The Red & the Blacklist
The Red and the Blacklist by Norma Barzman.
Paperback: 468 pages
Publisher: Nation Books (August 18, 2004)
From Publishers Weekly
Barzman arrived in Hollywood from Radcliffe in 1941, a good-looking 21-year-old who wanted to be a writer or director, not an actress. She met Ben Barzman at a party for Hollywood "progressives"; before long, they were in the Communist Party together. Ben stayed focused on his career of script writing. Norma, especially after they married, made do with anything, mainly writing for Hearst's Examiner. By 1944, they knew they were both under surveillance; by 1949, they realized they had to leave the country or face HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) and jail for refusing to inform. They settled in Paris, their base for nearly 20 years. Even though Ben subscribed to leftist ideals about equality, his wife's career made him uncomfortable, so from 1955 on, Norma made babies, had affairs and researched movie ideas for Ben. From her stories-dealing with the likes of Picasso, Sophia Loren, Peter Sellers, Anthony Quinn and Ingrid Bergman-it seems the life of a Cold War expatriate was more attractive than anything America was offering. Still, blacklisted men like Ben and his sometime collaborator Joseph Losey "hugged their bitterness," while the women just adapted. Visiting the Soviet Union and watching the Communist betrayal of May 1968 in France were profoundly disillusioning, but Norma found new hope stateside in the '70s amid women's liberation and the push to restore the reputations of the blacklisted Hollywood artists. Her unique, absorbing and richly detailed memoir is a contribution to both, restoring women to the history of this period and documenting the bravery with which some people stood by their ideals.
I guess it always interested me about the McCarthyism Blacklisting of the Hollywood people because I remember (ever so little) seeing some of the hearings on television. It quite possibly could have been “remember when” type thing for all I know, but as a kid I didn’t understand why they were even doing this. Could very well be that I didn’t understand Communism (duh) at such a young age. (the Reds)
Over the years as I read stories on this I could understand why people were leaning towards Communism. After all.. they way it’s told it sounds unreal and easily livable. But as found out later it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. When things like this get read about it makes me wonder why “the all powerful USA” can’t just take the best of all the worlds things and roll them up and incorporate them here? I grant you I am not the one to understand all things nor how to accomplish such a thing.. but I do wonder. Even little things like how much of Europe gives workers 6 weeks paid vacation and it has to be taken all at once. They understand that not just the body needs unwinding but the mind too and the mind doesn’t happen in a week or two. They found that but doing this their production is actually more and much better, with less waste or mistakes. I guess America would rather waste then rest?
Anyway.. the book…
I picked it up just because it was about Blacklisting. To be honest I didn’t realize it was a memoir . And I didn’t know the author, Norma Barzman, who’d memoir this was.
It covers the years during the Blacklisting and how many, including Norma and her husband (also a writer) and family fled to France to avoid possibly going to prison for not naming names of others who were at meetings about Communism.
Once in France Norma tells her story. How they survived with their combined writing. (many known films were among them including El Cid). How their marriage somehow survived even with quite a few indiscretions by Norma to wind up staying married with 7 children.
There were many famous actors and actress that they worked with in Europe over the years and even worked for Eddie Dymtryk (director and one of the “TEN” that went to prison. Later Eddie was said to have named names to get out of prison. I don’t know the truths about Mr Dymtryk having read a number of things of the Blacklist. I’ve read he named names and many hated him afterwards. And I’ve read he named names AFTER he heard others did and named the same names so that no new ones got added.. I just don’t know the truth. I know of Eddie Dymtryk more from stories DeForest Kelley told when Eddie directed some westerns that De was in. And I once ran into him and his wife when I lived in Sherman Oaks CA at a Pancake House.
Anyway..considering I am pretty ignorant knowing many directors names and even less of the writers names I did find this book interesting. It gave a fuller picture of how one survived over the years that McCarthy went ballistic trying to find every person who ever went to a meeting ousted as Communists .
Norma and Ben (the more noted writer of the family) Barzman managed to still have a lucrative life in Europe, along with quite a few other writer/ directors and actors. And I even had some fond memories as I found out some of the movies and people they worked with as Norma talked about the movies they helped make.
The secondary story was Norma herself. Admittedly having had numerous affairs along the way of trying to be a wife and mother and writer all in one. One might think that’s not too hard sitting at home writing… but in the movie industry one often is away making deals, and having to be where the movie is being made for weeks at a time . It was not really conducive to a “stay at home writer” as one might think .
This was quite a good book. It kept my interest even though I didn’t really know who the Barzman’s were!.. granted.. I do now!