Recently finished A Very Dangerous Citizen: Abraham Lincoln Polonsky and the Hollywood Left (Buhle, P. & Wagner, D. 2001).
In the 'fifties I discovered friendship. In the 'thirties I discovered myself. - Zenia's Way (novel by Polonsky)
This would fall into the Critical Biography category. The life and non-film writings of Polonsky were new to me and very interesting. Polonsky was a lifelong Communist, much admired by his fellow Leftists for his intellectualism, but not a Party follower, differing greatly on aesthetic matters and the freedom all writers should have. Having always wondered why he - one of the most open Communists in Hollywood - was not one of the Hollywood Ten, only some light was shed. He was called before HUAC and, like the Ten, he did not name names and exerted his Constitutional rights. During his questioning, a man walked in and whispered in the Chairman's ear. The Chairman said Polonsky was "a very dangerous citizen" and dismissed him. Was the thought that the government could get him on something more serious than contempt? Or, was it a fear that Polonsky, if convicted, might talk publicly about his WWII OSS experiences, something he had not done (and never did)? Polonsky was similarly silent throughout his life about who fronted for him while he was blacklisted. He considered that his "naming names" of his fronts would be a betrayal of trust and a disloyal act.
I found the cultural history - NYC, Yiddish culture, Jewish intellectualism, and political thought - about the coming together of the writers (and some producers, directors and actors) in Hollywood in the '30s and '40s to be even more interesting. The authors do walk that tight rope that others have tried: arguing that the Blacklist was a product of hysteria, overly imaginative exaggerations, and unnecessarily harsh while at the same time arguing that most of the best writers (and producers, directors and actors) were, if not Communists as intellectually astute as Polonsky, decidedly Leftists, generally sympathetic to Communism (though, in most cases, not the Stalinist variety) and doing as much as they could to send a message. Overall, a fascinating read.
One nit: After a while, the authors' general bias - if it was written by a Leftist, then it was good or, if in a few cases it wasn't good, it would have been if the writer had been left alone - gets tiresome and somewhat counter-productive. They couldn't all have been that good, could they? And, if not, which other parts of the authors' story are suspect?
One intriguing statement that was almost a throwaway aside and that I would love to read more about: The Golden Age of Television was the product of the blacklist; that the blacklisted writers (and others) and those sympathetic to their beliefs, but who were too young and uninvolved at that time to be a part of the blacklist (example: Sidney Lumet), migrated to TV due to the Hollywood blacklist.
Nothing is better; perhaps revolution, but there you have to succeed and be right, dangers which never attach themselves to making movies, and dreaming. - Polonsky upon returning to film directing with TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE
Body and Soul (1947 - Screenwriter)
Force of Evil (1948 - Director & co-Screenwriter)
I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951 - Screenwriter)
You Are There (various episodes 1953-54, outro - Screenwriter)
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959 - Screenwriter)
Madigan (1968 - co-Screenwriter)
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969 - Director & Screenwriter)
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles