Politics and cinema have frequently made strange bedfellows, but perhaps no more so than during the blacklist period where actors and, predominantly, writers were targeted by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) as being Communists due to their leftist political leanings. While an actor like Lionel Stander would survive his blacklisting, it dealt a fatal blow to the likes of Phillip Loeb and John Garfield.
In the new book Un-American Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era, editors Frank Krutnik, Steve Neale, Brian Neve, and Peter Stanfield have collected a series of outstanding essays on various film and television projects made by persons caught up in the witch hunts of the HUAC era.
For students of this era, perhaps the text’s most significant chapter is the concluding one, which reprints Thom Andersen’s 1985 article Red Hollywood, which had been long out of print, and remains one of the most insightful essays on this subject. Other essays examine works by such noted blacklistees as Albert Maltz, Ed Dmytryk, Joseph Losey, Robert Rossen, and Jules Dassin. This reviewer was especially interested in Peter Stanfield’s chapter on the postwar boxing films, which came in the wake of success for Body and Soul (1947, Robert Rossen), which starred John Garfield, and which Thom Andersen called one of the first American films to “implicqate the entire system of capitalism in their crimes); as well as Champion (1949, Marc Robson). But the essay indicates that the postwar films dealing with boxing differed from those of the 1930s because the later efforts examine moral conflict more carefully, with underlying themes from leftist writers the likes of Alexander Polonsky (Body and Soul) and Carl Foreman (Champion).
The editors appear to have carefully selected the essays included in this text, each of which is interesting, and all combining to provide a wealth of insight into this strange, fascinating, and disturbing era. Students of film or of twentieth century American history will learn a great deal from Un-American Hollywood, while the book is also highly recommended for libraries and universities.