What Just Happened?

I’m not sure, but there’s a heavy scent of cordite in the air.

At times like this, we all need

kittens!

125 comments to What Just Happened?

  • Kent Jones

    Alex, you’re so right. BUTCH CASSIDY looks like a masterpiece alongside alot of other movies of the era. I remember a lot of “lyrical” interludes of sunsets on the beach or floating dandelion seeds against distant mountains shot with long lenses and groovy zooming, punctuated with occasional sun-flares. Or, as Manny Farber observed of THE GYPSY MOTHS, “poison pen portraits” of all-American crowds, marching bands, and Main Street grotesquerie grabbed by the 2nd unit. The downside of the “golden era.”

  • Brian Dauth

    Brad: I have never seen THE STING as a celebration of masculinist ideals (I feel that is much more the case with BUTCH/SUNDANCE, a film for which I have little affection). There is a giddy, post-Stonewall air about THE STING: the love story is between Hooker and Gondorf, and Redford and Newman are in on it. But the queer aspects are never hammered on — just there for those spectators who wish to play with them (Gandorf supervising Hooker’s transformation into a sophisticated pretty boy; the post-conjugal looks shared by Hooker and Gondorf after they have shot each other and then come back from the dead).

    As I said before, THE STING is serious/frothy and one of the few films that does not apologize for or neuroticize its queerness.

    For me, the subsequent WALDO PEPPER and SLAPSHOT are exactly as you describe: deconstructions of Redford without Newman and Newman without Redford. Both films carry the the ethos of THE STING forward in interesting ways. It is this “trilogy” that holds the greatest interest for me in his career. The films before and after, while often good/accomplished, lack the special charge of these three.

  • Blake Lucas

    Though I said I was unhappy to hear of Hill/Walker, I didn’t censure Hill for this. If Larry and I are honest, it’s probably our own youthful erotic fantasies of Walker that made it tough to take. But I note that Tippy Walker was 17 then, while Natalie Wood in an affair with Nicholas Ray during REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE was 16, and we don’t know that it did either girl any harm and it would be puritanical to say so. REBEL is a film by a director who, unlike Hill, is great for his whole career and one of my favorites, and Wood is an infinitely more important actress in the scheme of things than Walker. Knowing about this affair doesn’t change my feeling about any of this. Still, I wish I didn’t. This is why I hate gossip and anecdotal material about people’s personal lives really. I simply could live without it, and sometimes wish others felt the same. I like to judge everything in a film and the work of the participants on their own artistic merits.

    More seriously, Stephen, I could give you a pretty long list of facetious/jokey (and more to the point, glibly cynical) ’70s Westerns. How about “Little Big Man” and the truly appalling “The Missouri Breaks” for a start? Though I like other of his films (especially “Night Moves”) I wish Arthur Penn had never gone near the genre. I tried to let it pass when David Boxwell mentioned “The Left-Handed Gun” which is easily the best of Penn’s three Westerns but still overrated, mostly heavily mannered though with about 15 compelling minutes somewhere in the final reels. I respectfully disagree strongly with David that the Western needed “shaking up” in 1958. The late 50s was arguably its greatest period ever, with countless strong, serious-minded, creative, mature and beautifully made films on every level of production. The year 1958 by itself was conspicuously outstanding and “The Left-Handed Gun” is far down the list for me–jumping out only because it does feel about 10 years ahead of its time, and that is not a compliment.

    I know people are going to scream at me that I have this attitude about Penn’s Westerns. Could you say what you want and then let’s let it lie for now because this is an argument I would want to thoroughly contextualize and only mean to suggest here.

    Kent–I think it’s well-known Rossen was a friendly witness, but facts by themselves never tell the whole story and you might have added this: While Kazan was unapologetic and endlessly defensive about being an informer, Rossen apparently never forgave himself for it and was arguably destroyed by it and people close to him have said it hastened his death. For him, perhaps, his HUAC testimony was a Lord Jim like act.

  • jbryant

    Count me firmly in the camp that prefers The Sting to Butch Cassidy.

    As Brad suggests, Hill’s career is hard to get a handle on. Maybe if you watched several of his films in a row, something revelatory would shake loose. But he made several entertaining films in various genres. I can even find nice things to say about his final film, the low-key Chevy Chase comedy Funny Farm.

    As for the Tippy Walker scandal, not surprisingly there’s no mention of it on her imdb page, though it does state that she was discovered by Hill and that they had lunch together every day during the shoot. Doesn’t say if it was in his trailer or not.

