“It’s that time of year again when the best of the best in the film industry vie against each other for the coveted and sought after Oscar. The Academy Awards is celebrating its 90th year. On March 4th, it is hosted, for the second time, by popular late night talk show host and executive producer, Jimmy Kimmel.
JimmyKimmel Live! has been on ABC since 2003. To be on television for 15 years is no small feat. Kimmel is a witty, entertaining comic who has an unassuming persona. To general audiences, he is likable. Based on the title of this post, please do not assume that I am trying to imply that Jimmy Kimmel comes across like Forrest Gump or even that he looks like Tom Hanks. However, some people claim to see a resemblance
So, what am I implying? My claim is that Oscar nominees have worked on, contributed and created an Artistic film version of a great story. This story has attracted audiences due to its relevancy in their lives. The social issues explored, alluded to or addressed in the film imitate real life. An example of this is the Oscar-winning movie: Forrest Gump (1995). It has numerous social ills that reflect its relevance. It is because of the importance of relevancy that Jimmy Kimmel is the perfect host for the Oscars. As far as hosting the Oscars, you could not find a better and more perfect host. Unlike The Last Week Tonight show with John Oliver or Steven Colbert in The Late Show, Jimmy Kimmel’s Kimmel Live! stayed out of the political fray; until, this year.
Soon after his son was born, a nurse noticed an unusual breathing pattern in the child. Jimmy Kimmel’s second child by wife Molly needed heart Surgery. This life threatening medical problem for his infant son will later provide Kimmel with a social issue, child health care, that he felt he must address with his audiences. His concern was for thousands of children who need expensive medical care; but, whose parents could not afford it. Now, his show was not just about comedy, it now became relevant to every parent in his audience.
Over the years, the Oscar ceremonies has evolved from just an award show. It has become a platform for social issues and injustices too. Watching the Oscars is not just about the red carpet, glamour, clothes, who will win, and the beautiful. Today, it makes social statements with interviews, ribbon pins or speeches. Watching the Oscars has evolved into an event that is extremely relevant today.
This is an excerpt from The Washington Post quoting part of Kimmel’s monologue from last year’s Oscars:
He mentioned that the Oscars were airing in “225 countries that now hate us,” and said he was happy that Homeland Security let French Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert into the country.
The U.S. is divided right now, Kimmel said, and people have been telling the host that he needs to say something to unite everyone.
“Let’s just get something straight off the top: I can’t do that. There’s only one Braveheart in this room and he’s not going to unite us either,” Kimmel said referring to Mel Gibson. Then Kimmel said that the best thing to do would be for people to reach out to someone they disagree with and have a conversation. “That could make America great again,” he said.
If you were one of those people who did not see Kimmel’s heart wrenching pleas to politicians and lawmakers to extend funding for Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), I have included it below this paragraph. Again, his own infant son had to undergo heart surgery, not once but twice, as an infant and at age 7 months. Kimmel’s passionate cry for “common sense and decency” touched the hearts of millions. So, besides the fact that Kimmel is an excellent choice for hosting the Oscars due to his wit and comic timing, he is also a relevant choice because he publicly cares about many social issues that people face today. By the way, CHIPS was not extended due to budget cuts.
Kimmel’s Plea For “Common Sense and Decency”
This clip is a little over 13 minutes. If you have not seen it, you might like to watch it now. Warning! If you do watch it, you will laugh; but, your eyes will tear up too. This is a parent who not only loves his child; but, who is also deeply concerned for other parents whose children are sick and; cannot afford healthcare without government assistance.
Once again, I believe that one of the common attributes of an award-winning film is its relevancy for people of today and in the future. I had to think about all the movies that touched my heart. Nearly, all of them were Oscar-winning movies: To Kill a Mockingbird; On The Waterfront; Road To Perdition; Signs; The Prestige; Rocky; Inception; Warrior; Locke; The Patriot; and so many more. The topics varied; but, they always had heart warming moments that touch my very soul.
Here is my favorite scene picks that personally affected me the most from Forrest Gump
The last 15 minutes of Forrest Gump is pure movie magic. Forrest (Tom Hanks) is recently widowed and raising his five-year old son as a single parent. When Forrest watches his little boy get on the school bus, alone for the first time, is when my eyes become floodgates. He sits on a tree stump at the bus stop; and, there he patiently waits for his son to return to him: safe and loved. This always brings tears to my eyes. The relevancy should be obvious for any parent and perhaps children too. Especially, in light of the heinous acts of violence on America’s children in schools and on the streets. The unspoken fear of every parent: their child does not return to them after school or after play.
This first clip is Forrest caring for his sick wife and some discussion of what Vietnam War was like. Then, he visits her grave. It is nearly six minutes long. It goes by very quickly.
This next clip is very short: 36 seconds. Forrest is sending little Forrest on a school bus. Haley Joel Osment plays Little Forrest in his first film role at the age of six.
This scene shows Forrest prepared to sit there on that tree stump; until, little Forrest returns. Besides the great story, the acting, the cinematography, the director, …music adds layers of complexity to the make a memorable scene.
Forrest Gump won six Oscars at the 1995 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects. It was nominated for 13 Oscars. Many critics agree that this movie is one of the top ten movies ever produced. I believe one of the reasons is its relevancy for the audience. This movie addresses single parenting, the physically and mentally challenged, child abuse and incest, War, Veterans of war, Civil Rights, falling in love, burying a love one, revolutionaries, racism, social protest, drug addiction, bullies, etc…The list is long. The story of Gump is a story of human kind; good and evil.
Forrest Gump touched my heart and will remain in my memory; but there were other winners that year that are definitely worth noting
Other Oscars winners that year that included parenting as part of the plot or subplot were The Lion King; The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Legends of The Fall; and The Madness of King George. There were twoother Oscar winners that did not have parenting as a subplot; but, they did address other social issues. Ed Wood addressed drug addiction, ageist, and acceptance of alternative life styles like transvestite. Speed addressed violence and the fear of a homegrown terrorist. The main point is that nearly all Oscar caliber movies have some kind of social relevance to engage its audiences. Thankfully, we can honor all those creative artists and their movie magic; especially when we have talented hosts like Jimmy Kimmel to guide the way.
I would like to thank Oscar’s Blogathon hosts:
In honor of the Oscars this year, Paula from Paula’s Cinema Club (Twitter -@Paula_Guthat); Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled (Twitter @Irishjayhawk66) and Aurora from Once Upon A Screen are hosting this year’s 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. Please use the following links below to read wonderful posts about Oscar movies and other Oscar topics!
William Holden (1918 – 1981) was an unknown in Hollywood in 1938; yet, he was given the desperately sought after lead in boxing movie, Golden Boy (1939). Upon its released, it became an instant success, and so did Holden. This was his screen debut; and, much of his success he gallantly attributed to his co-star Barbara Stanwyck, who took the 20-year-old under her wing. From 1939 to the year of his his death, on April 1st, he sent her flowers as a reminder that he will always be thankful for her friendship and support. This speaks volumes about the character of William Holden.
Unfortunately, my appreciation of Holden came much later in my life. Part of the reason why I didn’t get caught up in the awe-inspiring Holden might be because of my mother. They belonged to the same generation. She was born in March; and, he was born in April of the same year. I avoided most of his movies because I didn’t understand my Mom’s enthusiasm over his work. As a typical teenager in angst, I wanted to distance myself from my mother’s tastes and opinions. During the 60s and 70s, there truly was a generation gap.
To my mother, Holden always appeared young, talented, and engaging
She also saw him as the romantic, handsome actor in a leading role.
I tried to watch one of his movies on television when I was ten years old. I watched Stalag 17 (1953). Realistically,I was too young to understand this WWII war movie. As a kid, I heard so much about him that it was like watching a family member suffering at the hands of his “friends.” When he received a brutal beating for being an assumed traitor, it traumatized me. Now, it sounds silly; but at that time, it was painful. After that experience, I didn’t want to watch any of his movies again. That is, until 35 years later.
