The Left Side of the Screen: Communist and Left-Wing by Bob Herzberg

By Bob Herzberg

In analyzing the careers of communist and liberal actors, screenwriters, playwrights, and administrators in Hollywood from the overdue Nineteen Twenties to the current, this ebook makes use of studio and PCA correspondence, FBI documents, movie and theater reports, and different assets to bare how all of those artists have been considering and lively within the cinema of social protest. It covers the works of these liberal stars and administrators who collaborated with communist artists in manhattan and Hollywood, together with John Garfield, Canada Lee, Frances Farmer, Paul Robeson, James Edwards, and Paul Muni; liberal filmmakers like Philip Dunne; and ex-communists (and HUAC-friendly witnesses) like Elia Kazan, Edward Dmytryk, and Robert Rossen. It additionally seems on the actions of the Communist social gathering in Hollywood and the far-reaching effect of the Soviet Union.

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However, Ornitz also gives us a respectful portrait of black convicts, who are 34 The Left Side of the Screen shown to be far more intelligent and aware of what’s going on than their white brethren. With the advent of the Production Code years, such positive portrayals would be rare. Ornitz continued with compassionate depictions of African Americans in the first version of Imitation of Life (he contributed to the screenplay). Universal’s The Man Who Reclaimed His Head begins as Paul Verin (Claude Rains), soldier of the Great War, is visiting his attorney, Fernand de Marnay (Henry O’Neill), with a hatbox.

In Island, the promise of “progress” and “advancement” given by Moreau to his animal-men is shown to be a lie. Instead of elevation of the great unwashed masses (and in this case, un-housebroken as well), Moreau’s “lower beings” revert to murderous savagery, chaos, and finally, the destruction of their utopian paradise. Sped-up advancement (or in this case, evolution) based on questionable scientific methods and dictated by a leader who has no intention of following the rules he lays down to his charges, will result in a bloody revolution.

Certainly, this “most startling picture of the year” was proud of its left-wing pedigree. The three-act play The Man Who Reclaimed His Head opened at New York’s Broadhurst Theater on September 8, 1932. Written by leftist playwright Jean Bart, it starred a stage actor (and soon-to-be movie star) named Claude Rains as a victimized little man, Paul Verin, and Jean Arthur as his wife Adele. The show also had a director from whom much would be heard in the distant future, a dedicated Communist activist named Herbert Biberman.

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