    Even more fascinating is the subsequent career trajectory of Walker’s “Henry Orient” co-star, Merrie Spaeth, who went from FBI director William Webster’s staff to the the FTC to President Reagan’s director of media relations. Later, she prepped Ken Starr for his testimony in the Clinton impeachment hearings and was the chief p.r. consultant for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Her husband ran for lieutenant governor of Texas on W’s ticket in ’94. How’s that for a shocking Henry Orient-related revelation?

  • That’s interesting about “Little Big Man” (of which I’m a fan) — I remember its mournful qualities more than its sense of humor. But I do agree that “The Left-Handed Gun” is a conceptual failure in its attempt to use the western genre as a prism through which to view modern juvenile delinquency. That’s the kind of movie to which I’d apply Dave’s “carpetbagging” argument from another thread.

    Meanwhile, I’m struck by how many of Newman’s films (all the important ones) I saw when I was a teenager, and how inviting the prospect of revisiting them seems as I’m reminded of them in the various tributes. Newman’s was an open kind of cool, where McQueen’s was exclusionary. And it’s startling how slight Redford’s persona is compared to either (and I say that as a qualified Redford enthusiast).

  • Blake Lucas

    Re Merrie Spaeth —

    “How’s that for a shocking Henry Orient-related revelation?”

    I was aware of at least some of this–she turned
    up on TV in some context that revealed it, but it’s become blurred in my mind (maybe I wanted to
    forget it). Indeed, this is much harder to take than the Walker/Hill revelation.

    But nothing can take away from the eternal charm of Walker and Spaeth in the movie…

    And that’s the way it should be. Movies are their own “world.” We create our own relationship to all that’s in them just as the two girls do with Henry’s.

  • David Boxwell

    Blake: I get your perspective. I would say though, in Penn’s defense, the Western needed “still MORE” shaking up (my own revision to my on-the-fly posting). It’s the most overtly homoerotic Western of the 50s, going way beyond what we sense, subtextually, in JOHNNY GUITAR and RED RIVER. And Hurd Hatfield gives an especially brave performance.

  • Indeed, it’s a little-known fact that George Roy Hill was the one who nicknamed her “Tippy,” because she was so easy to … oh, never mind.

  • David Boxwell

    Further thoughts: LEFT-HANDED GUN (58) enacts gay male desire for Newman, perhaps uniquely so. But I had a dekko at Fuller’s I SHOT JESSE JAMES (49) the other night, which left me gob-smacked, so I could further amend my remarks, thus: LEFT-HANDED GUN goes even further than the homoerotics of Fuller’s debut to continue the shake up of the Western…

  • Larry Kart

    Certainly, as Blake Lucas says, my own fantasies about Tippy Walker were what made the tale of Hill’s affair with her so wounding. And, like Blake, I wish that I hadn’t been told the tale. In fact, the person who told me probably did so out of hostile, puncture-your-dream motives — because I had just told him how much Walker’s presence/performance in that film had stayed with me over the years.

    Further, FWIW, I saw the film on TV not too long ago and was surprised to discover that Walker’s presence/performance (which had remained magical to me even after I’d heard about her and Hill) seemed very thin, amateurish, and no longer very magical. By contrast, next to the suddenly diminished Walker, Spaeth’s performance seemed quite good. On the other hand, whatever either of those actresses did in that film depended on the presence of the other — if only because the characters are in part each other’s “other.”

    Also, I believe that screenwriter Nunnally Johnson played a semi-auteur role in “Henry Orient,” along with his daughter Nora Johnson, who shared screenplay credit with her father and wrote the novel on which the film is based.

  • Margaret B-F

    Kon Ichikawa’s version of Soseki Natsume’s I AM A CAT is a good one. (Cat movie, that is.) I suffered a ride on the Chinatown bus from Phila. to New York last summer to catch a screening of it at Film Forum. Vojtech Jasny’s CASSANDRA CAT has good psychedelic cat. THAT DARN CAT (from the 60s) has some good old fashioned Disney schlock cat, with Hayley Mills and Elsa Lanchester (?). Then of course there’s Lewton and Tourneur’s CAT PEOPLE for some scary cat, and Shrader’s remake for sexy cat.

    meow,

    Margaret

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Blake, not that it’s terribly meaningful, but I don’t see 1958 as such a glorious year for the western genre. The only major western released that year, aside from the problematic LEFT-HANDED GUN, was Mann’s MAN OF THE WEST — which isn’t much compared to almost any other year of the decade (eg. 1955: THE FAR COUNTRY, THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, MAN WITHOUT A STAR, THE NAKED DAWN, TENNESSE’S PARTNER…)1959 was a great year again, with RIO BRAVO, THE HANGING TREE and the sorely underrated THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY. But by 1960 the genre seems to become dormant, or self-consciously nostalgic (RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY)
    Perhaps that’s what David meant by the western’s needing to be “shaken up”.

