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Herbert J. Biberman Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (bone cancer)
Birth NameHerbert Joseph Biberman

Mini Bio (1)

Herbert J. Biberman, the progressive producer, director and screenwriter now best known as one of the Hollywood Ten who were blacklisted by the American Film Industry for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), was born on March 4, 1900 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale, Biberman entered his family's textile business after a journey to Europe. In 1928, Biberman joined the left-wing Theater Guild as an assistant stage manager, beginning his professional career in the arts. He married actress Gale Sondergaard in 1930.

Biberman became a director with the Theater Guild, and entered the movie industry as a dialog director on Colmbia Pictures' Eight Bells (1935) in 1935. He made his first picture that year, directing One-Way Ticket (1935) for B.P. Schulberg Productions and Columbia. Ironically, it would be producer B.P. Schulberg's son Budd Schulberg, an ex-communist, who would be one of his chief accusers in the Hollywood show trials of the late 1940s.

Biberman was arraigned before HUAC in 1947, where he was one of 19 unfriendly witnesses who refused to answer the Committee's inquiry into their political affiliations. The 19 eventually became the Hollywood Ten, as others of the 19 dropped away, including such luminaries as Bertolt Brecht, who left the U.S. for East Germany. Under the advice of lawyers with Communist Party affiliations, the Ten decided to adopt a common front and defy the committee by refusing to or deny the allegations that they were communists. In 1950, Biberman was fined and sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of Congress. Biberman's wife, the Oscar-winner Gale Sondergaard, was similarly accused and refused to testify. She also was blacklisted.

In 1954, Biberman directed the independently produced, left-wing motion picture Salt of the Earth (1954), a fictionalized account of a miners; strike in Grant County, New Mexico. Working with other blacklisted movie professionals, including screenwriters Michael Wilson (who wrote the picture) and Paul Jarrico (who produced it), the film starred such progressive actors as Will Geer. It was made against tremendous odds, including opposition from Hollywood and the government. A chronicle of the terrible working conditions faced by miners in New Mexico, the film had the official backing of the local miner's union and employed real workers and their families. However, other unions, involved in a Cold War fight in the 1950s against communist-dominated domestic unions and Communist Party-affiliated union organizers (a fight that began in Hollywood immediately after World War II, when returning veterans fought back against trade guilds that had become infiltrated by organized crime during their war service), refused to show the film because Biberman was still blacklisted. It was screened only once, in New York, before being blackballed from exhibition in the U.S. for 11 years.

Biberman released the film in Europe where it won awards in France and Czechoslovakia. In 1965, the film was finally released in the U.S. market. "Salt of the Earth" has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Biberman and Sondergaard had two children. They remained married until his death from bone cancer on June 30, 1971. Blacklisted for a quarter-of-a-century, Sondergaard finally found work in Hollywood after her husband's death.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (1)

Gale Sondergaard (1930 - 30 June 1971) ( his death) ( 2 children)

Trivia (2)

Blacklisted in 1950's; one of the Hollywood Ten.
His opposition to Lend Lease was so extreme that he was suspected of being a Nazi, even though he was Jewish. He later became in favor of the US entering World War II after the invasion of the Soviet Union.

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