William Holden in leather jacket, with black eye and cigar, during filming of Stalag 17. (Photo by John Swope/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
When my mother passed away in 2002, I stayed home from work, sick. Needing a distraction from feeling miserable, I turned on the television and began watching Turner Movie Classics (TMC). It was airing Born Yesterday (1950). As I watched it, I thought about my mom and what her reaction might have been as she had watched it. Then, I started to laugh. Eventually, I enjoyed the movie for its own merits.
Like most people, as I have matured, so has my tastes and perceptions. For me, William Holden’s work became an acquired taste. Now, each time when I watch one of his movies, I marvel at how wonderful he is on the screen. Born Yesterday (1950) was the first movie that I truly enjoyed watching. Then, came Sabrina(1954) followed by Stalag 17(1953), again! He won his only Oscar for his role in this movie. But, the best movie, for me was Sunset Boulevard(1950). However, for this post, I decided to write about the movie that begun my appreciation of all Holden movies: Born Yesterday.
Link for Movie Trailer for Born Yesterday
Born Yesterday (1950) and some kudos too
Judy Holiday was a successful stage actress who played Billie Dawn on stage. She was a newcomer by Hollywood’s standards. It was quite shocking to many people when she won an Oscar for her performance. Holiday’s Oscar completion that year was Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in All About Eve, Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, and Eleanor Parker in Caged, not too shabby to say the least. Holden was also nominated as Best Actor in Sunset Boulevard.
Many of Holden films were acclaimed; but, when it came to winning an Oscar, he described it like this to film critic, Roger Ebert:
Apart from winning for “Stalag 17,” I’ve been the bird in a lot of badminton games where other people won.
As you watch Holiday’s Oscar winning performance, let me assure you that Holiday, herself, is not a “dumb Blonde.” There have been reports that her IQ was 171. I tell you this just in case you confuse the actress with her part in this movie.
Born Yesterday Movie Summary
Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford) is a self-made tycoon who has more money than he can ever spend with an insatiable appetite for power. His business is in steel junk. Like all filthy rich men, he has come to Washington D.C. to buy a senator. He brings with him his girlfriend of seven years, Billie Dawn (Judy Holiday). Billie is an ex showgirl who is barely literate. Harry and his 100,000 lawyer use Billie to sign most the business transactions to give Harry protection from his illegal practices
To help smooth out Harry’s reputation in D.C., his lawyer hires a free-lance journalist, Paul Verrall (William Holden), to write a glowing interview about the millionaire. As the lawyer explains, Paul is one of the reporters to watch out for. If Harry “takes him in” then, he has nothing to worry about later.
However, during an initial meeting with the senator and his wife, Billie embarrasses Harry with her lack of social graces and general knowledge about the nation’s capitol. The lawyer asks Harry why not send her home. Harry says he thinks he is in love with the “dumb broad” and wants to keep her around: They enjoy playing Gin Rummy.
Then, his lawyer suggests that Harry hires Paul Verrall to not only write an interview about him but to also tutor Billie about Washington and its politics. Unbeknownst to Harry, Paul had briefly spoke to Billie just before as he met Harry for the first time. Harry offers him $200.00 a week and Paul agrees. When Harry asks Paul why he agreed to tutor Billie, Paul says he loves to educate voters about their government. He then admits that he would have done it for nothing (He does not add because he had already met Billie).
Paul later explains to Billie, A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in. He explains further that a democracy is only as good as the people in it; and all the bad in the world is bred by selfishness. Surprisingly, Billie is a quick learner. She and Paul develop a mutual respect for each other while falling in love too.
You naturally feel sorry for Billie because Harry degrades her at every turn. He constantly yells at her to shut up! When Harry wants to prove how “stupid” she is to Paul, he asks her “What is a peninsula?” Billie says, “it is some kind of medicine.”
Later, Paul asked Billie if she knew what Democracy was. She answers, “yeah, that means not Republican.” Later, when Billie begins to question Harry’s intelligence and his illegal practices, he begins to suspect what it is she is actually learning. Billie asks Harry who was Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776). Harry does not have a clue. He becomes angry and yells at Paul that he is not paying him to teach Billie about dead people: I am paying you to teach her how to act with live people.
