One of the Hollywood Ten
Hollywood loves to see itself, but mostly ignores its illegal 1950s' blacklist that shook its industry and the whole U.S. Produced in Britain and Spain by a Welsh writer-director, "One of the Hollywood Ten" is the true story of blacklisted Herbert Biberman, Gale Sondergaard, and their censored film, "Salt of the Earth." Biberman, subpoenaed in 1947, was one of HUAC's first hostile witnesses, but had written too little to be called a communist, but he'd married Sondergaard (a hard-working Oscar-winner). Citing the First Amendment, he refused to testify, was charged with contempt, and went to prison. Sondergaard stood by him, was also blacklisted, and put out of work.
Fellow blacklisted friend Michael Wilson wrote an independent screenplay about Latino miners of Mine-Mill Workers Local 890 in NM, who picketed Empire Zinc, demanding Anglo workers' pay and conditions. Halted by injunction that couldn't stop their wives, they forced the mine to settle. Local 890 members acted in the film, even the male lead; Mexican actress Rosaura Revueltas played opposite him. The U.S. government deported her during filming, discouraged labs from processing the film, kept theatres from booking it, and accused the crew of trying to spy on atomic secrets. Released in 1954, "Salt" shows parties, pickets, a saloon, and church scenes, and is surprisingly good. It's valuable as a prototype: made by industry veterans, shot on location, for its true story, acted largely by nonprofessionals, and for starring a Latina.
"Hollywood Ten" has different merits. It opens in 1937 on two opposing political film items: the New York opening of "Triumph of the Will," and Sondergaard announcing at the Academy Awards the formation of Hollywood's Anti-Nazi League. It cuts to 1947 newsreel of HUAC hearings. Biberman (Goldblum) bubbles with enthusiasm as he talks about shooting and editing; Sondergaard (Scacchi) an old-school Hollywood star, turns a powdered face to key light in every room. But the movie's biggest star, Revueltas (Molina) steals the show. Without her character's smooth, freckled face, , even looking a bit old, she plays Esperanza with hungry eyes and a tired voice, and informs her with wariness.
Suffice to say that although no one yet has made a masterpiece about the blacklist, Francis's good, intelligent movie is truthful. Let's see someone top it.
Jeff Goldblum, Greta Scacchi, Angela Molina
Hollywood's blacklist; Salt of the Earth; Gail Sondergaard;
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