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TENDER COMRADES by Patrick McGilligan


A Backstory of the Blacklist

by Patrick McGilligan & Paul Buhle

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-17046-7
Publisher: St. Martin's

A massive, slow-moving oral history of 30-plus Hollywood blacklistees. The Hollywood blacklist starred few heroes and far too many villains. The latter range from the studios and networks that illegally abetted the blacklist to those who ``named names'' to many blacklistees themselves, staunch Stalinist ideologues who would have gladly extirpated any opposition if the tables had been turned. The real victims were those whose left-wing ties provided the thinnest pretext for informers to trap them in the mad gyre. This collection presents a wide range of blacklistees, from a few of the more well known, such as Martin Ritt, Jules Dassin, and Ring Lardner Jr., to a large number of the obscure and marginal, most of them writers. Because the subjects tell their own lives in their own words, this leads to both an idiosyncratic freshness as well as a lack of focus, with opinion and anecdote substituting for depth. Also, with many interviews, the blacklist is only a small component, and we are treated to biographical minutiae of extremely minor figures (some with only a handful or less of films to their name). Even die-hard film and blacklist buffs will find their patience tried. McGilligan (Fritz Lang, 1997, etc.) and veteran oral historian Buhle know their material well, but their questions tend to be facile and unrevealing. But though this book is almost impossible to read cover to cover, it is interesting to see just how varied the experiences of blacklistees were. Some fled to Europe or Mexico and built careers there; some used ``fronts,'' or pseudonyms; some got out of the biz. Some have forgiven their tormentors, some bear deep grievances. But the careers of all of them were seriously damaged by the experience: Perhaps this explains why so many of these interviewees are not household names. Invaluable source material, but much more than the ordinary reader wants or needs to know. (32 b&w photos, not seen)