While things heat up between Paul and Billie, things go sour for Harry and Billie. The lawyer persuades Harry to propose marriage to Billie since she owns more of the company, on paper, than he does. Besides, the lawyer warns, a wife cannot testify against her husband in a court of law. This would further protect Harry in his illegal dealings.
Meanwhile, Paul gives Billie books, newspapers, and visits to historical monuments, museums, and government buildings. During it all, they discuss political ideas and the ideas behind the concepts of liberty and equality. Charming Paul is kind and patient as he strives to help her realize there so much more to life and to learn. I really enjoyed the scenes filmed in the D.C. area as Billie is learning about the struggle for freedom. It is in these scenes that we see her begin to discover her own individual power too.
I don’t want to give away spoilers, at least not any more than I have already. I hope you have the opportunity to watch this classic. It is interesting to compare how much has changed and evolved in U.S. politics and in our civil rights since the making of this film in 1950.
Some Closing Thoughts About William Holden
Holden’s movie career span was over 40 years and included over 75 movies. However, not all was Golden, in his life. Despite a few professional setbacks, I also learned that he had some very sad days in his personal life. He and his youngest brother, Bobbie, served in the military during WWII. Robert was a Navy fighter pilot and was killed in action (1944). Much later, in 1966, he was in a car accident where alcohol was involved and a person died. To have experienced these two horrific tragedies would have caused an enormously amount of sadness in anyone’s life. It is not too surprising that he battled with alcoholism for years.
Holden died four months after the release of his last movie, Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. (1981). Sadly, many people remember his death first before they recall his movies. They recall the tragic circumstances that surrounded it: it was accidental, he was alone, and he was not discovered for days.
Fortunately, there is an overabundance of wonderful things to say about his work and his life. For those who were lucky enough to have known him, he was described as a gentleman who was kind and honest. To his peers, he was fun to work with and was the calming force for many on set. To his fans, he will always be one of Hollywood’s finest actors. To my personal delight, I also learned he managed/ partnered a wildlife preserve in Africa: A man after my own heart.
William Holden always played the worldly, intelligent cynic. A witty hero who was slightly tainted as to not to be confused with a generic Prince Charming or Golden Boy. The characterization of his roles were complex with layers upon layers of good and not so good personal traits. His portrayals were believable enough to convince you that you might have met this person or someone like him, in real life. One of his gifts as an actor was to convey a sense of realism in all of his roles.
I hope you will read more Blog posts about William Holden and his movies. With that, I would like to thank Virginie Pronovost at The Wonderful World of Cinema for hosting The Second William Holden Blogathon.
Use the following link to read more blogging tributes to a great actor and his work.
When most people think of a hero, they think of a combat soldier, or an ancient mythological Greek or Roman god, or even a DC or Marvel Comic strip superhero. Very few people think of an actor as a hero. This post is a tribute to John Garfield: An actor, artist,Hollywood star and hero. Even though he did not win an Oscar, he was nominated twice, once for Best Supporting Actor (Four Daughters, 1938) and once for Best Actor (Body and Soul, 1948).
Was he robbed or stubbed? I don’t think so. I think he just ran out of time and had too many obstacles in his way. However, this tribute goes beyond praising his work and contributions to the Arts. It is also a tribute to him as a great human being who stood strong when most of those around him faltered, failed, and at times betrayed him and others. In life, Garfield performed heroic deeds.
I am so happy that KG at KG’s Movie Rants is hosting the Unsung Hero Blogathon. It celebrates various actors who should at least be praised for their contribution to their craft and Art, especially if they did not win an Oscar. You can read more about other deserving actors using the following link:
His name and image is unrecognizable by most audiences today and very little credit is given to him for much of his work. Despite this, John Garfield’s contributions to movie making and acting are still felt around the world today. He was one of the trail blazers for removing the rigid controls of the old Hollywood studio system. On screen, he introduced new acting techniques that are still practiced by actors and appreciated by audiences today. Possibly, and more importantly, his life emphasized the importance that all artists should be “citizens of the world.” They should not be silent when confronted with inhumane or immoral actions by people or governments. Especially, those who disregard Constitutional rights or even the human rights of others. An example of how relevant this is today, think of Meryl Streep’s moving speech at the 2017 Golden Globe awards. In case you missed it, I put the link of the video in the References.
