AMERICAN MASTERS: ARTHUR MILLER, ELIA KAZAN AND THE BLACKLIST: NONE WITHOUT SIN (TV)

Summary

One in this documentary series that explores the lives and achievements of America's most celebrated native-born and adopted artists, performers, and creative talent. This program about America's blacklist era focuses on how the decisions made by two former best friends -- filmmaker Elia Kazan and playwright Arthur Miller -- in regards to testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) ultimately defined their lives and careers. The program, which incorporates archival footage, commentary from film historians and interviews with blacklisted writers and actors, opens at the 1999 Oscar ceremony. As Kazan is to be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, protesters defame the director, taking him to task for naming 17 individuals as members of the communist party to HUAC in 1952. Ironically, Miller is among those supporting the award, even though -- unlike Kazan -- he defied the committee in 1956 and was subsequently held in contempt of Congress, fined and sentenced to jail time. The program then traces Kazan and Miller's shared history, beginning when both were attracted to socialist ideals in the '30s. But while Miller only flirted with communism, Kazan committed himself to the party for 19 months. The two became best friends after Kazan directed two of Miller's plays on Broadway, "Death of a Salesman" and "All My Sons." Upon unsuccessfully shopping a script about a dockworks union hero to the major studios, both fell in love with rising star Marilyn Monroe. Kazan, though married, began an affair with her, while Miller returned to his wife in Brooklyn to avoid further temptation. Harry Cohn, Columbia Studio's president, felt the script was a way of getting communist sympathies into a Hollywood film and sent it to be vetted by the FBI. Kazan was subsequently called to testify for HUAC. Although he initially refused to name names, he was told by Spyros Skouras, president of 20th Century Fox, that refusing to testify would mean the end of his film career. Kazan then did the committee's bidding, and became an overnight pariah in Hollywood. Among those who would no longer acknowledge him was Miller, beginning a ten-year period in which they didn't speak. Miller reacted by writng "The Crucible," finding a metaphor for the witch-hunting of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's era with the hysteria of 17th-century Salem. Kazan retorted with "On the Waterfront," a reworking of the script on which he and Miller had collaborated, with the conflicted protagonist becoming a hero by informing against a corrupt mob. Miller retaliated anew by writing "A View from the Bridge," in which the protagonist becomes an informant against a friend, an act which brings about his self-destruction. At that time, Miller ended his marriage and became engaged to Monroe, an event that, according to historians, was the likely catalyst for his subpoena before HUAC. Monroe supported Miller's decision to defy the committee and helped him divert publicity with their nuptials. Monroe later brought about Miller and Kazan's reunion. Following her death, Kazan directed Miller's play, "After the Fall," an autobiographical piece which covered the hero's breakup with a close friend, and subsequent marriage to a troubled actress. The show concludes by returning to the 1999 Oscar ceremony, with a quote from blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo noting that everyone involved with the blacklist -- whether right, left or center -- was permanently scarred.

Cataloging of this program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Details

  • NETWORK: PBS
  • DATE: September 3, 2003 Wednesdasy 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:56:51
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:87161
  • GENRE: Public affairs/Documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Biography
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1986-
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Susan Lacy … Executive Producer
    • Julie Sacks … Supervising Producer
    • Prudence Glass … Series Producer
    • Michael Epstein … Producer, Director, Writer
    • Elizabeth McNeil … Co-Producer
    • Lori Federman … Researcher
    • Lori DiComo … Researcher
    • Carol Martori … Researcher
    • Bill Fagelson … Researcher
    • Michael Dolan … Researcher
    • Helen Weiss … Researcher
    • Joel Goodman … Music by
    • Thomas Wagner … Theme Music by
    • Oliver Platt … Narrator
    • Harry Cohn
    • Elia Kazan
    • Joseph McCarthy
    • Arthur Miller
    • Marilyn Monroe
    • Spyros Skouras
    • Dalton Trumbo