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Hollywood on Trial Movie Review

lardner trumbo dmytryk helpern

Hollywood on Trial is the story behind The Front. It doesn't make for pleasant watching or listening, yet it is certainly a long-overdue account. In October 1947, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo were among the top writers and directors in Hollywood. One month later, no one in Hollywood would hire them. All went to prison. Dmytryk later removed himself from the blacklist by testifying against former Communists. Trumbo (1905–76) was able to remove himself from the blacklist when Otto Preminger (1906–86) hired him to write the screenplay for Exodus. (He had won two pseudonymous Academy Awards for 1953's Roman Holiday and 1956's The Brave One.) Lardner's blacklist lasted 17 years, until he wrote The Cincinnati Kid. By 1978, he would win his second Academy Award for M.A.S.H. (the first was for 1942's Woman of the Year). For others, like Bessie and Cole (both 1904–85), Biberman (1900–71), Lawson (1894–1977), Ornitz, and Scott (1912–73), death would come before they were hired to work on another Hollywood film. Only Maltz (1908–85) was credited with Two Mules for Sister Sarah in 1970. Hollywood is filled with hard-luck yarns, yet the history of Hollywood has rarely been adequately developed. With Hollywood on Trial, it finally was, due to the efforts of producer James C. Gutman, director David Helpern Jr., and screenwriter Arnie Reisman. The story they have to tell about Hollywood is far from flattering, but it deserves telling and re-telling. As a 100-minute documentary, Hollywood on Trial barely scratches the surface, yet, even in 1976, Helpern suggested that this may be due to the many people who were and are still reluctant to discuss the period during which the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities had free reign over the lives and destinies of many American citizens.

1976 100m/C John Huston, Lester Cole, Gary Cooper, Howard da Silva, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., Albert Maltz, Zero Mostel, Otto Preminger, Ronald Reagan, Gale Sondergaard, Dalton Trumbo, Alvah Bessie; D: David Helpern; W: Arnie Reisman; C: Barry Abrams. VHS, LV

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