  • … and, once I SHOT JESSE JAMES has opened your eyes, it’s impossible not to become preoccupied with the blatant homoeroticism in many other Fuller films, especially HOUSE OF BAMBOO and MERRILL’S MARAUDERS. I’ve always wondered why he was so fascinated with that angle, given that it never shapes itself into either a critique of masculine bonding/rituals or some kind of subterranean pro-gay commentary. It’s almost a norm in Fuller’s all-male worlds, in a way that it’s not in, say, Hawks’s or Melville’s.

  • jbryant

    Since 1958 Westerns have entered the discussion, I think it’s on-topic to mention that starting tonight at 9 p.m. PST, Encore’s Western Channel will begin 24 hours (well, 48 half hours) of “The Rifleman” episodes, no less than 16 of which are signed by Joseph H. Lewis. Check those local listings.

  • David Boxwell

    Stephen: right on. Fuller really amped up what was in Keighley’s THE STREET WITH NO NAME (48) re: male bonding threatened by homosexual desire. MERRILL’S MARAUDERS is on my bedside table, as we speak, so I will check it out.

  • dm494

    Brad, regarding his literary tastes, Hill also made the Tennessee Williams-scripted PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT, which looks like TV, and THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL, a film far beyond his range or Diane Keaton’s. Not sure those efforts fit in with your interpretation, although you might be able to place le Carre in the same company as Vonnegut and John Irving.

    Scott, Laurette Taylor appreciates the acknowledgment.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Re Fuller’s “homoeroticism,” he told a curious anecdote to Narboni and Simsolo for their book. Fuller told the producer Robert Lippert that he wanted to write “the story of Cassius” and he explained to Lippert that Cassius was “the man who had the idea to kill Cesar.” For some strange reason Lippert thought Fuller wanted to make a film about homosexuals (“You don’t mean those men who hang around swimming pools wrapped in bath towels?”) The producer couldn’t bring himself to say “homosexual” or some other term to that effect. Fuller found it amusing that when Lippert saw the ending with the famous line: “I am sorry I killed Jesse, I loved him” he saw it as an exampleof male friendship

  • So glad to see Joseph H. Lewis and “The Rifleman” remembered. Tomorrow is apparently the 50th anniversary of the premiere of that show (1958 – to mention a year being discussed). Lewis’ first episode “Duel of Honor” is one of his great works. Don’t know whether its is being shown tomorrow…

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Sorry my post was somewhat incomplete. I am having trouble with my keyboard. The book in question is “Il etait une fois…Samuel Fuller” (1986).

  • The Online cable guide only lists the first half of the Rifleman marathon.
    “Baranca” is a major Lewis work. The visually striking “The Deadly Wait” and the deliriously nutty “Sidewinder” also have their moments. Most of the other Lewis episodes in the first half more fall in the pleasant category: “The Letter of the Law”, “The Bullet”, “A Young Man’s Fancy”. “Strange Town” is just plain weird – which is maybe a good reason to see it. These Lewis films are full of humor and surrealism and good storytelling.
    And as Jean-Pierre noted in “American Directors”, Lewis films tend to become more interesting, the more times you watch them. Especially his visual style, camera movement and composition, starts becoming more noticeable. “A Young Man’s Fancy” seems like a gentle little anecdote: but eventually you start to notice the geometric compositions showing the city and street lights at night. Night scenes are rich throughout…
    Paul Wendkos cultists should note his Rifleman gem, “Six Years and a Day”, is on tomorrow.
    More as my cable guide shows more (it only lists one-half day in advance).

  • Kent Jones

    Blake, it may be well-known to most of the people on this blog that Rossen was a freindly witness, but he’s far from THE friendly witness that Kazan became. No one thinks of Lee J. Cobb or Burl Ives or Clifford Odets, but everyone thinks of Kazan, because of the letter he wrote in the Times. But his autobiography tells a different story. He grappled with it throughout his entire life.

  • jbryant

    Mike: Duel of Honor airs late in the run, 8:00 p.m. PST tomorrow night (9/30). I assume that’s 5:00 Eastern.

    For the patient, you can go to msn.com’s TV grid, click on the Encore Western Channel’s schedule, then click each individual episode for the title, then look ‘em up on imdb for the director credit. I actually did that earlier today, but I left the list at work.

