Academic journal article Film & History

Hide in Plain Sight: The Hollywood Blacklistees in Film and Television, 1950-2002

Academic journal article Film & History

Hide in Plain Sight: The Hollywood Blacklistees in Film and Television, 1950-2002

Article excerpt

Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner. Hide In Plain Sight: The Hollywood Blacklistees In Film And Television, 1950-2002. Palgrave Macmillan, 2OO3. 328 pages; $27.95

More Nuanced

There is both good news and bad news about the historians or' the American left to be taken from Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner's latest book, Hide in Plain Sight. Buhle was co-editor with Patrick McGilligan in 1997 on Tender Comrades, an entertaining and valuable oral history of survivors of the Hollywood blacklist. He and Dave Wagner have collaborated on three other books on the blacklist, including Radical Hollywood (2002), a look at the work of leftist filmmakers in the 30s and 40s. The current book is a sequel of sorts to the latter and shares at least some of its flaws, but it is in general more nuanced.

The bad news first. Buhle and Wagner have been a lot sloppier factually in Hide in Plain Sight than they and most left wing film historians have previously been. Some of the errors may just be typos, such as spelling Spyros Skouras's last name "Scouros." Some errors suggest they have not seen the films they are writing about, such as saying that Creature From the Black Lagoon has the Creature "pursuing the bikini-wearing Julie Adams through miles of swampy footage." It was a white one-piece, and most of the chase was underwater. In the bizarre error category the authors have Robert Towne married to screenwriter Carol Eastman and helping create the television series The Monkees, they have Phil Silvers and Buster Keaton in the Broadway production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, or they say Carmen Jones "could have been a major musical success, but not in white America." The film cost $750,000, and had film rentals of $2,500,000. A substantial hit, in other words.

More typical of many left wing film historians is what might be called "misattribution." Since so much of their valuable work makes clear what the contributions of the blacklistees were, it is both ironic and disconcerting that they tend to overvalue the work of the people they are writing about. In the section on Robert Towne, they write he "scripted Bannie and Clyde'' Towne's contribution to David Newman and Robert Benton's script for Bannie and Clyde was in the nature of minor rewrites, as Towne himself has said. …

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