Academic's film season on Hollywood's blacklist era to debut

Categories: Research, School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology

A University of Salford academic’s film season that examines how Hollywood stars and writers were blacklisted by the industry during the ‘Golden Age’ will debut this week before touring across the UK.

‘Look Who’s Back: The Hollywood Renaissance and the Blacklist’ is an exciting showcase of films from the 1960s and 1970s that all feature the work of artists who had been previously blacklisted by Hollywood after being accused of being communists in the aftermath of World War Two (WW2).

Curated by Dr Andy Willis, Professor of Film Studies at the University of Salford, the season will make its debut as part of a ‘Cinema Rediscovered’ festival at the Watershed cinema in Bristol on Thursday 27 July before arriving at HOME Manchester from Friday 18 August.

Dr Willis is giving an introduction on each of the season premieres for audiences, to explain why this time in Hollywood history was so interesting as post-WW2 politics had a drastic shift on the work of those who had made their living in the industry prior to and during the war.

Many writers who had been encouraged to write pro-Soviet Union scripts during WW2 were driven out of the industry as being perceived members of the Communist Party. According to Dr Willis, their work went from being ‘perfectly acceptable to downright anti-American overnight.’

Dr Willis, who is also Senior Visiting Curator: Film for HOME Manchester said: “This season is about taking the audience on a journey in rethinking these films. A lot of names of those who worked on these productions but never got the credit after being blacklisted have faded away and they therefore never got the recognition they deserved during their lifetime.

“There were a lot of blacklisted artists and stars who didn’t work for such a long time and then resurfaced later in their careers that were seen as being part of the new age of Hollywood. This season is about making sure those stars and writers who worked on films during the blacklisted years have their work rightly attributed to them.”

During the blacklisted period, Hollywood conducted a number of show trials where writers and directors were summoned for questioning and were put into contempt for pleading the fifth amendment. Some were even sent to prison whilst those who weren’t could not be employed publicly by the studios or have their work credited to them. It led to Academy Awards being attributed to those who hadn’t written a word for scripts that were penned by blacklisted writers.

Amongst the films being screened at the season include Robert Altman’s classic M*A*S*H (1970), the groundbreaking Midnight Cowboy (1969) with Dustin Hoffman and cop drama Serpico (1973) with Al Pacino.

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