I thought of Garfield After Streep’s Golden Globes Message
There were conflicting opinions about her message. Some praised her for her courage to speak out; and, there were others who complained that her job is to entertain and keep quiet. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc…, you will find artists and actors exercising their freedom of speech. While at the same time you will still find people, under the delusion, that they own these outspoken celebrities and can control them because they are fans and buy tickets to see them. Some even go so far as to personally threaten them or a love one if they continue to speak out. Unfortunately, actors, from the 1920s though 1960s, were controlled and silenced by the old studio system using tactics similar to these.
What Does This Have to do With Garfield? Like One of His Noir Films, Let’s Start at The End
On May 21, 1952, Garfield passed away in a two room apartment while sleeping in a friend’s bed. A robust, charismatic mega-star in the prime of his life. He was 39 years old. Ironically, he once said, that an actor doesn’t mature until they reach the age of 40. Previously, the HUAC (House of American Activities Committee), blacklisted him. This ban forbidden him from working in Hollywood for over a year. Instead of working in Hollywood, he landed the lead part in Broadway play. This is a part that he had badly wanted for years. Even before he became a Hollywood star, he believed this was the part that he was born to play.
His friend, Clifton Odets, who came from the same Jewish neighborhood, wrote a play “The Golden Boy,” for him. This happened years ago, when Garfinkle was still a struggling actor in New York City. Odets’ play was centered on a talented violinist and boxer, Joe Bonaparte, who must make a fateful decision between money or integrity. This decision will alter his life forever. Tragically, in 1951, John Garfield will also make a decision that will irreversibly change the course of his life.
Although, Odets pushed for Garfinkle to play the lead, he failed to secure that part for his friend, Julie (Julius Garfinkle). Many believe that the disappointment of not getting the lead part in Golden Boy is what drove Julie to sign a contract with a major Hollywood studio. WhenGarfinklesigns a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers, they will change his name from Jacob Julius Garfinkleto John Garfield. The studio thoughtGarfinkle sounded too Jewish. Considering his parents are Jewish; and, they immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine to escape the Russian pogroms, it is safe to say; his name sounded Jewish. By the time Julie (Jack Or Dutch were his other nicknames) reached his 20s, the world was struggling through the Great Depression, The Great Dust Bowl, Hitler’s rise to power, segregation, and anti-Semitism (which was the norm of the day, even in America).
What was Garfield really like?
The contract that Garfield signed with the studio had a surprising and extremely rare option added to it. The option allowed Garfield time off from making movies to do stage work. Garfield believed that work in the theater is creating Art; while work in Hollywood was simply making money. The studio did not want to add this option; but, Garfield proved to be a strong negotiator.
Maybe, this skill developed while he was still on the debate team in a special school: He came in 2nd in the City Wide Debate Completion sponsored by the New York Times. While growing up in poverty and living from house to house, he also developed a stammer; but, that didn’t stop him from taking drama and speech classes at this special school (P.S. 45). Nor did the stammer, keep him from becoming a Leader of a street gang. As Garfield explained: Growing up in a place where there is a gang on every street, you learn that safety is in numbers.
When Julie was seven years old, his mother passed away from complications of a childbirth, two years earlier. This is when his only sibling, Max, was born. They were basically raised by relatives in three different city Burroughs: Lower east side of Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn. Their father was indifferent to the boys when they were little. He did remarry and fortunately, they placed Julie in a school for troubled teenagers. Before these classes, his only positive outlet for his frustrations was in a boxing gym. He was quite good at it and even boxed professionally for a short awhile. Eventually, he will replace boxing with a new and different kind of excitement. An experimental acting class. This class used unique techniques which later became known as The Method.
How did he seem to others?
