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Mike Schilling

Is it just me, or is the whole point On the Waterfront to justify Kazan's actions? There's a murderous criminal conspiracy running the docks, and only one man is brave enough to fight it by testifying.

Ken Houghton

She's wrong about "at least half the auditorium" as a matter of fact. (To be clear, her statement—"television cameras showed"—is accurate.)

Budd Schulberg was and is an Unrepentant Liberal (working with Francis Scott Fitzgerald can do that to you, I guess), as well as the slimly-disguised model for the Really Fun Kim Newman novel (a phrase redundant in itself).


But Lance ... you're kind of right. Since I may never get that OTHER post (checks watch, taps pointy-toed pump), I admit, I was thinking, "Mannion's gonna argue with me on Taming." Come on. You know you want to. :D

Ken, you caught my careful phrasing. I am not sure whether you are arguing that there were more than half standings, or fewer? And of course, there were some like Steven Spielberg who were SITTING and applauding. (I always thought that was so, so Spielberg, splitting the difference like that.) Since accounts varied, and some took refuge in vague adjectives like "most," I just went for what I saw. If you have a definitive source (or were there yourself), do tell.


gah, that's standing, not "standings."

Mike, that is the usual reading of Waterfront, but as a lot of critics have pointed out over the years, the analogy between Terry Molloy (Brando) and Kazan is poor. Also, apparently Molloy was based on a real person.

Randy Paul


Actually there is a little more to it. Kazan directed All My Sons and Death of a Salesman on Broadway. His naming names caused a fallout between him and Arthur Miller, who wrote those plays. Miller wrote The Crucible which appeared on Broadway in 1952 in which the John Proctor character goes to the gallows rather than name names. In 1954 On the Waterfront comes out in which Terry Malloy names names heroically. Coincidence? I'm not so sure.


Randy, I apologize for being unclear. What I meant by "poor analogy" was that, although there is no doubt in my mind that On the Waterfront is a bit of apologetics on the part of Kazan and Schulberg, a comparison between HUAC and an investigation of the Mafia is, shall we say, a stretch. Kazan's movie shows a world where the mobbed-up union's corruption is destroying lives and resulting in literal murder. Unless you believe in "thought crimes," what HUAC turned up in its investigation of Communist infiltration of the film industry consisted of sinister moments like a character whistling "The Internationale" while awaiting an elevator.

That is what I mean by a poor analogy.

Randy Paul

Fair enough. Although the give and take between Kazan and Miller is kind of interesting. Rumor has it that when After the Fall came out, the character that named names prompted Kazan to say "The stoolie? That was me."


The analogy between HUAC and the investigation of the mob in OtW is a poor one, but it's arguably Kazan's analogy. If one assumes Kazan saw OtW as a vehicle through which he could justify testifying (regardless of what Schulberg's perspective was on the story or whether the character was based on a real person), then obviously he would want to villainize those his stand-in was testifying against as much as possible. Kazan was presumably attempting to justify the mere idea of being a stoolpigeon, creating a rationale where it would be unethical and immoral not to testify as a way of making his own actions less reprehensible. If you can get people to admit that sometimes it's okay to rat out one's colleagues, then it just becomes an argument about when and under what circumstances it might be okay and it's worth remembering that domestic Communism was the equally overinflated but nonetheless fear-inducing Islamofascism of its day.

dan k

Please always mention that while Kazan (who named names) got to keep making movies for another 20 years, people who did not were blacklisted from Hollywood for 15+ years (like Zero Mostel).

Below is a recount (via Wikipedia) of Mostel's appearance before the HUAC committee. The media of the 1950s comes off as surprisingly similar to today's batch of lapdogs, sloths, and scoundrels:

It began with the committee’s counsel immediately launching his attack. “Mr. Mostel, are you or are you not a Communist?” Zero leaped out of his chair behind the counsel’s table, knocking the microphones to the floor, and reached for the throat of HUAC’s attorney while shouting, “That man called me a Communist! Get him out of here! He asked me if I’m a Communist! Get him out of here!”
The committee was roaring with laughter. They were delighted. Here they had Zero Mostel all to themselves, on stage, in a private dining room. Zero went on playing and parlaying with them for at least twenty minutes, responding to their questions by reciting each amendment in the Bill of Rights.
Finally, HUAC’s lawyers cautiously said, “Mr. Mostel, we know all about those amendments. We simply want to know are you, or are you not, claiming the Fifth Amendment.”
He didn’t ask Zero, “Are you or are you not a Communist.” He asked him, “Are you or are you not claiming the Fifth Amendment.” What they wanted him to say was “Yes.” After another ten minutes of sparring, Zero said, “Yes, I’m claiming the Fifth Amendment.”
The hearings were stopped right there. The committee’s PR guy goes to the door and opens it. He doesn’t say a word to the crowd of reporters. He just holds up five fingers, and the press dashes off to the telephones there in the hotel. The headlines the next morning: “Zero Mostel Pleads Fifth Amendment at HUAC Meeting.”

Martin Henderson

Few of us were around in the Thirties, when the associations involved were contracted. I'd like to think I wouldn't have been fool enough to join the Communists, but I can easily imagine going to a meeting or two, if only to meet members of the opposite sex. If, years later, I were hauled before HUAC, I just plain don't know what I would have done, so I'm not about to pass judgment on those who found themselves in that position. (Incidentally, I believe Kazan named only those previously named, for what it's worth.) As for Steyn, he has written some nice obits in The Atlantic, which don't seem to serve any ideological agenda.
The victims of the blacklist included the talented and the mediocre, the brave and the cowardly, and everything in between. As the Siren says, nobody benefited from this sorry episode.

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