SOME fifteen years ago, I interviewed a director, Abraham Polonsky, whose first film, Force of Evil (he’d previously written Body and Soul), merits inclusion, I think, with Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon in any mention of the handful of most remarkable directorial debuts in American movies. But compared with Polonsky’s subsequent career, even such familiar horror stories as those of Orson Welles versus the studio chiefs read like an exemplary tale of unfettered artistic freedom. For Polonsky’s second film came twenty years after his first; in the interim, he was blacklisted.
I think the subject of blacklisting is worth approaching in this way because the traditional plague- on-both-their-houses view of the blacklisters and the blacklistees has usually been that not only was the work of the blacklisted film-makers (contrary to the contentions of their congressional investigators) ludicrously devoid of any “subversive” content, but that (contrary to the claims of their supporters) the blacklisted “artists” were, in their “art” if not their politics, all indistinguishable from any run-of-the-mill Hollywood hack.
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