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Nick Pinkerton on “Hollywood Exiles in Europe” at UCLA Film & Television Archive

Joseph Losey, Eva, 1962, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 135 minutes. Eve Olivier and Tyvian Jones (Jeanne Moreau and Stanley Baker).

“DON’T TELL HIM ANYTHING.” In 1963’s The Damned (aka These Are the Damned), a sign bearing this motto is passed through a classroom of cloistered children—in fact prisoners being kept under constant surveillance by government forces. Such a scene takes on different implications when you know the story of its director, Joseph Losey, one of scores of Hollywood personnel who found themselves out of work beginning in the late 1940s because they were presently or previously affiliated with the Communist Party USA, and were unwilling to clear themselves by going through the degradation ceremony of “naming names” of former associates. Losey was, after a fashion, one of the lucky ones. He found work abroad, principally in the United Kingdom, although it is not to be supposed that the reach of HUAC ended back home. A story has it that Losey had to be smuggled off the set of his first British film in the trunk of actor Dirk Bogarde’s car, to avoid the attention of Ginger Rogers’s red-baiting mother, then visiting.

The trunk anecdote appears in Rebecca Prime’s Hollywood Exiles in Europe: The Blacklist and Cold War Film Culture (2013), a study of politically compromised American directors after they uprooted their careers to Europe. Prime also cocurated the fifteen-film, three-week rep series at the UCLA Film & Television Archive to which her book lends its title. “Hollywood Exiles” is the first of a group of upcoming programs oriented around the traumatic rupture caused by naming names: Beginning on August 15, Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York hosts “Red Hollywood and the Blacklist,” timed to its theatrical run for Thom Andersen and Noël Burch’s 1996 essay film Red Hollywood, and featuring a few of the same titles playing the Billy Wilder Theater. A week after that, New York’s Anthology Film Archives begins the collaboratively programmed “Screenwriters and the Blacklist: Before, During, and After” which includes, among other films, Losey’s nonconformist 1948 fable The Boy with Green Hair, scripted by Ben Barzman.

Barzman’s widow, Norma, will appear as a friendly witness before the first screening of the UCLA series, 1949’s Christ in Concrete (aka Give Us This Day). An adaptation of Italian-American writer Pietro Di Donato’s 1939 proletarian novel of the same title, Christ in Concrete was originally intended as a Hollywood debut for Roberto Rossellini but was completed instead by an all-star blacklistee lineup, written for the screen by Barzman, directed by Hollywood Tenner Edward Dmytryk, and starring actor Sam Wanamaker, who would remain abroad and later be instrumental in rebuilding the Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank. For the shoot, the filmmakers took on the no less daunting task of re-creating New York tenements in the UK facilities of producer J. Arthur Rank. The moments of communal cooperation between Wanamaker’s bricklayer Geremia and his fellow immigrant laborers are especially touching in light of the fact that much of the same share-and-share-alike arrangement existed between blacklisted émigrés, but for all of the film’s evident conviction, the stagebound final product is wrong in specificities of culture, period, place, and speech. (The scenes with Dean Martin’s Italian family in 1953’s The Caddy feel more authentic!) Scarcely a year after Christ in Concrete opened in New York, Dmytryk agreed to rehabilitate himself by singing for the House Un-American Activities Committee, and it was another pigeon, Elia Kazan, who was ultimately responsible for the defining work of American Neorealism: 1954’s On the Waterfront.

Christ in Concrete was the first production by political exiles from Hollywood, made before the walls of the blacklist had hardened into institutional impassability, and while many of its future victims were still nervously going about their work. At approximately the same time that Dmytryk was at Denham Film Studios, Jules Dassin was poking around the grubbier corners of Soho and the East End Docks, preparing to shoot Night and the City. Richard Widmark, playing harried “club tout” Harry Fabian in the film, embodies the particular hustler’s combination of neediness and arrogance, sealing his fate when he hatches a scheme to corner the professional wrestling business in London. The appropriately bleak Night and the City would be Dassin’s last within the old studio system. He decamped for Paris once his name had been named—by Dmytryk, among others—and there eventually managed to make the film that re-established his reputation and salability, 1955’s heist-pic standard Du Rififi chez les hommes.

