IMAGINE CRUISING DOWN THE AUTOBAHN WITH 256 HP UNDER THE HOOD, TOP DOWN, FIFTH GEAR, ENGINE WIDE OPEN, SCENERY A BLUR. THAT’S THE FEEL OF INTERNET ACCESS THROUGH THE NEW EDEN MATRIX. tatt7 taa. ie? ta_ke a. te s t 46.iv4e. DIAL-UP ISDN ACCESS FOR JUST $18.50/MONTH FULLY DIGITAL PRI PHONE LINES WIDE OPEN CAPACITY TECH SUPPORT WITH A PULSE The Eden Matrix www.eden.com ,sq 106 E. SIXTH STREET, SUITE 210 AUSTIN, TX 78701 VOICE; 512.478.9900 FAX: 512.478.9934 y ce4e_ee industry’s ethic cleansing. Caprices of the Roman alphabet determine the order in which each witness speaks, and the repetitions sometimes produce tedium, not just the Rashomon effect of independent takes on cryptic history. Separate editorial notes nine pages apart inform us that turncoat Martin Berkeley provided HUAC with 155 names. Yet Tender Comrades is as riveting as Rosiethe prototype for the heroic proletarian in such wartime scripts as Meet the People and Swing Shift Maisie, both co-written by Ben Barzman, whose blacklisted widow Norma leads off the volume. Of Bessie Alvah, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo the Hollywood Ten who were subpoenaed by HUAC and imprisoned for refusing to identify fellow leftists the book includes two survivors, Alvah and Lardner, as well as Scott’s widow Joan LaCour Scott. Others in the collection also suffered professional ostracism because they were labeled as subversive or refused to incriminate acquaintances. Fifty years later, most contributors to Tender Comrades still balk at offering names. Songwriter Edward Eliscu recalls being barred from work merely because he was seen attending foreign movies and buying The Nation, and Robert Lees, who was forced to cease writing for Abbott and Costello, tells of a man who was blacklisted because he parked his car in front of the house of his neighbor, a known Communist. The blacklist inspired a gamut of reactions, including defiance, circumvention, capitulation, and betrayal. It blighted lives, and ended a few. Yet the most striking quality about Tender Comrades is its exuberance. These sprightly octogenarians and nonagenarians survived their banishment from Hollywood and outlived Joe McCarthy. They lament the squandered opportunities and the shattered friendships, but, as they themselves realize, the blacklist was not the most pernicious mischief perpetrated by right-wing zealots during the Cold War. And some found fulfilling work outside the studios. Despite active opposition and even threats of death, Herbert Biberman, Paul Jarrico and Mike Wilson managed to produce Salt of the Earth, the landmark labor film about a Mexican-American miners’ strike. Some continued selling scripts, by enlisting a sympathetic “front” who would lend them a publishable name. Some moved abroad, to France, Italy or Mexico, to a vibrant exile community. Many of the blacklist veterans came to the movies from avant-garde and progressive theater, and led lives larger than could fit on a movie screen. Their skirmish with HUAC was an extension of active involvement with Sacco and Vanzetti, Tom Mooney, the Spanish Civil War, and the Scottsboro Boys. History will remember them as victims of a cultural purge, but readers of this book will be struck by how much of an injustice it is to reduce these colorful people to bleached presences on a blacklist. A brush with HUAC does not define Faith Hubley, when she recounts running off to the theater at fifteen to escape the fate her father had ordained: a career in dentistry. John Bright explains how in Public Enemy James Cagney ended up shoving a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face. Not all of those interviewed were radicals, and few are in your face about it. Many were and remain naive about Stalinism, but Maurice Rapf retains the decency that sustained many who defy persecution. “I never knew anybody in the Party in all the years I was associated with it, which was a long, long time,” he says, “who was seeking anything but humanistic goals.” Those are not the goals of studios or Congress. In protecting American audiences from Soviet influence, HUAC succeeded in Kremlinizing Hollywood. During the 1950s, Capitalist Realism was imposed as reigning dogma, and American movies, like a toothless puppet, lacked both soul and bite. “The heritage of blacklisting and McCarthyism goes far beyond personal tragedies,” says screenwriter Bernard Gordon. “The social consequences of realizing that even in America one must be afraid to dissent will be with us for a long time.” Steven Kellman is Ashbel Smith Professor of Comparative Literature at U.T.San Antonio, and writes frequently about film for the Observer. Subscribe to the Texas Observer 307 W. 7th St Austin, TX 78701 email: [email protected] DECEMBER 19, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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