He was a friend, a husband, a father, a son, an athlete, and a wonderful story-teller. To some people, he could be abrasive at times; yet, for others they remember his soft, soothing voice, and his completely disarming smile. Some, who knew him better, would describe him as funny, adventurous and definitely loyal. Many would say he was passionate about anyone or anything that he cared about. Others would say he had a wonderful imagination and a creative mind. Regardless of his skills in negotiating deals or charming people, his passion was in acting; and, with the spirit of a true artist, he found himself at odds with the poorly written scripts and/or produced movies that the studio would forced upon him.
Hollywood And So Much More
Before he left the New York stage to go to Hollywood, he took a year off to ride the rails as a hobo and working his way across America doing various jobs. He met all kinds of people and learned about their lives and surviving the Great Depression. Many of his tales of that adventurous time would later be depicted in a movie by a friend, Preston Sturges’Sullivan’s Travels (1940).
In Garfield’s first movie, Four Daughters(1938), movie goers had a new experience. They seen something they had never seen on-screen before. They did not see an actor pretending to be a character; but, an artist who was the character. For the first time on screen “The Method” is explored and successfully utilized on film. His craft and his skill as an actor did not go unnoticed. He received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor from the Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Movie clip of Garfield’s break out movie: Four Daughters
In a similar way that Garfield was influenced by James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, many actors will be influenced by his performances. Actors like James Dean, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Cliff, Harvey Keitel, Robert Di Nero, Al Pacino, Sean Penn and many more followed his lead and learn The Method. If it were possible to combine all their faces together into one face; I imagine that I would still see John Garfield’s face.
A Dream Deferred, Again
Later, as a Hollywood star, John Garfield, had the opportunity again to play the part that he knew he was born to play, Joe Bonaparte. This opportunity came not on stage; but, as a movie based on the play. Again, the fates refused to smile upon his desire to play his dream role. Warner Brothers refused to loan him to Columbia Pictures to make the movie. Due to artistic disagreements, Garfield refused to make movies that he deemed as crap. So, he cheerfully endured 11 suspensions. Warner Brothers found a way to add salt to the wounds of his suspension by not allowing him to have his dream role. In fact, it went to newcomer William Holden. It became his break out picture which earned him the nicknames of Golden Boy or Golden Holden. Eventually, the studio won out and forced Garfield to make some “B” movies that turned out to be much better than they were intended, thanks to his talents; but still, they were “B” movies.
Patriotism And WWII
When WWII began, Garfield tried to enlist. He was turned down because it was discovered that he had a damaged heart. As a child, he became ill with Scarlet fever which was not diagnosed at that time. Disappointed but still not giving up, he wanted to help in the war effort. So, he, fellow film star Bette Davis and Jules Stein (president of the Music Corporation of America) opened the Hollywood Canteen. It fed and offered entertainment for all Allied soldiers (women and men). It had signed up over 3000 Hollywood volunteers who waited tables, worked the kitchen, danced with or just performed a little show for the servicemen and women. Most military personnel stopped by just before they “shipped out.” He also toured with the USO to entertain troops overseas and promoted the buying of War Bonds to support the war effort. In addition, he also made some very impressive war movies that praised the American soldier during the war.
After The War: A New Independence
In 1946, just after WWII ended and the Cold War begun, Garfield’s contract with Warner Brothers ended. Instead of signing another contract with another Studio, he decided to go independent and start his own production Company called Enterprise Studio. He was one of the first actors to do this. Maybe not so ironically, the first film project was a boxing movie, Body and Soul (1947).
Many critics and Garfield fans hail this movie as a masterpiece. It is considered by some critics as the best boxing movie ever made. Garfield portrays a boxer, Charley Davis, who battles to the top while losing his values, principles, and integrity. This is a classic Noir film. It begins with Charley reminiscing about his past and the his regretful decisions. This film will influence future movie makers of boxing movies like Martin Scorsese of Raging Bull and Sylvester Stallone of Rocky.
