Following its world premiere at the 2022 Telluride Film Festival, High Noon on the Waterfront makes its broadcast premiere on TCM.
This film is a tale of two different filmmakers as TCM observes the 75th anniversary of the Hollywood Blacklist during the month of October. This was one of the darkest times in both American and Hollywood history. If you’re not familiar, Hollywood filmmakers and actors were pressured to “name names” of communists because McCarthyism was at its worst during the 1950s. The Red Scare ended some careers while others moved across the pond and took on a pseudonym in order to continue getting work. There’s a lovely story in Scott Eyman‘s recent book on 20th Century-Fox that discusses how Darryl Zanuck helped blacklisted writers. I found it really surprising.
Elia Kazan was an accomplished director but ostracized as a result of naming names when questioned. His granddaughter, Zoe Kazan, had a beautiful answer when questioned about his naming names. In the other corner, we have screenwriter/producer Carl Foreman, who ended up being blacklisted for his refusal to name names. What followed were films that told their stories as an allegory. Foreman wrote High Noon right when HUAC was kicking things into full gear. He wrote dialogue that he was hearing from other people in the industry. In fact, he became Gary Cooper’s character in the process! Kazan would follow with On The Waterfront a few years later. Whether one realized it or not, the film is very much Kazan’s own story. Both films will air immediately after TCM screens the 14-minute documentary short.
Edward Norton reads voiceovers from Foreman’s papers while John Turturro does the same for Kazan. The film is heavy on clips from both films as the two actors read voiceovers from their papers. There’s definitely enough material for a feature-length documentary. I mean, there are a countless number of filmmakers, writers, and actors impacted by the Blacklist. For focusing on two different filmmakers, it’s a solid introduction but there’s a larger story to tell and the film needs to be longer. I would definitely recommend seeking out Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist by Thomas Doherty.
After watching High Noon on the Waterfront, audiences will never be able to watch either film in the same way ever again.
DIRECTORS: David Roberts & Billy Shebar
FEATURING: Edward Norton, John Turturro, Elia Kazan, Carl Foreman
High Noon On the Waterfront will air October 13, 2022 at 8 PM ET on TCM. Grade: 3.5/5
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