Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History

By Reynold Humphries | Go to book overview

Conclusion

In 1972 there appeared a film which failed lamentably at the box office in the US precisely because it told the truth about the past and the present of that country: Billy Wilder's Avanti! I can think of no film that sums up so cogently the climate of the early 1970s and so brilliantly links that climate to the period under discussion in this book. In the film Jack Lemmon rushes to Italy to recover the body of his father, killed in an accident. He discovers that a young woman (Juliet Mills) is also there to recover the body of her dead mother who turns out not only to have died in the same accident but to have had over the years a secret affair with Lemmon Sr. The film's first point of interest lies in the fact that mother and daughter are proletarian, whereas Lemmon comes from a very wealthy family of Republican businessmen. So important is the family that the State Department sends a government representative to help Lemmon expedite matters. One can't trust Europeans.

The State Department official is played by the character actor Edward Andrews who excelled in pompous or unpleasant characters. Here he is both. Frustrated by the fact that everything closes down from midday to the middle of the afternoon (because of the crippling summer heat), he says to his taxi-driver: 'It wasn't like this in the old days.' The man looks at him in awe and reverence and replies: 'You knew Mussolini?' When their paths cross later he gives Andrews the Fascist salute. This, however, is just one interpretation of 'the old days', which we are also entitled to interpret as an example of the nostalgia of big business and the Republican Party for a past where workers had few rights and certainly not the right to have a prolonged lunchtime pause. So the film's insistence on class spreads out to touch on other issues.

-159-

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Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • The Background 1
  • I - Drawing Up the Battle Lines 7
  • Introduction 9
  • 1: Hollywood and the Union Question 27
  • 2: Thewaryears, 1939-1945 40
  • 3: Hollywood Strikes, the Right Strikes Back 62
  • II - From the Hot War to the Cold War 75
  • 4: The Hearings of 1947 77
  • 5: None Shall Escape 105
  • 6: The Anti-Communist Crusade on the Screen 128
  • 7: Life (And Death) on the Blacklist 144
  • Conclusion 159
  • Archival Sources 164
  • Bibliography 166
  • Index 175
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