Gay but not Narrow Pick up your FREE copy at over 200 locations in Austin & Houston. For further information call 512.476.0576 or 713.521.5822 He Was There Red Not Read in Hollywood BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN INSIDE OUT: A Memoir Of The Blacklist. By Walter Bernstein. Alfred A. Knopf. 292 pages. $24.00. riters occupy a distinctive posi tion in the movie business: supine. One of the hoariest jokes in Holly wood is about the ambitious young actress so ingenuous that she sleeps with the writer. Walter Bernstein, a staff writer for The New Yorker before turning his hand to screenplays \(The Magnificent Seven, The Molly faced sleepless nights after learning, in 1950, that he was being blacklisted. Inside Out demonstrates Bernstein’s mastery of the verbal craft, while it documents his experiences before and during eleven years of screenwriting purdah. For more than a decade, during which “un-Americanism” was vaguely defined and zealously hunted down, Bernstein’s moot classification as a dangerous subversive restricted his literary employment within the United States. Though it begins at the moment his agent announces that scripts signed by Walter Bernstein are no longer marketable, Inside Out circles back to recount the author’s life before he was colored unacceptably Red. After an unpromising boyhood in Brooklyn where his two principal passions were the Dodgers and movies, Bernstein developed political passions during six wayward months in France. He made his mark at Dartmouth when, as a critic for the college newspaper, he panned Lost Horizon as escapist, though in order to meet deadlines he always wrote about films before he could see them. Bernstein spent World War II on the staff of the Army newspaper Yank, and some of the liveliest A Walter Bernstein Marion Ettlinger pages of Inside Out recall antic military experiences in the Middle East and Italy, where the European theater’s uniformed bureaucracy created a theater of the absurd. Plucky, lucky and insubordinate, he defied blunt orders by slipping into occupied Yugoslavia and obtaining the first interview with Marshal Tito, leader of the Balkan antifascist forces. After the war, Bernstein wrote speeches for the presidential campaign of Henry Wallace, the standard-bearer of the Progressive Party, whom he describes as “a handsome, distant man, at home with humanity but not necessarily with people.” Bernstein is palpably more gregarious, and he relished the camaraderie he found by joining the Communist Party. By his account, meetings of his group were comic encounters with similarly feckless intellectuals whose most daring escapade was an aborted attempt to establish a progressive post of the American Legion. For all its dogmatism and duplicity, Bernstein convinced himself that the party best exemplified the democratic ideals for which he had donned an American uniform: “The Communists had led the antifascist fight. They had led the fight against racism and colonialism. They had dared and sacrificed the most.” Disillusioned by the Soviet invasion of Hungary, he resigned from the party in 1956. But, though he admits to willful blindness about Stalinist hypocrisies and atrocities, he refuses to repudiate his egalitarian beliefs: “I had left the Party but not the idea of socialism, the possibility that there could be a system not based on inequality and exploitation.” During the delirium of the Cold War, when mere acquaintance with someone leftist sufficed to destroy a career, Bernstein’s outspoken advocacy of Marxist principles, his byline in New Masses, and his participation in Soviet-American friendship projects earned him a listing in Red Channels, a roster of 151 names banned from the entertainment industry. Though he recognized the naivet of his reverence for Moscow, Bernstein refused to salvage his own career by informing on others. Bernstein was present during the infancy of television and the infantilization of American politics, by Joseph McCarthy and other adult impersonators. He worked closely with socially conscious directors such as Sidney Lumet and Martin Ritt. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 13, 1996 pkamnosr ,,,,
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.