  • Kent, if by “grappled with it” you mean Kazan obsessively rationalized his naming of names for the benefit of anyone who would listen (or read), exceeded only by Dmytryk in audacity, then I’m with you. “A Life” is fascinating … as an exercise in self-delusion commingled inseparably with uncomfortably confessional honesty. That sounds harsh, but I am in the camp that believes Kazan’s films still don’t get a fair shake from scholars & critics because of his actions. (And Schickel, of course, set that cause even further back by claiming Kazan in support of his bizarre anti-communist agenda.)

    Are Ives or Odets or Cobb really no longer associated with their cooperation with HUAC? Certainly in the latter two cases, anyone I talk to who knew them, or who writes about them, seems to bring up the kind of self-loathing that’s been attributed to Rossen above. The finks who really escaped being permanently tarred with their testimony, I think, are the ones who were more or less unknown when they named names: Lloyd Bridges, Roy Huggins, Stanley Rubin, etc.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    I seem to remember that Mike posted a list of the Lewis-directed episodes of The Rifleman some months ago on a_film_by. I printed it then misplaced it. But I’m sure it can be found in the AFB archives.

  • Kent Jones

    Stephen, to refine what I mean even further, I think that on the broadest scale, experts and friends and foes aside, there is an equation in what I guess might be called popular perception: Kazan=Naming Names.

    I do stand by the word grappled, though. He did rationalize. He also punished himself, consoled and congratulated himself, and even apologized to Tony Kraber, one of the people he named, in a dream. There is self-delusion there, but he actually lays it out for us to scrutinize. As for the confessional honesty, it’s brutal and it’s bracing.

    That the party was rotten to the core is true. That Kazan felt angry and resentful that they kicked him out is equally true. I think he was just as confused and tormented as everyone else. But no one else would have dreamed of putting their name on that letter. That’s what branded him forever.

    Very few people came out of that moment with dignity, which is why the spectacle of Steven Spielberg and Ed Harris and Nick Nolte sitting on their hands when he won the Oscar was so troubling: how could they be so confident that they would’ve behaved differently? And the idea that Kazan might have been the one to stand up to the committee seems like a fantasy to me. If John Ford, of all people, felt compelled to send De Mille a contradictory and sympathetic telegram the day after the DGA showdown, if Bogart and Huston felt it necessary to back away from the stands they took in support of the Hollywood Ten, if Gene Kelly moved to Europe, what chance could Kazan have had bucking HUAC?

    From an artistic standpoint, what happened with Kazan is fascinating, because most of his great films from ON THE WATERFRONT on involve betrayal.

  • Yes, I agree that the frequently made claim that Kazan was big enough to buck HUAC is specious. If Larry Parks and John Garfield — big box office stars at the time, of considerably greater financial worth to the studios than any director — were taken out by the blacklist, then surely Kazan would’ve bought a good ten-year gap in his movie career by defying the committee. He would’ve stayed on Broadway (maybe) and ended up inching his way back into filmmaking directing episodes of “The Defenders” or “East Side/West Side,” a la John Berry, and he’d be about as well-remembered today.

    Equally suspect is the canard that ON THE WATERFRONT is an apologia for informing. Equating the mafia goons in the movie with the lefties betrayed by Kazan, and the respective ethical dilemmas of Terry Malloy & Kazan, is the spectator’s folly, not the artist’s.

    But “A Life” always struck me as manipulative, more about the need to define his legacy than to tell the truth.

  • Kent Jones

    Yeah, there’s a manipulative side to it. What I find interesting is the way he tries to acknowledge it. Which is to say that it’s manipulative and many other things as well.

  • nicolas saada

    Interesting discussion: by the way, Newman’s politics have always been “clear” but it should be noted hat one of the the first american actor to express himself against Vietnam was…Robert Vaughn.
    TOWERING INFERNO is my guilty pleasure-tant pis-and I thought I could rally some of you guys around its (thin) merits, particularly the performances, which are fine, I think. Well, there’s OJ Simpson, and enough material there to make a MAD magazine spoof (which they did and was really funny).
    I met Henry Bumstead 8 years ago and he was so appreciative of George Roy Hill that it made me watch his movies again: they(re pretty good, and as far as “light entertainment” is concerned, THE STING is quite exceptional. What strikes me in general is that those films that were then considered “mainstream” could only be made today in the independant circuit. No studio would finance THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER or SLAP SHOT.
    Kent, to me, Kazan’s main concern was his feeling of humiliation and his need for revenge. He says in the book that he had been humiliated by the party. Dmytryck did not behave well either, did he ? Fritz Lang had a lot of trouble with the committed and Chaplin had already left the States before trouble began.
    To me, the film in which Kazan did redeem himself is WILD RIVER which is basically a tribute to the leftist ideals he embraced in the thirties. THere is some Paul Strand material in the opening of the film right ? Speaking of Ford Kent, did he have trouble with GRAPES OF WRATH ? I mean, the film was considered “communist” by some writers in the forties !
    I don’ want to enter murky territory, but there are directors whose politics I hate and sometimes contaminate their films with it. Sometimes not. I have had a major political problem with Rohmer films for a long time. Now I appreciate their solemn beauty, their accuracy. Fuller was, I think, a real ideological machine. His films are all political: from PARK ROW to VERBOTEN, which I watched again lately on that beautiful french DVD release. The anticommunist content of PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET is really ambiguous.

