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One of the Hollywood Ten (2000)

Not Rated | | Drama | 9 November 2001 (Spain)
Herbert Biberman struggles as a Hollywood writer and director blacklisted as one of The Hollywood Ten in the 1950s.





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Cast overview, first billed only:
Herbert Biberman
Gale Sondergaard
Rosaura Revueltas
Juan Chacón
Paul Jarrico
Michael Wilson
Edward Dmytryk
Jack Warner
Jorge de Juan ...
Teresa José Berganza ...
Henrietta Williams (as Teresa J. Berganza)
Joe Morales
Daisy White ...
Sonya (as April Daisy White)
Luke Harrison Mendez ...
Dan (as Luke Harrison Méndez)
Trinidad Serrano ...


Herbert Biberman struggles as a Hollywood writer and director blacklisted as one of The Hollywood Ten in the 1950s.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Not Rated | See all certifications »





Release Date:

9 November 2001 (Spain)  »

Also Known As:

Hollywood Liste Rouge  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Closing captions tell us that Herbert Biberman never worked again in films after being blacklisted, but near the end of his life, he did make one last film, "Slaves" (1969). See more »


References Scarlet Street (1945) See more »


When You're Smiling [The Whole World Smile with You]
Written by Larry Shay (as Shay), Joe Goodwin (as Goodwin) and Mark Fisher
See more »

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User Reviews

a complex history, fatally dumbed down
23 July 2001 | by See all my reviews

The movie tries to tell two stories, related but distinct: the story of the Hollywood ten and the blacklist, and the story of how Herbert Biberman came to make "Salt of the Earth" after serving his sentence for contempt of Congress. It does a fair job of telling the second story--but only fair; it does a terrible, dumbed-down job at the first. And the same defects mar both of them.

Start with a trivial, nitpicky error: the name of the striking union in "Salt." It was in fact the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. The movie calls it International Minemill Union or something of the kind. Why does this detail matter?

It matters because Mine Mill (as it was known) was a real union, with a real history. Its roots were in the early 20th century Western Federation of Miners, a union once close to the IWW, which waged bitter struggles against the copper bosses and was ultimately destroyed. Mine Mill itself was founded as a CIO union which by 1952--when "Salt" was filmed--had been expelled from the CIO, along with the West Coast longshoremen and others, essentially for refusing to purge the Communists and endorse Cold War foreign policy.

In other words the union had a context, which included the Communist Party, which was (after all) what Biberman et al. were being punished for refusing to abjure. It wasn't fortuitous that he and the blacklisted writer and producer Michael Wilson and Paul Jarrico decided to film a Mine Mill strike story. It was part of the resistance of the Communist-influenced Left to being forced out of the labor movement and out of popular consciousness,

marginalized and demonized and rendered utterly ineffectual.

But in the movie the union and the strike seem to have sprung from nowhere, the union members and leaders are brave innocents who don't know about movies and the Cold War, and they're rescued from an FBI-led vigilante mob by--the New Mexico State troopers! (I knew something was terribly wrong when some people in the audience actually cheered the cops' arrival.)

And the Ten have no context either. All the political and legal strategic decisions seem to be made by an informal gathering at a writers' hangout where Dalton Trumbo--sorry, "Dalton Trumbo"--and Biberman make ponderous little speeches about Jefferson and the fascist danger. I don't doubt that those guys were capable of pomposity--I don't object that they're portrayed unflatteringly. But they were, in fact, CPUSA members, mostly of long standing, and that's not how decisions were made.

Nor were decisions made in the vocabulary of civil libertarianism. This vocabulary *was* deployed in public statements, but part of the problem (which, by 1949, at least three of the Ten--Lardner, Maltz, and Trumbo--were keenly aware of) was the disconnect between this Jeffersonian rhetoric and the actual ideas of Marxism-Leninism (not to mention the actual conditions obtaining in Stalin's USSR.)

Near the end, a vigilante accuses Biberman of echoing Marx; no, comes the answer, it's Jefferson. In the popular Front years the CPUSA had put forward the slogan "Communism is 20th Century Americanism." By 1952 the Popular Front was a distant memory, yet this movie "Biberman" seems to have out-Browdered Browder and dropped the Communism part altogether.

So the movie gives us, not the Ten, but the version of the Ten that the Party hoped would rally timid liberals to their aid. It was a fairly hollow construct 55 years ago; are today's audiences really so thick-headed that they won't see through it?

With cardboard heroes, a cardboard villain: Edward Dmytryk, who "named names" *after* serving his time, is presented as justifying his decision purely so he can go back to making movies. Now this may have been his real motive--certainly Lester Cole and Paul Jarrico, among others, believed it was. But it *wasn't* the motive he presented. He claimed that he had become disillusioned with Communism and couldn't see the point of sacrificing his career to a cause he had come to oppose. A rationale?--maybe. That's something people do, and audiences get to evaluate their sincerity or insincerity. But villains don't, as in the old Western formula, get off the stagecoach and immediately kick a puppy.

A friend of mine defended the movie on the ground that people know nothing about the Ten, so anything is better than utter ignorance. Leaving aside the question whether this cartoon history isn't, in fact, the same thing as utter ignorance, what people are we talking about? This movie is not going to find a big audience. Most of the people who saw it in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival were, um, well stricken in years and politically knowledgeable (if not necessarily very bright, cf. their reaction to the State Trooper sequence mentioned above.) And dammit, it's unforgivably patronizing to take the attitude that "Of course we know better, but this pabulum is good enough for--" someone else.

Context, context, context. The prison mess hall is shown as racially integrated--in 1949! In truth Lardner and Cole successfully challenged the segregated chow line in the prison at Danbury but this was a quirky exception. But this anachronism, like the error about the union's name, gives the game away: this is a movie about history that doesn't respect history, or the audience's ability to comprehend it. Is that because the filmmakers were too busy congratulating themselves on their nobility for making the movie at all? Are they cynical, dumb, both? I don't think it matters much. I'm glad my friend Lester Cole wasn't depicted, because that would have caused me real pain.

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