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Selections from the National Film Registry
Remind Me

The House I Live In

Friday December 30 1:15 p.m. ET

Many of Hollywood's blacklisted writers, directors, actors and craftsmen turned out pro-American war movies during the early 1940s. Ironically, these same movies would come back to haunt them by war's end. A good case in point is writer Albert Maltz, a credited screenwriter on such flag wavers as Destination Tokyo (1943), the story of an American sub on a recon mission to Tokyo, and Pride of the Marines (1945), the true-life story of Marine Al Schmid, which received an Oscar® nomination for Best Screenplay. Maltz also wrote the short subject The House I Live In (1945), an essay on religious tolerance. With such a patriotic record, it's surprising that Maltz would be blacklisted and jailed as one of the "Hollywood Ten" by the end of the decade.

Maltz began his career as a playwright in New York in the 1930s. He came to Hollywood in 1941, working both for Warner Bros. and Paramount. In the face of war, Hollywood was instructed to make our Allies (which included the Russians) sympathetic and to promote American togetherness regardless of class, religion, etc.The House I Live In certainly did just that. The short featured a young Frank Sinatra teaching a group of boys a lesson in religious tolerance and singing the title song, which compares America to a house we all inhabit. The short was directed by Mervyn LeRoy, the established hand behind such hits as Little Caesar (1931), Random Harvest (1942) and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944). It won a Special Oscar® for Best Tolerance Short Subject and a Golden Globe as Best Film for Promoting International Good Will. But the ideals that worked in wartime soon seemed suspicious in the new climate of cold war.

The House Un-American Activities Committee began investigating communism in the Hollywood community in 1947. During interviews with 41 friendly witnesses, Albert Maltz was one of those named as holding left-wing views. He and the other members of the so-called Hollywood Ten refused to answer questions before the committee and were held in contempt of Congress. Maltz was sentenced to twelve months in prison and fined $1000. He wasn't the only contributor to The House I Live In to be blacklisted. Composer Earl Robinson, who penned the song The House I Live In (with lyrics by Abel Meeropol AKA Lewis Allan) was also later blacklisted for his communist affiliation. Still, the song The House I Live In became a hit for Frank Sinatra and remained part of his repertoire into the 90s, when he sang it for troops during the first Gulf War.

As for Maltz, he continued to contribute anonymously to screenplays during the blacklist period, including work on The Robe (1953) - the first film in CinemaScope. But it wasn't until 1970 that Albert Maltz would again receive screen credit - for Two Mules for Sister Sara starring Clint Eastwood.

Producer: Mervyn LeRoy, Frank Ross
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay: Albert Maltz
Cinematography: Robert De Grasse
Film Editing: Philip Martin
Music: Nat Bonx, Jack Fulton, Moe Jaffe, Earl Robinson
Cast: Frank Sinatra (himself), Teddy Infuhr (Boy in Gang), Merrill Rodin (Boy in Gang), Axel Stordahl (himself).

by Stephanie Thames