  • jbryant

    Anyone read the book of interviews Kazan did with Jeff Young, nephew of blacklisted actor/writer Nedrick Young (so memorable in Joseph H. Lewis’ Terror in a Texas Town — isn’t it interesting how these things dovetail?)? He expresses contrition about naming names and at one point even faints while discussing it (if I’m remembering correctly).

    I’ve always thought that naming names was an act of human frailty, not evil. We’d all like to think we’d stand on our principles, but not everyone is made of whatever stern stuff it takes to knowingly jeopardize our family’s livelihood. Dmytryk spent months in prison before caving. Helluva choice: clam up and deprive your children of your presence for months or years, or bring shame upon them by naming names. I reserve my enmity for HUAC. Even if there were real threats, there had to be a better way of handling the situation.

  • Alex Hicks

    I’ve always tended to be an “anti-anti-Communist,” as the term goes. I’d even argue that lists of HUAC targets are preponderantly list of persons who made definite, positive contributions to both the moral seriousness and craft of U.S. film. (“Mission to Moscow” is like an exception that proves the rule.) If there was a Communist threat to the U.S. via Hollywood it lay in an alternative universe of what Communists and their Party managers might have done unfettered, not in the likes of “Force of Evil” or even “Action in the North Atlantic.” Espionage aside, if there was a modal impact of the Hollywood Old Left, it was (via ironies of history too recondite for quick analysis) more like the work of U.S. anti-lynching (or the ANC lawyers of “A World Apart”). The worse that can be said for those who named names is that their conceptions of Communist and fellow-traveler ill doing were abstractions far removed from immediate negative consequences while the consequence of their informing was actual personal hardship.

    NEVERTHELESS, morality and moral abstraction are inextricable. There were plenty of intellectually and morally honorable routes to either side of HUAC; and condemnation of the likes of Kazan and Schulberg, tends toward a greater ideological distortion of the moral choice of real figures in real post-War history than any actual consequence of, say, John Howard Lawson.

    For real historical villains with pernicious consequences, a clearer place to turn is: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/09/29/business/20080929-CONGRESS-VOTE-GRAPHIC.html.

  • Here is a list of Rifleman episodes directed by Joseph H. Lewis, along with my ratings (from 4 stars to no stars):
    Duel of Honor airs late in the run, 8:00 p.m. PST tonight (9/30). That’s 11:00 Eastern.
    Gems like “Death Never Rides Alone” and “Hero” are also coming up.

    * Duel of Honor ****
    * The Safe Guard **1/2
    * The Pet *1/2
    * Shivaree ****
    * The Trade ***
    * The Deadly Wait ***
    * Boomerang **1/2
    * The Patsy *1/2
    * Eddie’s Daughter **1/2
    * Panic ***
    * The Letter of the Law **1/2
    * Surveyors ***
    * Day of the Hunter ***
    * The Visitor *
    * Hero ***
    * The Spoiler 1/2
    * Heller **1/2
    * The Deserter ****
    * Shotgun Man **1/2
    * The Fourflusher ***
    * Hangman **1/2
    * Strange Town **1/2
    * Baranca ***1/2
    * The Martinet ***
    * Miss Milly *1/2
    * Flowers by the Door no stars
    * The Actress *1/2
    * Face of Yesterday ***1/2
    * The Wyoming Story ***
    * Closer Than a Brother **
    * The Prisoner **1/2
    * The Vaqueros 1/2
    * Sheer Terror **1/2
    * The Stand-In *1/2
    * The Journey Back **1/2
    * Honest Abe ***
    * The Shattered Idol ***
    * Long Gun from Tucson ***
    * A Young Man’s Fancy ***
    * Waste no stars
    * Death Never Rides Alone ***
    * I Take This Woman *1/2
    * Squeeze Play ***
    * Suspicion **1/2
    * Sidewinder ***
    * And the Devil Makes Five no stars
    * The Bullet **1/2
    * The Guest no stars
    * Old Tony ***

  • John M

    From kittens to a Rifleman Viewers’ Guide in only 84 hours. That, my friends, is a thread we can believe in.

