978, Cazale died at 42, after they finished shooting "The Deer Hunter."

Meryl Streep and Don Gummer at the Oscars on March 2, 2014 | Source: Getty Images

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JOHN CAZALE'S DEATH BROUGHT MERYL AND HER HUSBAND DON GUMMER TOGETHER

Shortly after Cazale's death, Streep was evicted from their shared house. As she packed up her things, her brother Harry came to help her, but he was not alone. He went with his sculptor friend Don Gummer who soon offered her a place to stay while he traveled out of the country.

Despite not being ready for a serious relationship, Gummer and Streep kept in touch via letters, and on September 30, 1978, they got married in her parents' garden. Over four decades later, Gummer has stood beside and supported Streep in her career.

The couple have welcomed four children: Henry, Mamie, Grace, and Louisa. Henry is a musician, Mamie and Grace followed in Streep's footsteps and are actresses, while Louisa is a model.

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