To make the gritty, in your face, realistic boxing sequences, James Wong Howe, cinematographer, used a hand-held camera and moved around the actors on roller skates. It is no wonder why Francis Lyon and Robert Parrish won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, Editing. The movie was also nominated for two other Academy Awards: Best Screenplay (Abraham Polonsky – later blacklisted) and Best Actor (John Garfield). This will be Garfield’s second Academy nomination.
For the casting of this movie, Garfield pushed and demanded that a black actor, Canada Lee, portrayedBen Chaplin. Lee added authenticity to his role as a boxer; since, he used to professionally Box and had 13 KOs (Knock Outs) to his credit. Hiring Lee was a bold and controversial move at a time when segregation was still Law and the cultural norm; and, the Civil Rights Movement will not begin for another eight years.
Modern Day Witch-hunt, HUAC: A Bit of History. For those of you, who know all about this part of American History, please feel free to scroll pass
Although this was the beginning of the Cold War, before and during World War II, many Americans and intellectuals were bedazzled by the ideology of socialism. Socialist Russia was our ally who fought with us against Fascism. In defense of these people, socialism does sound attractive, in theory. So, if someone offered an open-minded individual a Socialistic petition to sign, during the war years, which promised some working class equality: Most artist and college students would sign it; however, this does not make them a communist.
Once WWII is over and the fear of Fascism is defeated, another fear will take its place, the Red Scare. This Cold War with the Soviet Union will mostly be fought overseas and with spy hunts everywhere. Fear does very weird things to people who otherwise would never dream of lying or hurting another human being.
Even Shakespeare would be shocked by the “Web of Lies” that were weaved in order to deceive and protect oneself from the accusations of “Being Red!”
There were over 300 names Blacklisted from the Entertainment Industry. Of those names listed as having communist connections, only one, used to be, a communist party member. It is interesting to note, most of them were in fact, Jewish (70%).
If there had been a real threat, they should have been arrested as spies. The only people arrested and sent to prison were the few who refuse to lie or who refuse to “cooperate.” For this, they were, ironically, charged with contempt of thelaw Congress.
The Hollywood Ten: a bit more History
The Hollywood Ten (9 writers and 1 director/producer) were convicted and sent to Federal prison for not being spies; but, because they did not admit to it. They refuse to name names and cut a deal like Chambers, a real spy. To protest this miscarriage of justice by Congress, an action group, Commitment For The First Amendment, was formed by Hollywood’s A- listers. The membership for this group was around 300 people. Garfield was one of those people. They flew to D.C. and protested the HUAC hearings. It only backfired on them. It was found out that one of their members used to be in the Communist party, Stanley Hayden. As a result, all members came under suspicion. Then, it was found out, 3 of the Hollywood 10used to be members of the Communist party. None of the members of the Committee For The First Amendment were communists. Nearly all were New Deal, Liberal Democrats.
Why did President Truman allow this travesty against the law and to the American people happen? According to a television bio-movie, Truman (1995), he didn’t think the America people would be so stupid to buy into HUAC’s brand of patriotism (This must have happened during an election year).
In reality, a 1946 poll, I snicker, claimed 78% of the American people believed Soviet agents infiltrated the United States Government. As a matter of fact, the United States Justice Department was investigating the Senior Editor of Time Magazine, Whittaker Chambers. Chambers had been a spy for the Soviets. He would testify to HUAC that an underground Communist Network had been working within our government since the 1930s. Then, he started naming names in order to cut a deal. One of those he named was Alger Hiss. He was an official in the State Department. Truman claimed Hiss was not a spy but a “Red Herring” to protect Chambers.
I am going out on a limb, and suggest, that Hollywood was perhaps a “Red Herring” too. It is like a magic show, distract them here while the trick is played there. This would take the focus off the United States Government. If it could have been proven true, it would have shaken the very foundation of this country, especially after suffering the effects of two World Wars. It is interesting to note that no spies were actually found in the government. As a matter of fact, the hearings tapered off after Senator McCarthy accused the United States Army of being communists. As a result, it is only in Hollywood that the accusations of “Being Red” still continued.
