By Ed Rampell, Red Phoenix guest contributor, California.
(Note: This is the edited text for the introduction to the April 14 screening of “Cloak and Dagger” by Ed Rampell and to “None Shall Escape” by Roger Memos, the director and co-writer of the 2015 documentary “Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity,” at the Academy Museum for this series commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Hollywood Blacklist.)
Welcome. Tonight, we have a double bill of exciting World War II morale boosters. Both were written by members of the Hollywood Ten. Two-time Oscar-winner Ring Lardner, Jr. and two-time Oscar nominee Albert Maltz co-wrote Cloak and Dagger. None Shall Escape was co-written by Lester Cole, along with Alfred Neumann and Joseph Than. The latter were nominated for a Best Writing, Original Story Oscar.
Cloak and Dagger is a good example of Hollywood’s Popular Front in action, uniting all anti-fascists in a common cause. Not everybody in Tinseltown who was anti-Nazi was a member of the Communist Party, like Lardner, Maltz and Cole had been. But Communist screenwriters were often recruited to write anti-fascist screenplays because they were among La-La-Land’s most politically conscious artists who were able to articulate what the cause was about. In terms of productions, the Popular Front in Hollywood included anti-fascists like the Vienna-born writer/director Fritz Lang, who had emerged as one of Germany’s top filmmakers. According to legend, shortly after Hitler came to power, in 1933 Joseph Goebbels, the newly installed Minister of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, summoned Lang to his office where he told Lang that Der Fuhrer’s favorite movie was Metropolis. An international hit, this sci fi epic was the 1927 equivalent to Avatar or Star Wars. Metropolis featured sharp class warfare, but what Hitler especially liked was that the struggle between the hand – or labor – and the brain – or capital – was mediated by the heart – not by proletarian revolution.
Goebbels offered Lang the job as head of the Third Reich’s film industry. Lang told Goebbels he’d think the offer over and get back to the Reich Minister soon. Instead, legend has it that later that day, Lang promptly got on a train and left Berlin.
Hitler may have been a fan of Metropolis, but Lang, of course, was no Nazi. In 1931 he tried to warn Weimar Germany about the fascist threat with the movie that propelled Peter Lorre to fame. In Metropolis, Peter Lorre played a tormented serial child killer. When he’s captured at the end by a throng of angry parents, they demand to know why he has been killing their children and he replies with one of the cinema’s most chilling four words: “I can’t help myself.” Anyway, Lang was trying to warn Germans about the Nazis – that “the murderers are among us.”
Furthermore, Lang was reportedly part Jewish on his mother’s side. In addition, according to a 2001 New York Times article, Lang’s then lover, Lily Latte “was Jewish and left wing.” Parenthetically, it’s worth noting that Goebbels failed miserably in his dream to make German cinema the world’s best. A main reason why Goebbels failed is that the Nazis kicked all of the Jews out of the film industry.
Some of them, like Lang, came to Hollywood where, among a number of film noir classics, Lang shot several anti-Nazi pictures. In 1941 Lang helmed Man Hunt, about a near assassination of Hitler in Bavaria. In 1943 Lang directed the anti-fascist drama Hangmen Also Die! set in occupied Czechoslovakia, co-written by another refugee from the Nazis, the great German playwright Bertolt Brecht. Lang’s 1944 Ministry of Fear was co-written by Graham Greene and starred Ray Milland. Lang’s 1946 Cloak and Dagger is an atomic espionage drama written by the Hollywood Ten’s Ring Lardner, Jr. and Albert Maltz.
Ring co-wrote 1943’s The Cross of Lorraine about the French Resistance, co-starring Gene Kelly. Ring also co-wrote 1944’s Tomorrow, the World! about the mythos of Aryan superiority. Ring struck Oscar gold with 1942’s Woman of the Year and 1970’s M*A*S*H.
Maltz wrote English narration for the 1942 Soviet documentary Moscow Strikes Back and 1943’s Seeds of Freedom, which combined new footage of Odessa anti-Nazi guerrillas with scenes from Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece Potemkin. The other patriotic WWII movies Maltz wrote were 1943’s Destination Tokyo, with Cary Grant and John Garfield. The latter also starred in 1945’s Pride of the Marines, co-written by Maltz, who was Oscar-nominated for his script, as he was for 1950’s Broken Arrow. On the home front, Maltz co-won an honorary Oscar for writing the anti-bigotry short The House I Live In, starring Frank Sinatra in 1946 – a year before Maltz was blacklisted.
After we watch Cloak and Dagger we’ll be joined by documentarian Roger Memos to discuss Marsha Hunt and then screen None Shall Escape, in what may be Marsha’s greatest role and the most powerful studio movie made during WWII about Jewish resistance to the Nazis. By the way, Marsha Hunt is especially beloved by blacklistees because even though she was never a Communist Party member herself, Marsha refused to become an informer, despite the fact that her career suffered during the Hollywood Blacklist.
Schedule info for the remaining screenings of The Hollywood Ten at 75 film series at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures:
John Garfield double feature Force of Evil and He Ran All the Way 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 27, introduction by K.J. Relth-Miller, Interim Director, Film Programs, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Spartacus 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 29, introduction by Ed Rampell and Dalton Trumbo’s daughter-in-law, Nancy Escher.
Salt of the Earth 2:00 p.m. Sunday, April 30, introduction by Ed Rampell, followed by a panel discussion featuring Eve Bodenstedt, granddaughter of Salt’s star Rosaura Revueltas, who is flying up from Mexico for the event; co-star Will Geer’s daughter and granddaughter, Ellen Geer and Willow Geer; and Bill Jarrico, son of Salt’s producer Paul Jarrico.
For details visit the Academy Museum website.
Categories: Media & Culture, Movies