was one of the first films that spoke directly about the blacklisting that occured in Hollywood
during McCarthy's Red Scare
. This film was released in 1976 and was directed by Martin Ritt
) with a screenplay written by Walter Bernstein
). The movie is a historical
story with comedy
in it, or a comedy
with a historical
story in it. It all matters on how you take it, some parts are hilarious to us but if one thought about it as being in that position you might not be laughing. All in all, this is probably the best film to see exactly what the Hollywood Blacklist
was like. It has a runtime of 94 minutes.
A front, during the blacklisted times, was a person who would allow their name to be used by a screenwriter
who got blacklisted. Howard Prince was a normal guy who was always in the hole in debts. He ran a cash register in a bar, and took bets on the side. One day a friend of his came to him for help. He had been blacklisted, and was no longer allowed to work. He wanted to use Prince's name. Howard agreed quickly to do it just for friendship reasons, but his brain quickly switched gears when he realized how much he was getting just from a ten percent cut!
His friend's script was quickly picked up, and Howard was brought in for questioning on how to edit "his" script. He passed through the questioning, even with his ignorance. When Howard's debts starting catching up, he asked his writer friend if there were other writers he could front for. He got them, three writers writing under the name of Howard Prince for a television show
Then there was Hecky Brown, a comic
that starred on the show. He had made the mistake of being in a communist
parade. And signing a petition to help the Russians. And the mistake of having a poor memory of names. He wasn't going to be able to work, unlesss he gave names of other communists. Or, he could just find the dirt on Howard Prince.
How the Story Came to:
In the beginning, Martin Ritt
and Walter Bernstein
had wanted to do a serious film on the blacklist
. However, no studio would touch this dark story. So, instead they got the idea to do a comedy, and in doing so the studio thought it wouldn't be serious. So the movie was created. Then just to give an extra jab to the McCarthy
era they hired many actors and actresses who had been blacklisted as well, such as Zero Mostel
. It is a scary thing to think, that what happened to Hecky Brown in the movie, very likely happened to Zero Mostel. For it was quite more unfortunate when a director or actor got blacklisted. They couldn't work, because to be a director or actor you need to show your face.
Why did they choose Woody Allen?
When they presented the idea of a comedy in the blacklisted era, the studio agreed but demanded one thing. They needed a star. The studio threw out names like Paul Newman
and Jack Nicholson
. This was obviously not what Ritt and Bernstein had in mind, so they had to think about it.
When they were playing tennis one day, Ritt said, "Hey! How about that kid! That funny kid?"
"Who," asked Bernstein.
"I don't remember his name. It's that funny kid!"
It took awhile before Bernstein realized that Ritt was talking about Woody Allen
, who was just rising in stardom at the time. The studio agreed on Woody Allen, and Woody Allen agreed on the script. When he came to start filming he made sure that Ritt and Bernstein understood that he was here in total capacity as an actor, and not anything else.
Many of the situations in the movie are real. Some of the ones that Bernstein has pointed out are the actor who comitted suicide because he was blacklisted and the man who got blacklisted because someone with the same name as him was blacklisted.
Woody Allen - Howard Prince
Zero Mostel - Hecky Brown
Herschel Bernardi - Phil Sussman
Michael Murphy - Alfred Miller
Andrea Marcovicci - Florence Barrett
Remak Ramsay - Hennessey
Marvin Lichterman - Myer Prince
Lloyd Gough - Delaney
David Margulies - Phelps
Joshua Shelley - Sam
Norman Rose - Howard's Attorney
Charles Kimbrough - Committee Counselor
Josef Sommer - Committee Chairman
Danny Aiello - Danny LaGattuta
Georgann Johnson - TV Interviewer
Scott McKay - Hampton
David Clarke - Hubert Jackson
I.W. Klein - Bank Teller
John Bentley - Bartender
Julie Garfield - Margo
Murray Moston - Boss
MacIntyre Dixon - Harry Stone
Rudolph Willrich - Tailman
Burt Britton - Bookseller
Albert Ottenheimer - School Principal
William Bogert - Parks
Joey Faye - Waiter
Marilyn Sokol - Sandy
John Slater - T.V. Director
Renee Paris - Girl in Hotel Lobby
Gino Gennaro - Stage Hand
Joan Porter - Myer's Wife
Andrew Bernstein - Alfred's Child
Jacob Bernstein - Alfred's Child
Matthew Tobin - Man at Party
Marilyn Persky - His Date
Sam McMurray - Young Man at Party
Joe Jamrog - F.B.I. Man
Michael B. Miller - F.B.I. Man
Lucy Lee Flippin - Nurse
Jack Davidson - Congressman
Donald Symington - Congressman
Pat McNamara - Federal Marshal
answering question in my Film and Video class.