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The Red and the Blacklist: The Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood Expatriate

The Red and the Blacklist: The Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood Expatriate

by Norma Barzman

Norma Barzman's extraordinary memoir, The Red and the Blacklist, fizzes with the wit and energy of the classic Hollywood comedies of the forties. But it is also laced with the fear and claustrophobia found in the forties film noirs, as Norma and her husband Ben Barzman are driven from Hollywood—during the postwar McCarthyite witch hunt—into an


Norma Barzman's extraordinary memoir, The Red and the Blacklist, fizzes with the wit and energy of the classic Hollywood comedies of the forties. But it is also laced with the fear and claustrophobia found in the forties film noirs, as Norma and her husband Ben Barzman are driven from Hollywood—during the postwar McCarthyite witch hunt—into an emotionally difficult 30-year exile in France. While their hair-raising and amusing adventures continue, Ben battles depression as he attempts to rehabilitate his career, while frustrating Norma's own aspirations as a writer. She seeks solace in a string of affairs, one of them ending in a pregnancy that she aborts. However, Norma's passion for life, Ben and her seven children, and her radical instincts, shine throughout this dazzling memoir. 20 black-and-white photographs are included.

Editorial Reviews

The Los Angeles Times
Some will doubtlessly charge Barzman with a failure to apologize for her "blindness" to "the evils of Stalinism." But this ongoing demand for apologies is simply the latest chapter in the thought-control process that the Barzmans escaped by fleeing to Europe. Others may write that life in exile was not too shabby for the Barzmans. But such critics will miss the point of The Red and the Blacklist, which reminds readers how hard it was for the Barzmans and other blacklisted reds to reestablish careers and lives unfairly and unnecessarily disrupted by the anti-communist witch hunt. — Larry Ceplair
The New Yorker
In a scene straight out of a screwball comedy, Norma Barzman shoved a pie in her future husband's face on the day they met. In The Red and the Blacklist, Barzman recounts other zany moments among Communist-sympathizer screenwriters during the time of the blacklist. A young Norma Jean Baker tips off Barzman and her husband to police surveillance. They dodge subpoenas by swapping houses with another couple; later they find that a rented house in France is filled with hoarded Nazi gold. Even their political beliefs have a Hollywood glow: Barzman writes, "Communist couples had a romantic notion of themselves as the ideal young man and young woman surging forward with the Red flag, the logo of Artkino (Soviet films)."

Richard Schickel's childhood in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, was never so glamorous, but in Good Morning, Mr. Zip Zip Zip, he recalls the many movies written by the soon-to-be-blacklisted that offered romanticized visions of American and Russian societies during the Second World War. "You can't really tell the difference between those written by Communists and those written by liberals," Schickel notes. "All you can say of this lot is that if their political sins were minimal, their rhetorical ones were heinous."

Hollywood in the fifties was filled with sinners: as Sam Kashner and Jennifer MacNair recount in The Bad and the Beautiful, those in the entertainment industry survived everything from sex scandals to murder cases. Yet some, like the screenwriter Alvah Bessie, never recovered from political persecution: "People say it's now pretty fashionable to say you were blacklisted, but if that's fashionable, I haven't gotten any offers from Hollywood yet,"he told an interviewer in 1977.

