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Director-actor John Cassavetes, known for his free-wheeling, improvisational style in such movies as "Faces" and "A Woman Under the Influence," died Friday. He was 59.

Gena Rowlands, his wife of three decades and the star of most of his films, was at his side when he died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said his publicist, Esme Chandlee.He died of complications resulting from cirrhosis of the liver, Chandlee said.

Cassavetes was one of only four entertainers ever to be nominated for an Academy Award in three different categories, Chandlee said. He was nominated as best writer for his original screenplay of "Faces" in 1968; as best supporting actor in "The Dirty Dozen" in 1967; and as best director for his original film "A Woman Under the Influence" in 1974.

Among Cassavetes' best-known acting roles was as the husband of a woman whose baby falls into the hands of a satanic cult in "Rosemary's Baby," a 1968 film that also starred Mia Farrow.

He also starred in "Tempest," director Paul Mazursky's film adaptation of Shakespeare's play, among other films.

"A Woman Under the Influence" is the story of the souring of a middle-class marriage, which starred his wife.

His first movie as a director was "Shadows," filmed from 1957-60 on what amounted to pennies, using a hand-held 16mm camera. Technically, the film was a misfit. But as an art form, it has been referred to by film buffs as a masterpiece. The movie is about a fair-skinned black girl living in New York with her two brothers.

"The type of films we do are different," Cassavetes once said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Commercial movies have no feeling, no sensitivity. Most people tell me people won't understand films with feeling. But everyone can feel.

"I think people are very stiff. Money makes people stiff and we want it and we have to pay the penalty. I never agreed with stiffness. I think people have an understanding of what their life is. I define success by being a realist and not humiliating people. I'm a revolutionary - but not in the political sense."

In 1980, he was honored by the Museum of Modern Art with a retrospective of his works. That same year, he was also honored by Filmex, the Los Angeles Film Festival. He was 50 at the time.

"By the age of 50, I would like to know that I'm not dead - that there's some continuity to my life," he said.

Cassavetes, a native of New York, grew up poor. His break in acting came when he played a brooding bullfighter in a production of the old "Omnibus" TV series in 1953.