  • Brad Stevens

    “which is why the spectacle of Steven Spielberg and Ed Harris and Nick Nolte sitting on their hands when he won the Oscar was so troubling”

    Actually, Spielberg did applaud Kazan at the Oscar ceremony, though he remained seated.

  • Larry Kart

    For a portrait of what the Hollywood Left at its most morally ugly could be like, read the chapters in Christina Stead’s novel “I’m Dying Laughing” about the Hollywood CPUSA trial to which the novel’s main characters, closely based on writer Ruth McKenney (“My Sister Eileen” et al.) and her husband Richard Bransten, were subjected to by John Howard Lawson and other party leaders and members during World War II. Stead “(The Man Who Loved Children” et al.) of course remained a committed leftist all her life (arguably to a fault — e.g. she and her husband vacationed in Albania in the ’70s), and the McKenney-Bransten couple were devoted CPUSA members. Their “crime” is that they are so-called “left deviationists,” CPUSA members who continued to agitate on behalf of exploited shipyard workers and the like after the word has come down from above that the now united Soviet-U.S. war effort demands that all such social injustices in the U.S. be ignored (if they even are “injustices” now). The fiery self-dramatizing McKenney in particular won’t shut up though and also has begin to win a considerable audience with her articles and protests, this leading to the trial, which I believe held in Lawson’s home, with large cast of Hollywood CP functionaries present. The part that’s astonishingly ugly, in Stead’s telling (and, yes, it is a novel, but she and her husband were there) is that McKenney and Bransten have an adopted a pre-adolescent child whom they dearly love and about whom there is a custody issue. They’re told that those CPUSA members present who are (or were) their intimate friends will now, following orders, testify to the relevent social service authorities that McKenney and Bransten are unfit parents (offering abundant essentially fabricated evidence to back up their testimony) and make sure that the couple will lose custody of the child. OK, so it’s not “The Case of Comrade Tulyev” or “Darkness At Noon” — no one will die or be tortured, at least physically. But in some ways, in part because Stead is a novelist of Tolstoyan insight and empathy who sees into the hearts of all involved, it’s much worse, in that these are more or less “ordinary” people who are willing not only to accept orders to flat-out lie and to attempt to destroy the lives of people they know well and whom they have worked with,but also to rationalize the carrying out of those orders as an act of profound moral righteousness because these deeds are being done to enforce Party discipline. One could much further here about the moral corruption involved — e.g. about the insidious semi-unconscious pleasures of striking such wounding personal blows at colleagues under the cloak of group solidarity and righteousness (this is still Hollywood after all, and all present are prominent figures in the film industry) and Stead does go there. But read the book if you can find a copy.

  • Kent Jones

    Thanks for the reminder, Brad. I’d forgotten that.

    I love the way Joseph H. Lewis and THE RIFLEMAN and HUAC are braided together here. Thanks for posting that list, Mike.

    Nicolas, I think Ford was very, very careful, at any given moment, like a lot of other people in Hollywood. In 1940, making THE GRAPES OF WRATH was a pretty safe enterprise. 15 years later, it was a different story. He had all his bases covered, as his telegram to De Mille suggests.

    When we’re speaking of HUAC, it’s all relative, of course. Because after all, we are talking about many people who had the possibility of moving to Europe or working under pseudonyms (directors and writers, but not character actors like Marsha Hunt or Art Smith). Real change has been effected only by people ready to sacrifice, strikers who decided that if they could contrbute to the greater good for everyone, then they and their families would have to starve. I am no expert on the Red Scare, but I know that there were a lot of people at a lower economic level, people on whom the brother in Roth’s I MARRIED A COMMUNIST is based, who chose to starve rather than sign pledges or denounce their friends. They behaved honorably, as Alex suggests.

    Alex, I wonder if you could expand a bit on the “modal impact of the old Hollywood left.” Something there isn’t clear to me.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    The Jeff Young book of interviews with Kazan that jbryant mentioned has this curious passage. Young has asked Kazan why he didn’t name more names if he truly believed that there was a communist conspiracy that presented a real danger to the country. Kazan answers: “I don’t have to defend myself to you or anyone else.” Young adds: “He held my eyes a moment longer. Then his head dropped forward, and he passed out cold.” In the next paragraph Young makes the point that people who have been involved with the blacklist always “tend to remember things in a way that is consistent with the self-image they wish to preserve.” Kazan was no different, he argues. “In the split second in which he went from bright, clear awareness to unconsciousness, his psyche spoke very loudly. Our exploration of the blacklist and his testimony had come to an end.”
    Well, maybe, but this “passing out cold” seems a bit too melodramatic to me.

