1968 February 8

“Planet of the Un-Americans:” Film Parodies HUAC


The original film, Planet of the Apes, which inspired several sequels, was released on this day. The fascinating back story of the movie is that the script was written by Michael Wilson, who had been blacklisted during the Cold War after refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in September 1951. (He was not one of the Hollywood Ten, who testified beginning on October 27, 1947, and were blacklisted.)

When he was able to return to work under his own name, he took his revenge for the blacklisting by including a scene in the Planet of the Apes that wickedly parodies the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). In the scene, Charleton Heston stands naked, literally, in front of a committee of apes that interrogates him.

Wilson had a distinguished career prior to his blacklisting. He contributed to the scripts of both the now-iconic film, It’s A Wonderful Life (uncredited, 1946), and the acclaimed film, A Place in the Sun (1951). After being blacklisted, he continued to work on films under pseudonyms.

Despite being blacklisted, Wilson continued to have a notable career in the movies. Working without credit, he contributed to the screenplays for both The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). In 1975, Wilson was posthumously awarded the Academy Award for Bridge on the River Kwai. (In one of several bizarre Oscar moments caused by the blacklist, the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1958 was given to Pierre Boulle for Bridge on the River Kwai. Boulle was the author of the original novel, did not speak or write English, and so could not have possibly written the screenplay.)

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

Watch the trailer for Planet of the Apes (1968): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVo7O349BFk

Learn more about Wilson: http://marlowesghost.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Microsoft_Word_-_A_Very_Good_American.5371929.pdf

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