(Andrea Thompson)
The New York Times
To be a screenwriter is to feel thwarted -- by studios, directors, actors and pretty much anyone else with an opinion. Add the blacklist to that dispiriting mix, and the screenwriting game can seem daunting. In The Red and the Blacklist Norma Barzman, who endured those indignities and more, recalls her unexpected life. A portrait emerges of a woman who has known pleasure: occasionally in her work; certainly in her children; often in romance, both in and out of marriage. The book is also a testament of anger toward the squalid congressional committee that made bean soup of the First Amendment, and toward the men who held her back -- particularly her husband, for whom she often felt bitterness. — David Freeman
Publishers Weekly
Barzman arrived in Hollywood from Radcliffe in 1941, a good-looking 21-year-old who wanted to be a writer or director, not an actress. She met Ben Barzman at a party for Hollywood "progressives"; before long, they were in the Communist Party together. Ben stayed focused on his career of script writing. Norma, especially after they married, made do with anything, mainly writing for Hearst's Examiner. By 1944, they knew they were both under surveillance; by 1949, they realized they had to leave the country or face HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) and jail for refusing to inform. They settled in Paris, their base for nearly 20 years. Even though Ben subscribed to leftist ideals about equality, his wife's career made him uncomfortable, so from 1955 on, Norma made babies, had affairs and researched movie ideas for Ben. From her stories-dealing with the likes of Picasso, Sophia Loren, Peter Sellers, Anthony Quinn and Ingrid Bergman-it seems the life of a Cold War expatriate was more attractive than anything America was offering. Still, blacklisted men like Ben and his sometime collaborator Joseph Losey "hugged their bitterness," while the women just adapted. Visiting the Soviet Union and watching the Communist betrayal of May 1968 in France were profoundly disillusioning, but Norma found new hope stateside in the '70s amid women's liberation and the push to restore the reputations of the blacklisted Hollywood artists. Her unique, absorbing and richly detailed memoir is a contribution to both, restoring women to the history of this period and documenting the bravery with which some people stood by their ideals. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Screenwriter and novelist Barzman here offers her memoirs of the Hollywood blacklist era, with details of her up-and-down career and marriage to acclaimed screenwriter Ben Barzman. As recounted in an early chapter titled "Girl Gets Job," William Randolph Hearst gave her a byline in the Los Angeles Herald, and she eventually gained entrance into his castle estate in San Simeon, CA, and met Marion Davies. Of the newspaper world, she says, "To be the only female in that smoky, jokey sea of macho required the courage of Richard Lion-Heart, the diplomacy of Anthony Eden, the poise of Sarah Bernhardt, and a strong stomach." Pregnancy cut her career short, and the blacklist forced the Barzmans to uproot themselves and live in Europe throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Over the years, their milieu included Picasso, Sophia Loren, Charleton Heston, and John Wayne. In 1999, Barzman organized a protest against honorary Oscar recipient Elia Kazan for his involvement with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Presenting herself primarily as a victim of circumstance, the author was more an observer than a player, and, as a result, her reminiscences are not very powerful. Still, her book will interest Hollywood blacklist buffs. (Photographs and index not seen.)-Barbara Kundanis, Batavia P.L., IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Politics, paranoia, and preening stars: a sometimes funny, sometimes rueful memoir of filmmakers in exile during the McCarthy inquisition. Barzman, a columnist for the late Los Angeles Herald Examiner and screenwriter, opens her account on a sweet note of revenge: her successful organization of a protest at the 1999 Oscar ceremonies against lifetime-achievement honoree Elia Kazan, who had infamously named names before the House Un-American Activities Committee half a century earlier. Only a third of the audience applauded Kazan, she reports (by way of eyewitness and pal Sophia Loren); Charlton Heston and his clique clapped, though the television cameras made it seem as if the protestors were fewer in number. Barzman had reason to be annoyed at Kazan; it was through his testimony and that of a few other turncoats that her husband, the celebrated screenwriter and playwright (and onetime Communist) Ben Barzman, earned a spot on the blacklist and had to remove himself and his family to Europe in order to find work. Not that exile was all bad: Barzman’s crowd included the likes of Loren and Pablo Picasso (and even Heston, whose vehicle El Cid Barzman scripted, without credit). Still, it had its cost: Ben Barzman grew increasingly depressed at being away from the Hollywood scene, and Norma took out her frustrations in a marriage-damaging affair or two. Honest and self-critical, Barzman has a nicely sharp tongue, and she gets in wounding digs at a number of targets, not least of them John Wayne ("a feudal lord surrounded by a permanent retinue of a dozen technicians, makeup, wardrobe, and lighting pals who went wherever he went") and Richard Nixon--whom, she suggests, wasn’t above taking apayoff to keep a suspected pinko off the Hollywood dishonor roll. Dishy, and substantial, contribution to film history, and to studies of the unfortunate McCarthy era. Agent: Julie Popkin

Product Details

Avalon Publishing Group
Publication date:
Nation Books
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.63(d)

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