Dassin would move still further east to Greece after this, and make ever more ambitious films, although his strongest work abroad was in line with the socially conscious thrillers that he’d made stateside, like The Naked City (1948) or Thieves’ Highway (1949). The latter is almost certainly an inspiration for Cy Endfield’s 1957 Hell Drivers, a film that immerses the viewer in the world of lorry drivers charged with transporting loads of gravel at suicidal speeds. As in Christ in Concrete, Hell Drivers illustrates how management breeds competition between coworkers at the cost of safety and sanity, all as seen through the eyes of a new arrival among the drivers—an outsider twice over, as a Welshman and an ex-con. Star Stanley Baker, a strapping, sullen actor who bears a passing resemblance to a middle-aged Morrissey, would collaborate six times overall with writer-director Endfield, credited here as “C. Raker Endfield.” (On 1954’s Impulse, also at UCLA, he used the sobriquet “Charles de la Tour.”) Baker and Endfield’s most famous outing, not least because it made a star of Michael Caine, is Zulu (1964), screening at both the Laemmle and Film Society. (The “50th Anniversary Release from Rialto Pictures” is the only DCP title playing in the series, which has otherwise located film prints.) As in Hell Drivers, Endfield proves he has a nose for the particular pungency of festering masculinity in all-male enclaves, here a remote British Army supply depot under attack by a far larger Zulu force—the film is based on the events of the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Peppering the ebb-and-flow of combat with lucid human vignettes, Endfield achieves something far more unsettling than the antiwar nostrums of The Victors (1963), the three-hour World War II epic that is the lone directorial outing of blacklisted High Noon screenwriter Carl Foreman.

When these films are viewed together, grouped because of the shared circumstances of the personnel involved in making them, it’s easy to find a reflection of the political exile’s experience wherever one looks. A direct causal relationship is usually difficult to prove— well before expatriation, paranoia, persecution, and pursuit were all key to film noir, the loosely defined genre in which many of the blacklistees, including Dassin, Endfield, and Losey, worked. In the case of the last named’s 1956 The Intimate Stranger (aka Finger of Guilt), however, the temptation to draw parallels becomes fairly irresistible. The film’s protagonist, Reggie Wilson, is a refugee driven from Hollywood by scandal—in this case, an indiscretion with an executive’s wife—who has reestablished himself in England and married his way into the front office of “Commonwealth Pictures Ltd.” Wilson is undone by a series of letters from a woman alleging to be a former lover, and his past sins sow present doubt as to his guilt, in the minds of others as well as his own. The lead is played by Richard Basehart, an actor who specialized in gnawing away at himself on-screen in films like the 1949 noir Tension, whose director, John Berry, is represented at UCLA by the 1955 Eddie Constantine vehicle Headlines of Destruction. A film about the fast-spreading poison of rumor and insinuation set in the context of the film industry, The Intimate Stranger is a kind-of cousin to the graylisted Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950), with the screenplay by fellow blacklistee Howard Koch (here, “Peter Howard”) taking a cosmic view of disgrace and punishment: “Sometimes it’s the things we haven’t done that pay us back for the things we have.”

Losey, a high school friend of Ray’s from their Wisconsin days, is the best-represented filmmaker in the “Hollywood Exiles” lineup, with The Damned and Intimate Stranger (both featuring American interlopers as protagonists), as well as Stranger on the Prowl (1952), Time Without Pity (1957), and Eve (1962). The Barzman-scripted Time Without Pity has a knockout cold open and a truly harrowing performance by Michael Redgrave, playing an alcoholic racing against the clock to save his wrongly convicted son from execution. Didactic, anti–death penalty material is clumsily integrated into what’s otherwise a corker of a thriller, and by Eve five years later, Losey has jettisoned the remnants of 1930s social consciousness to match himself against the European art-house masters, with far more favorable results than his Yank peers achieved. (See Dassin’s horrid 1966 Marguerite Duras adaptation 10:30 P.M. Summer.)

The ubiquitous Stanley Baker plays Tyvian Jones, a louche celebrity novelist living abroad in Venice and self-described “full-time exile in my Babylon” who harbors a secret—his best seller was in fact written by his deceased brother. This begs comparison to the cases of many blacklisted screenwriters who managed to get by giving their work to be used by “fronts,” a transaction that fostered shame on both ends. Tyvian exorcizes his own self-disgust by entering into a slave/mistress relationship with an adventuress played by Jeanne Moreau, fresh off of Antonioni’s La Notte (1961). Losey is self-consciously stepping into Antonioni/Visconti/Fellini territory, but his elastic and unexpected way of scrolling over a scene is entirely his own, as is his keen outsider’s perspective. By this time, with credits for blacklisted screenwriters appearing on Exodus and Spartacus (both 1960) and the increasing cosmopolitanism of the picture business, the shameful studio conspiracy had already begun its inexorable crumble. What remains are the films—the best of them exemplars of grace under pressure.

“Hollywood Exiles in Europe” runs July 25–August 17 at the UCLA Film & Television Archive in Los Angeles. “Red Hollywood and the Blacklist” runs August 15–21 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York. “Screenwriters and the Blacklist: Before, During, and After” runs August 22–September 2 at Anthology Film Archives in New York.