Taking The Fifth

A write-up of a write-off: Van Heflin winces at the carnage.

A mini-blacklist theme develops over at The Forgotten, as we follow blacklistee John Berry’s angry demand for justice TAMANGO with Leo McCarey’s angry demand for commie heads on plates, MY SON JOHN. It’s sometimes ugly viewing, but pretty educational in a number of unintended ways.

Meanwhile I watched John Berry’s THE HOLLYWOOD TEN, a little documentary he made in support of some friends who were going to jail for refusing to answer questions to Congress about their past political affiliations. Intriguingly, Berry does the same trick of panning from one face to the next, holding for a moment of truth, and then panning to the next guy, which appears several times in TAMANGO. Quite effective.

The Ten themselves are a varied bunch, some very confident on camera and some constantly referring to notes, which makes them look unfortunately shifty. But Samuel Ornitz, whose heavy build and  scarred lip might make him a natural to play a gangster-commie in something like THE WHIP HAND, has a voice like Thomas Gomez and a natural sympathy and dignity, and Dalton Trumbo is a screen natural. The whole pack is like a bunch of intellectuals just arrived from Central Casting, complete with bow ties and pipes. How the great American public must have mistrusted them!

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20 Responses to “Taking The Fifth”

  1. Indeed they did.

    Meanwhile consider this a plug for “Shadowplay” to examine Berry’s masterful musical rendition of Pepe le Moko — Casbah. Starring Tony Martin and featuring Marta Toren, Yvonne de Carlo and Peter Lorre it’s great score by Harold Arlen includes “It Was Written in the Stars.”

  2. I’m very interested in Berry’s ”From this Day Forward” starring Joan Fontaine…

  3. david wingrove Says:

    Tried once to watch FROM THIS DAY FORWARD and couldn’t get very far with it. Strange, because I’m a humongous fan of Joan…but perhaps she was miscast as a working-class all-American girl? As for the rather bland Mark Stevens, he made a better showing a couple of years later in THE SNAKE PIT, opposite big sister Olivia.

    Is that maybe why his career went nowhere? Did the poor chap get caught in the crossfire between those two formidable ladies, and flee Hollywood screaming in terror?!

  4. I’m definitely planning to revisit Casbah. I have little interest in Algiers, but the musical idea is intriguing.

    I have quite a few Berry films to explore! Just acquired He Ran All the Way.

  5. Casbah was the very first version of the story that I saw. I much prefer it to Algiers. Pepe Le Moko however is beyond superb.

    It should also be noted that Berry played Delphine Seyrig’s long-lost love in Chantal Ackerman’s musical The Golden 80s. His son Denis appeared in Rivette’s L’Amour Fou, married and divorced Jean Seberg and at present is I believe still married to Anna Karina. He also directs.

  6. In He Ran All the Way you can literally see John Garfield dying.

  7. Grim. It’s interesting to me how the experiences of people like Berry and Dassin informed their work. And how Dmytryk’s experiences never informed his, because he couldn’t deal with having betrayed his friends. He could rationalize and excuse it to himself, but he couldn’t ultimately process it to the point of being able to use it as a subject in any way.

  8. Tony Williams Says:

    yes, David E, the strain is obviously showing on his face.

  9. When Abraham Polonsky finally became employable again in the late 60′s he signed a contract with Universal. One day walking through the commisary Edward Dmytryk called out “Hey Abe how are you?” to which Abe replied, “Hey Ed — FUCK YOU!!!!”

  10. Excellent!

    Incidentally, there are moves afoot to make one of Polonsky’s screenplays into a new movie. I’ll talk more about this later.

  11. Oh teriffic!

    Abe was a fabulous guy. He lived on McCarty drive in Beveryl Hills. “That’s McCarty drive, you know. Not McCarthy drive. Big difference.” It was right next door to Neiman-Marcus and he took me to lunch there once. All the waitresses doted on him. He was a lot like R. Crumb’s “Mr. Natural” — but without the long white beard.

    Hius last film Romance of a Horse Thief is sorely negelected. I’m crazy about it. Abe directing Eli Wallach, Yul Brynner, Lanie Kazan Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. Supercool!

  12. I finally got a copy of that one but the soundtrack is so distorted I don’t want to watch it until I can get an upgrade.

    Mike Hodges is the planned director of the Polonsky script, and he too met the Great Man late in his life. It’s a Thomas Mann adaptation and it sounds pretty exciting — I do hope it happens.

  13. “Mario and the Magician” ?

  14. That’s the one!

  15. A deeply strange and sinister Mann story. Gregory Markopoulos once expressed interest in making a film of it.

  16. I think they should make a deal with Nintendo to finance it. The first Thomas Mann computer game tie-in. PacMann!

  17. david wingrove Says:

    MARIO AND THE MAGICIAN has already been turned into a dismal movie, directed by and starring Klaus Maria Brandauer, with Julian Sands and Anna Galiena hanging about on the sidelines and hoping not to be noticed.

    If someone can do the story justice, that will be magic indeed.

  18. Poor KMB. Excellent actor. Some people maybe just shouldn’t direct.

  19. david wingrove Says:

    On the basis of that movie, he should also retire from acting!

  20. By the way, for anyone interested in seeing the Hollywood Ten piece, it features on Criterion’s edition of Spartacus.

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