Books: The Assays of Elia

THE UNDERSTUDY by ELIA KAZAN

347 pages. Stein & Day. $8.95.

As a director, Elia Kazan earned a niche in theatrical history with considerable help from classic scripts (Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire) and talented actors (Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Lee J. Cobb). Kazan's second career in the solitary business of writing has so far resulted in three commercially successful novels that tend to thrash about in alien corn. There is nothing wrong with The Understudy, for instance, that a good script and some believable characters would not help.

Such problems are doubly disappointing because Kazan has tackled a subject...

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