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    Unamerican Times

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    On this date in 1947, a cloud descended upon popular culture that hasn’t fully dissipated to this day. A group of movie writers, producers and one director, later to be called “The Hollywood Ten,” were cited for contempt of Congress after their questioning before the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) became a Maginot Line clash between “patriotic loyalty” and “first-amendment rights.” The next day, movie studio leaders convened at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and drafted the Waldorf Statement, declaring the 10 individuals unemployable in Hollywood. The Blacklist was born, and though it was ultimately broken in 1960 when urbane and outspoken screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was publicly engaged to write Exodus for Otto Preminger and Spartacus for Kirk Douglas, wounds still linger. Memories do too. Widening its theatrical release this week, the biopic Trumbo, starring four-time Emmy® Award winner Bryan Cranston in the title role, vividly recreates the reactionary political environment and vicious media barrage the Ten endured while in the line of fire. This turbulent era in show business history also forms the backdrop for two equally compelling stories of following one’s conscience in dangerous times available on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray. The Way We Were (1973) is a much-loved romantic drama from screenwriter Arthur Laurents and director Sydney Pollack about what clenching too tightly to one’s ideals and what succumbing too easily to mass opinion splinters the initially dreamy attraction and marriage of a political activist (Barbra Streisand) and her privileged screenwriter husband (Robert Redford) as the Red Scare flows through the closed-ranks Tinseltown community. The Front (1976), from two Blacklist victims behind the camera (screenwriter Walter Bernstein and director Martin Ritt) and co-starring Blacklist victims in front of the lens (Zero Mostel and Herschel Bernardi), envisions a situation much like that of Trumbo, who kept on writing and seeing his work produced under other people’s names. The frontman here is a fictional small-time hustler (Woody Allen) who takes the on-screen credit (and a percentage of the fee) for the teleplays his banished writer pal (Michael Murphy) churns out. Whereas in The Way We Were, keeping counsel with one’s conscience is a recurring trope throughout, The Front is about growing consciousness in previously barren soil. With wry moments of humor and swirling currents of drama running throughout each, the entertaining and moving artistry of both films ensures that what happened 68 years ago today won’t be forgotten.