Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Who's Almost Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Abraham Polonsky

A week ago there was a Polonsky retrospective on TCM. I figured there has to be a LES, aka KV, link since he was born in NYC. However, the census has him in the Bronx in 1920. I can't find him in any of the others. The interview provided other evidence. I'll explain in the next post if you don't pick it up. If you do, I know it's a stretch. btw, he died just a few months after this interview. This is just one part of six that you can find on youtube. Fascinating stuff
from wikipedia:
Abraham Lincoln Polonsky (December 5, 1910 - October 26, 1999) was an American screenwriter blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios in the 1950s, in the midst of the McCarthy era. Abraham Polonsky was born in New York City, the eldest son of Russian-American Jewish immigrants. In 1928 he entered City College of New York and following graduation, earned his law degree in 1935 at Columbia Law School. After several years of practice, mixed with teaching, he decided to devote himself to writing. Polonsky wrote essays, radio scripts and several novels before beginning his career in Hollywood. His first novel, The Goose is Cooked, written with Mitchell A. Wilson under the singular pseudonym of Emmett Hogarth, was published in 1940.
A committed Marxist, in the late 1930s Polonsky also joined the American Communist Party. He participated in union politics and established and edited a left-wing newspaper, The Home Front. Polonsky signed a screenwriter's contract with Paramount Studios before leaving the US to serve in Europe in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II (from 1943 to 1945). After the war, he briefly returned to writing for Paramount. He wrote the screenplay for Robert Rossen´s independent production Body and Soul, (1947) starring John Garfield and Lilli Palmer. The screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. Afterward, Polonsky became a Hollywood film director.
In Polonsky's first film as a director, Force of Evil (1948), was not successful when released in the United States but it was hailed as a masterpiece by film critics in England. The film was based on Tucker's People by Ira Wolfert.
Polonsky's career as a director and credited writer came to an abrupt halt after he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1951. Illinois congressman Harold Velde called the director a "very dangerous citizen" at the hearings. While blacklisted, Polonsky continued to write film scripts under various pseudonyms that have never been revealed. It is known that Polonsky, along with Nelson Gidding, co-wrote Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), in which Polonsky's name was initially dropped from the film credits. Polonsky was not given public credit for the screenplay until 1997, when the Writers Guild of America, west officially restored his name to the film under the WGA screenwriting credit system.
In 1968, Polonsky was the screenwriter for Madigan, a police thriller, and Polonsky used his own name in the credits. The film was directed by Don Siegel, starring Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda. After a prolonged absence, Polonsky returned to directing in 1969 with the Western film Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, a tale of a fugitive Native American pursued by a posse, which Polonsky converted into an allegory about racism, genocide, and persecution. In the early 1980s, Polonsky was an uncredited scriptwriter for Mommie Dearest, based on Christina Crawford's memoirs of her mother Joan Crawford, and The Man Who Lived at the Ritz (1981), based a novel by A.E. Hotchner. A Marxist until his death, Polonsky publicly objected when director Irwin Winkler rewrote his script for 1991's Guilty by Suspicion, a film about the Hollywood blacklist era, by revising the lead character (Robert De Niro) into a liberal, rather than a Communist.
He received the Career Achievement Award of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association in 1999. Prior to that, Polonsky taught a philosophy class at USC School of Cinema-Television called "Consciousness and Content". While no longer a member of the Communist Party, he remained committed to Marxist political theory, stating "I thought Marxism offered the best analysis of history, and I still believe that."
Until his death, Polonsky was a virulent critic of director Elia Kazan, who had testified before HUAC and provided names to the Committee. In 1999, he was enraged when Kazan was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for lifetime achievement, stating that he hoped Kazan would be shot onstage: "It would no doubt be a thrill in an otherwise dull evening." Polonsky also said that his latest project was designing a movable headstone: "That way if they bury that man in the same cemetery, they can move me." Polonsky died on October 26, 1999, in Beverly Hills, California.

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