The Fateful Decision
When Garfield was asked to testify before the HUAC on April 23, 1951, he refused to give names or cut a deal like most of the “cooperating” Hollywood witnesses.
Here is Garfield’s final words to the HUAC:
“When I was originally requested to appear before the committee, I said that I would answer all questions, fully and without any reservations, and that is what I have done. I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. My life is an open book. I was glad to appear before you and talk with you. I am no Red. I am no pink. I am no fellow traveler. I am a Democrat by politics, a liberal by inclination, and a loyal citizen of this country by every act of my life.
Despite his patriotic efforts during the war, he was still Blacklisted for not lying. Congress expected him to lie and admit he was guilty of being a member of the communist party. Then, ask for mercy because he was duped by the “Reds.” He was supposed to denounce them and cut a deal. He was suppose to lie again on his peers, friends and even on his own family (Roberta, his wife, had an expired Communist party card). For readers, who are completely at lost about this time in American History, I highly recommend the movie, The Way We Were(1973). I know it is sappy; but, it helps to understand the mindset of people during this turbulent time; plus, the movie is wonderful to watch.
A Dream, Not Deferred And What Could Have Been
Despite the blacklisting, Garfield fulfilled his dream. “Golden Boy” was revived on Broadway between March 12, 1952 and April 6, 1952. He had completed 55 performances. Actor Jack Klugman played his brother, Frank Bonaparte in the play. In an interview, Klugman describe Garfield’s excitement of doing a future project with his old friend Elia Kazan (another blacklister). He was going to partly base the story on Garfield. Klugman later learned the name of that project was On the Waterfront(1954). The plot included a story of a boxer who made the decision to take a dive and ruin his life. I can only imagine how the iconic Brando scenes could have been done by Garfield. It would have been his “mature” moment as an actor. If only, he could have been permitted to do it. If only, he had lived long enough. It would have been awesome.
His Last Stressful Days
Ten days before Garfield died, his friend and colleague, Canada Lee (Blacklisted) had died of a heat attack at the age of 45. Weeks before Garfield died, he was informed, during one of his stage performances, that Federal charges were being bought against him in contempt of court (not naming names) and possibly perjury under oath. Variety magazine claims Garfield was going to recant his denial under oath to the HUAC in an upcoming interview because he wanted to cut a deal with the government.
If Garfield had went back to court, there would be no deals; and, if found guilty, he would spend time in a Federal prison. A couple of days before he died, he found out that CBS cancelled a show he had performed before a live television audience. It was a scene from Golden Boy. Kim Stanley (aka female Brando) performed it with him. Again the HUAC had intervened and prevented his work. In addition to all these stress factors that week, it was rumored that he separated from his wife, Roberta, of 21 years. This was not unusual in their long marriage. The night he died, Roberta was expecting him to come home.
So, on May 2o, 1952, he played a rigorous game of tennis. Then, he and a friend ate a heavy dinner. Later, he complained of not feeling well and just needed to rest. His friend, insisted that he take the bed; and, she would rest on the couch. Why didn’t he call his doctor? He was under a doctor’s care since he had a heart attack the year before. I can only assume that growing up in poverty creates some life long habits, like not going to the doctor when you feel ill. Besides, he just didn’t play tough guys in the movies, he was a tough guy.
The following morning she decided to let him sleep in. When she went to wake him, she bought him a glass of orange juice. When he did not respond, she called his doctor. He died on May 21, 1952, just within a few miles of where he was born on March 4, 1913 and a few hours before his friend, Clifford Odets, would cut a deal with HUAC.
John Garfield deserves a Posthumous Honorary Academy Award. His life and work had a positive, historical impact on Hollywood, the stage, and even on the American political system. By giving him this award, he would be given credit for his achievements and his family and friends could finally receive some justice to his memory. John Garfield is what America is all about: Courageous, creative, hard-working, tenacious, honorable, and defending those who can’t defend themselves. If the Academy honors Garfield’s memory in this way, perhaps, he might finally rest in peace because he will always be remembered.
If you would like to know more about Garfield and his work, check out another Garfield Blogathon that has great reviews of his movies. The link is below: