Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Either You're D and D or You're A Canary.."

Unless you have seen Elia Kazan's 1954 film "On the Waterfront", this rant might not make much sense. If you haven't seen it...do so. In my humble opinion it is one of the most important films ever produced.

It is one of Marlon Brando's seminal
screen performances, and it tells the tale of bullying by those in power and how they can be defeated. This is ostensibly the message delivered by the film...but there is a deeper meaning.

The director of the film, Elia Kazan, an im
migrant from Turkey, was making a statement about Hollywood's propaganda campaign concerning the McCarthy trials that convicted the "Hollywood Ten" to prison terms for their membership in the American communist party, during the early 1950's.

The campaign was so successful that if you ask anyone today about the "red scare" and "McCarthyism" you will hear a stream of sympathy for the poor screen writers that were caught up in an insane right-wing series of prosec
utions that rivaled the Salem witch trials.

As with most of re-written history...that is NOT what happened.

In post WWII America, there was an underlying uneasiness about the deals made between Roosevelt
and "Uncle Joe" Stalin. This was even before the world learned how the communist ideology was slaughtering millions in the then USSR. However, the mainstream was beginning to understand that this political system was easily corruptible and was at odds with western values. The trials sponsored by the House Un-american Activities Committee were a knee-jerk reaction to those feelings...again, on the surface.
What the trials truly represented were that the jewish-owned Hollywood community was about to have it's wings clipped. It was to serve as a warning to the Jack Warners and Sam Goldwyns, that the Russo-Jewish communism was not going to be tolerated in the theaters of this country. And essentially, it worked. The fact that the names of those black-listed and convictecd as a result of the trials reads like a Bar-Mitzvah guest list, should tell you who was really being targeted.
When Elia Kazan wa
s called before the committee, he, like his film's Terry Maloy, did his best to bring down the hammer on the "union" bosses.
He was of course ostracized for his cooperation at the trial, like his protagonist boxer in the film he made to explain his actions.
He chose not to be "D(eaf) and D(umb)" about what he saw as a concerted effort to push the jewish-communist party line, but to sing like a "canary" about the nepotism saturating the industry in which he worked.

Of course the "powers that were" merely took a different tack...and we became a "democracy". But Kazan, and Terry put up a great fight and both won a battle, if not the war.

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