Guys who wrote and directed film noir that cast shadowy aspersions about the honesty and trustworthiness of sacred American institutions are easily understood as victims of the Hollywood Blacklist that saw communist propaganda flickering on every theater in America. But men and women who made their living starring in comedies that sought only propagandize the spirit of laughter?
Seriously? I mean these guys didn't even write the scripts that tried to recruit unsuspecting Americans into the life of a red through propaganda cleverly disguised as silly comedy films.
Zero Mostel appeared in a string of mostly forgotten comedy films in 1951 after establishing himself as a star of stage comedy. The last comedy that Mostel graced in 1951 was titled "The Model and the Marriage Broker" and that title pretty much gives all the indication necessary as to the depth of its socialist propagandizing. Eight years would pass before Mostel acted on screen again-in a couple of TV productions and it would not be until 1966 that Mostel would once again make audiences inside a cinema laugh. You can thank the House Un-American Activities Committee for denying Mostel a career for most of the 1950s. A little bit of payback came in the 1970s when Mostel appeared as a blacklisted comic in "The Front."
Prof. Irwin Corey
Those of my generation came to know Prof. Irwin Corey as an older man with out of control white hair who looked like a mad scientist and regularly appeared on Johnny Carson's show and innocuous comedy fare like "Car Wash." Before he reached that state of manic maturity, however, Irwin Corey was an experimental improvisational comic and an outspoken activist for left wing causes. Corey had made some sporadic appearance on TV comedy shows in the late 50s and there is a gaping hole in resume until the mid-1970s. Perhaps it is a bit of sweet justice that Prof. Irwin Corey's movie career did not kick into gear until after apparently became one of the last fugitives from the blacklist to find freedom. Although, to be perfectly honest, when you movie career includes the soft-core porn musical "Fairy Tales" you may be forced to reassess your definition of high gear.
You often hear that actresses who played dumb blondes in the movies were in reality quite intelligent. Most of these claims should be taken with a grain of salt, Judy Holliday could point to an IQ test score of 172 to back up claims she was in real life absolutely nothing at all like the epitome of the dumb blonde she played to Oscar gold in the comedy "Born Yesterday." When Holliday was called up to testify before the witch hunters in Congress she was advised to play her dumb character rather than show off the fact that she was significantly brighter than her inquisitors. One wonders if Holliday's particularly atypical form of blacklisting that was limited to radio and TV would have been extended to big screen comedies had the smart cookie instead of the dumb blonde shown up.
For more from Timothy Sexton, Yahoo!'s first Writer of the Year, check out:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Zero Mostel
- Irwin Corey