    Nicolas: how ambiguous is the anti-communist message in PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET? Doesn’t sound ambiguous at all to me. By the way, do the French DVDs show the French release version that replaced the communists with drug dealers?

  • Kent Jones

    Yeah, that passage is jaw-dropping. Young really thought that through (the rhetorical trap, that is), because he worshipped Kazan but his own family was affected by the blacklist. It may seem melodramatic, but imagine correcting your self-image for 40 years-plus. I believe that Young says he’d heard of other instances of people blacking out.

  • nicolas saada

    Yes Jean_pierre, and the french version is hilarious: replacing the word microfilm with “drugs”, as if drugs could just be hidden in someone’s wallet.
    PUOST is straight anti-red stuff, but what’s strange in the film is to see “mavericks”, “thieves”,”marginals” being manipulated in the story by the police who want them to be “patriots” when in fact Widmark is just looking for the easy dollar.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Nicolas: for those who might not know, the French release title of PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET is LE PORT DE LA DROGUE.

  • When I was researching the TV series “East Side/West Side” I corresponded with a writer who had been blacklisted for a number of years before finally becoming a “late friendly” and naming a handful of people for HUAC. In all of our lengthy exchanges the writer referred to himself as a victim of the blacklist and never acknowledged his capitulation. So, yes, the psychology can be quite extreme. Navasky’s book, still the best about the blacklist (apart from the pure oral history “Tender Comrades”), is actually more about the informers than the victims and gets into this topic.

    Also, Nicolas mentioned Robert Vaughn, and for those who don’t know, Vaughn completed a PhD in the early 70s, and published his dissertation on the blacklist as “Only Victims,” another worthwhile study of the subject.

  • nicolas saada

    Robert Vaughn was a hero of mine when I was a teenager. Connections with Newman: he played twice with Newman, in Vincent Sherman’s YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS and in TOWERING INFERNO. Note that Sherman had been put down on “the gray list” by HUAC for his involvement with WAP. Sherman directed THE DAMNED DON’T CRY, which is damn good picture.

  • nicolas saada

    Oh, by the way Stephen, I watched DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES last week, which I had not seen in a long time. It seemed to me that the “dlirium tremens” scenes were largely influenced by the television aesthetics of that time, particularly the expressionist SF style of OUTER LIMITS and TWILIGHT ZONE. Knowing that Blake Edwards had worked for television, the connection seemed natural to me.

  • Alex Hicks

    By “modal impact of the old Hollywood left” I meant what sort of impact they, for the most part, ACTUALLY had on U.S. culture, politics, etc. I think this was generally benign from a Liberal point if view, not because any serious service for Communist Cold War — or espionage –effort was benign because they mainly influenced film and in film their contributions were mainly (though hardly exclusively (e.g., Philadelphia Story) on film noir and (to use Naremore’s term, film gris. The proof here is in the pudding and I think most will film noir and gris edifying — refreshingly socially candid, pessimistic, humanistically as well as politically involved. The politically involved entailed no big threat (if any at all) because, issue-wise, it meant Popular Front politics like anti-lynching, union organizing, exposing discrimination, War-time solidarity with the Red Army and — pretty rarely oppression and exploitation (as in “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Force of Evil” and arguebale extremeist other oddities from our ). It was at worst no more insidious than late 30’s Renoir. Of course, one could think of it as part of a very long-term threat of great evil, but the relation between Society strategy or eschatology and popular front and war time politics is about at distant as that between the moral influence of one’s religion and its bizarre supernatural contents (bizarre, of course. only for OTHER people’s’ religions). True actual damage of some seriousness –though I hardly know how to weight it — is reasonably attributed to espionage contemporaries of the OLD Left — like Hiss and the Rosenberg’s, whom all now should know had been spies (of some arguably serious sort). But to construct a case against old left types like –to quickly drop what I believe is a fairly accurate list of names — Losey, Rossen, Dmytryk, Steinbeck, Polonsky, Dassin, Garfield, Curtiz — strikes me as requiring some very abstract inferences about now counterfactual potential successes of Communist grand, strategic plans for the Popular Front as a slow stage in a battle against American Capitalist Democracy that are arguable far fetched and contrary to the on-the-ground politics that wouldn’t have been too Progressive for Harry Truman (red link aside).

