One of the Hollywood Ten


One of the Hollywood Ten
One of the Hollywood Ten

Spanish theatrical poster
Directed by Karl Francis
Produced by Karl Francis
Juan Gordon
Stuart Pollok
Written by Karl Francis
Starring Jeff Goldblum
Greta Scacchi
Music by Víctor Reyes
Cinematography Nigel Walters
Editing by John Richards
Distributed by Alibi Films International
The Walt Disney Company
Release date(s) September 29, 2000
(Spain)
Running time 109 minutes
Country Spain
UK
Language English

One of the Hollywood Ten (2000) is a Spanish and British bio-picture. The film was written and directed by Karl Francis.[1]

The drama focuses on screenwriter/director Herbert Biberman and his efforts to make, what would become the historic political film, Salt of the Earth (1954), produced without studio backing after being blacklisted for belonging to the American Communist Party.

Contents

Plot

The film opens at the 1937 Academy Awards, where Biberman's wife, Gale Sondergaard (Greta Scacchi), wins the first ever "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar. Although the anti-Fascist sentiment in her acceptance speech gets her labeled a "commie" by some observers, she and Biberman (Jeff Goldblum) are placed under contract at Warner Bros.

He first comes under scrutiny more for his Jewish background than his political activities. Yet, with Cold War paranoia growing, a group of Hollywood directors and actors — Biberman, Sondergaard, Danny Kaye, and Dalton Trumbo among them—are labeled Communists and questioned before Congress. After refusing to testify against his colleagues, he is imprisoned in the Federal Correctional Institution at Texarkana for a period of six months. Once released, he discovers his Hollywood career is finished.

Jeff Goldblum as Herbert Biberman and Greta Scacchi as Gale Sondergaard.

Sondergaard suggests her husband direct a screenplay about the real-life 1950-51 strike waged by Mexican-American miners against the Empire Zinc Company in Bayard, New Mexico written by Michael Wilson, also a victim of the blacklist, and Biberman's brother Michael. She feels the lead role of Esperanza Quintero, who rallied the wives of the unemployed miners and urged them to support their husbands, is an ideal way to jump-start her stagnating career. Biberman agrees, but after meeting with the people who participated in the strike and being inspired by their passion, he decides all roles should be played by ethnic actors.

Because the film has no studio backing and most Hollywood players fear being associated with Biberman and the project, he eventually casts local residents from Grant County, New Mexico and members of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, Local 890 to fill most of the roles. Juan Chacón, the Union Local president, is cast as the fiery Ramon Quintero opposite Mexican actress Rosaura Revueltas as his wife Esperanza. Will Geer is one of only five Hollywood actors to accept a role in the production.

The FBI investigates the film's financing, attempts to steal the film's negatives, tells film-processing labs not to work on the film when they are unable to locate them, incites locals who are unhappy with the film crew's presence to set fire to many of the sets, and eventually deports Revueltas on bogus charges. Biberman stands his ground and completes the film, using scenes with Revueltas that were shot in her native Mexico and then smuggled into the US.

Cast

Background

Salt of the Earth caught the attention of Welsh writer-director Karl Francis when the film was released in Europe. He became determined to film "The Making of Salt of the Earth" and worked with fellow-Welshman Nigel Walters, the director of cinematography, for years to make the film.[2]

Jack Warner, Humphrey Bogart, Edward Dmytryk, Howard Hughes, Dalton Trumbo, and George Jessel are among the real-life personalities depicted in the film.

The film was produced and shot in Madrid.

Critical reception

Jeff Goldblum

The New York Times film critic, Stephen Holden, generally liked the film, especially its message, but found some of the acting and the screenplay problematic. He wrote, "One of the Hollywood 10 has a strong performance by Mr. Goldblum and a refreshingly sulfurous view of 1950s Hollywood caving in to fear. As hard-hitting as the movie is, some of its performances are thuddingly overstated, and its screenplay wears its didacticism on its sleeve. One of the Hollywood 10 may be a useful film, but it is far from a great one."[3]

Leslie Camhi, writing for The Village Voice, liked the work of director Karl Francis and how he kept close to the true story, and wrote, "As Biberman, Jeff Goldblum mutes his considerable charisma; his stilted intellectual is so consumed by ideology that he hardly notices the harm done to his wife, actress Gale Sondergaard (played by firebrand Greta Scacchi), whose Oscar-winning career was cut short by his unflinching idealism. But director Francis shifts skillfully between scenes of glamour and oppression, sticking close to this compelling history."[4]

Variety magazine film critic David Rooney was critical of the film's direction and believed the film is only worthy of cable television. He wrote, "A fascinating chapter in Hollywood history gets unremarkable treatment in One of the Hollywood Ten, which centers on blacklisted director Herbert J. Biberman...[but] the pedestrian approach employed by writer-director Karl Francis gives it the look and feel of a lackluster cable movie, which would appear to be its commercial destination."[5]

Distribution

The movie was released in Spain by The Walt Disney Company, and debuted at the San Sebastián Film Festival on September 29, 2000.

It was featured at the Commonwealth Film Festival, Great Britain; the New York Jewish Film Festival, NY, USA; the San Diego Jewish Film Festival, San Diego, USA; the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, San Francisco, USA; the Washington Jewish Film Festival, Washington DC, USA; and other film festivals.

However at this point in time (August 2010), it is not available from a US vendor, and it is almost impossible to purchase elsewhere. A curious state of affairs given the subject.

References

  1. ^ One of the Hollywood Ten at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Kodak. Motion Picture Imaging, web site. Last accessed: November 22, 2007.
  3. ^ Holden, Stephen. The New York Times, "Back to an Era of Slurs, Paranoia and Persecution," January 11, 2002. Last accessed: November 22, 2007.
  4. ^ Camhi, Leslie. The Village Voice, "Left Out in the Cold," January 9, 2002.
  5. ^ Rooney, David. Variety, film review, October 9, 2000.

External links


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