November Highlights on TCM
In partnership with The Film Foundation, Turner Classic Movies is proud to bring you this exclusive monthly column by iconic film director and classic movie lover Martin Scorsese.
TCM SPOTLIGHT: THE HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST (Mondays & Tuesdays in November, 8pm)--Throughout the month of November, TCM is presenting a beautifully curated series of films around the Red Scare and the Hollywood blacklist, split into three sections: before, during and after the blacklist. The first section includes Force of Evil, one of my favorite pictures, adapted from a sprawling, realistic left-wing New York novel by Ira Wolfert called Tucker's People. It was directed by Abraham Polonsky and stars John Garfield, both of whom were later blacklisted (Garfield actually died of a heart attack at the age of 39 before he could be officially blacklisted). The novel is sprawling and realistic, but the picture is a different kind of experience: everything from the acting to the visuals to the dialogue (written in blank verse) is in a heightened and at times near-operatic register. I'm also very fond of Crossfire, a prototypical film noir directed by Edward Dmytryk and produced by Adrian Scott. It's a deeply unsettling and remarkably quiet picture, all set at night, with scenes that build slowly and seem to grow directly out of the pools of darkness in the cramped bars and hotel rooms and offices where the action is set. Pride of the Marines (1945), a harrowing and moving adaptation of the blinded vet Al Schmid's memoir, written by Albert Maltz and also starring Garfield. And you might be surprised to see Citizen Kane and Scarface included here: two of the principal actresses--Dorothy Comingore and Karen Morley, respectively--were blacklisted in the 50s. The second section, comprised of pictures made during the blacklist, includes works by artists who were fronted (as was the case with The Bridge on the River Kwai, credited to Pierre Boulle, the author of the original novel, but actually written by Carl Foreman and Michel Wilson; or Odds Against Tomorrow, written by Polonsky but credited to the African-American novelist John O. Killens); who had their names removed from the credits altogether (this was the case with John Howard Lawson on Zoltan Korda's adaptation of the Alan Paton novel Cry, the Beloved Country); or who worked in exile like Jules Dassin and Joseph Losey (although the Losey picture being shown, The Big Night, was shot in Los Angeles before his departure for Europe). The third section of the tribute is made up of films made after the blacklist came to an end. It was Otto Preminger who officially broke the blacklist when he announced that he had hired Dalton Trumbo to write his adaptation of Leon Uris's novel Exodus. Also included are Martin Ritt's Edge of the City, a striking picture with John Cassavetes and Sidney Poitier; The Loved One, the first studio film in which the great old character actor Lionel Stander appeared since the early 50s (I later had a chance to work with Stander on New York, New York); and, of course, The Front, directed by Ritt, written by Walter Bernstein and co-starring Zero Mostel, all blacklisted. This was a terrible moment in the history of the country, and this series offers a good and accurate picture of the terrible effects of anti-communist hysteria on so many individual artists and the industry that turned its back on them.
by Martin Scorsese