1956 November 25

Oscar-Nominated Film…Has No Screenwriter!

 

The film Friendly Persuasion, starring Gary Cooper and later nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor, was released on this day — but without any screenwriter credit. The actual screenwriter was Michael Wilson, who had been blacklisted for refusing to cooperate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in September 1951. Hollywood motion picture companies refused to hire or credit people who did not cooperate with HUAC. The official blacklist began on December 3, 1947.

Wilson’s screenwriting credit was restored in later versions of the film. Wilson also co-wrote the script for the award-winning Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), but was not listed on the credits. Wilson was posthumously awarded an Academy Award in 1995 for his work on the Bridge on the River Kwai.

Wilson took his revenge for having been blacklisted when he wrote the script for Planet of the Apes (1968), which includes a scene that is a wicked parody of the House Un-American Activities Committee (see February 8, 1968). In the scene, Charlton Heston has to stand naked and testify before what is, in effect, an Un-Ape Activities Committee.

The ACLU issued a report condemning blacklisting on April 6, 1952, and the Fund For the Republic issued a two-volume report also condemning blacklisting on July 1, 1956.

Learn about all the films affected by the blacklist: Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner, Blacklisted: The Film Lover’s Guide to the Hollywood Blacklist (2003)

Learn more about Michael Wilson’s career: Joseph McBride, A Very Good American: The Undaunted Artistry of Blacklisted Screenwriter Michael Wilson (2002)

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