17 August 2015 | dougdoepke
Essential for Students of the Blacklist
Essential viewing for anyone concerned with Hollywood's blacklist and the movies. Perhaps the chief asset are clips from films supposedly conveying communist messages. Among these are older features such as Blockade (1938), and Woman of the Year (1942), and newer ones like The Asphalt Jungle (1950), and Body and Soul (1947). Some passages were actually cited by HUAC, so you can make up your own mind as to the amount of leftist cant.
The format follows a roughly chronological order with film excerpts stretching from the late 1930's to the early 1950's. Themes are divided into categories, such as Class, Fear, Hate, et al. These follow in roughly the same chronological order, and I guess serve as a touchstone for which films and what passages are included. Occasionally the screenwriter in question comments, which furnishes some personal insight. But generally, it's the narration that provides context. If this sounds complicated, on screen, it's not. The narrative flows fairly smoothly. Then too, several of the excerpts pack real punch even though brief, viz. the alarming Force of Evil (1948), the scary Sound of Fury (1950). Also included for perspective are anti-Red films such as the unmitigated Iron Curtain (1948) and the prestigious On the Waterfront (1954). At the same time, it's interesting to see faces behind screenwriter names— mainly, Paul Jarrico and Abe Polonsky, who get interviews depending on the topic and film.
Of course, much of the text is fragmentary, so no decisive conclusions are offered. But there's no doubt that Hollywood's subject matter shifted in the 1950's away from traditional leftist genres to politically safer categories—Westerns, Biblical epics, Tennessee Williams, mammary goddesses, etc. Thus, the purges had their effect, at the same time the post-war economy took off making older, controversial themes seem obsolete. But whatever the historical arc, the documentary remains essential viewing for the culturally curious.