    On the other hand, I think that some such highly ideological but conceivably functional view of the War with Communism — which could be Social Democratic, Catholic, proto-libertarian, you name it, in ideological grounding are readily conceivable and warrant retrospective tolerance unless wants to do a log of case-specific historical homework and well argued ideological/pragmatic justification. I’m voice an unqualified and heartfelt “God bless Joe Losey and Elia Kazan” if I weren’t an athiest. Heck, I do anyway as a figure of speech (like say “’S’ Blood” on yesterdays’ nay voters).

    Nice perspective on “benign” Communism abound outside the ambit of our ever charged Americanism – ‘A World Apart,” Rome, Open City.,” “Umberto D.”

    My paepective come easy and early from a father who’s life phases included, Norman Thomas Socialist activism, Dorothy day catholic worker activism, NAM staff, PR and lobby work, CIA work and proudly (if painfully) ratting to the Senate Committee persons on Nixon-corporate coup-and- killing plans for Chile in, as I recall, the Spring of 1972.

    Oftenm, as they say, the Devil and/or God are in the details.

  • Larry Kart

    Navasky’s book — ugh. See the passage where he recounts an interview he did with composer David Raksin about naming names and is not satisified (as I recall, Navasky is quite explicit about this) until Raksin breaks down and weeps in front of him. How very HUAC-like or, if you will, Hollywood CPUSA-like (see my post above the “trial” of Ruth McKenney and her husband in Christina Stead’s “I’m Dying Laughing”). What a sanctimonious bastard Navasky is.

  • nicolas saada

    I am not as well read as either of you on “hollywood left” but isn’t it rooted in the stage tradition of Clifford Odets, whose influence is visible in many films of the era

  • nicolas saada

    I’m thinking of the trial at the end of Joe Losey’s M. The parking lot, the blocking, the lawyer’s monologe.
    It’s really like a stage performance, frontal. I mean Lang’s trial scene in the original is miles away from that, although Kammerspiel had an influence on the offbeat New York stage.

  • Larry: That’s the tricky part of researching the blacklist … how do you do it without essentially duplicating the inquistion of HUAC? I’ve had experiences where I found myself asking blacklistees if they’d actually been CP members, or asking the story editor on some of the Hannah Weinstein shows to go over a list of pseudonyms and try to match them to the blacklistees who used them, etc. Needless to say this leads into ethical conundrums and awkward encounters. Vaughn’s solution was to leave everyone, or nearly everyone, anonymous, which I think renders his text less useful (or at least less flavorful) than Navasky’s.

    Nicolas: Interesting theory about Blake Edwards. It would be worthwhile to discern how much of the imagery in “Days of Wine & Roses” was carried over from Edwards’ “Peter Gunn” (which does have some showy crane shots & other pyrotechnics, I think) as well as John Frankenheimer’s original live TV production of “Days.” I’ve seen them all but not close enough together to comment.

    I’m pretty unenthusiastic about Edwards’ movies, but remain fascinated by the fact that Frankenheimer was originally set to do “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with Marilyn Monroe (!); when she dropped out, Hepburn came aboard and had Frankenheimer booted off. What a film that would’ve been: something tells me we would’ve been spared Mickey Rooney’s horrid bucktoothed Japanese caricature, at least. I believe Frankenheimer had some expectation of directing the “Days” film too, but I don’t think he got as far along on it as “Breakfast.”

    And to carry that full circle: I wonder if the visual scheme of “Seconds,” which is more extreme than anything else of might’ve been influenced by Conrad Hall & Jack Nickolaus’ “Outer Limits” work.

  • nicolas saada

    Well, have you seen Edward’s EXPERIMENT IN TERROR ? It capitalizes on Siegels THE LINEUP but anticipates DIRTY HARRY. It’s quite an interesting film, with a great score by Mancini and two or three extraordinary scenes.

  • Larry Kart

    Stephen Bowie writes: “That’s the tricky part of researching the blacklist … how do you do it without essentially duplicating the inquistion of HUAC? I’ve had experiences where I found myself asking blacklistees if they’d actually been CP members, or asking the story editor on some of the Hannah Weinstein shows to go over a list of pseudonyms and try to match them to the blacklistees who used them, etc. Needless to say this leads into ethical conundrums and awkward encounters. Vaughn’s solution was to leave everyone, or nearly everyone, anonymous, which I think renders his text less useful (or at least less flavorful) than Navasky’s.”

    What was revealingly vile IMO about Navasky’s interrogation of David Raksin was his refusal to be satisfied until Raksin broke down and wept in front of him. How “flavorful” of Mr. Navasky.