The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War

By David Caute | Go to book overview

7
Witch Hunts:
Losey, Kazan, Miller

Despite some suicides, the American Inquisition did not as a rule break necks or even thumbs; it broke careers, it removed jobs, livelihood, the right to function. Surveillance, wire-tapping, mail-opening, men with long shadows positioned at street corners, the FBI. Joseph Losey, Elia Kazan, and Arthur Miller experienced the full force of the pax americana on home ground: Congressional committees, vigilante organizations like the Legion, private investigative agencies hired by studios and networks—all of whom aimed to render Soviet Russia’s friends and admirers unemployable.

Miller wrote a play called AH My Sons: Losey, Kazan, and Miller were all sons of thirties radicalism, all sons of the Five Year Plans and the light shining in the East. Losey and Kazan were directors, Miller a writer, but they were all men of the theatre and cinema whose best work can be counted among the century’s finest.

Confronted by the persecution which we will chart in some detail, Losey finally escaped into exile and spent a decade in England trying to work under pseudonyms, before finally breaking out, post-hysteria, as creator of the films The Servant, Accident, The Go-Between, and Don Giovanni. By contrast Kazan, famous for his brilliant directing of plays by Miller and Tennessee Williams, and his way with actors like Brando, broke, reneged, named names, grovelled before HUAC, denounced Communism, and sought to justify informing. By contrast Arthur Miller, banished from the silver screen but supported by his worldwide success as the author of All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, and A View from the Bridge, stood his ground, refused to name others, and was taken to court for ‘contempt of Congress’. Losey and Miller both condemned Kazan’s role as renegade and informer, but Miller did so more cautiously and compassionately, Losey with a lasting rage fuelled, no doubt,

-192-

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