The Front (1976)
A writer looks for trouble
13 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I am proud to declare that I have seen (or thought that I have seen) every movie Woody Allen has been associated with, either as a writer, director or a star, very often all of the above. To my surprise, I realized just recently that I missed "The Front", very dark, rather tragic political dramedy about shameful part of the American history, the McCarthy-era Communist witch hunts with the blacklists that affected deeply lives of many Hollywood filmmakers, performers and writers. Creators of the film, director Martin Ritt; writer Walter Bernstein; and actors Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, Lloyd Gough and Joshua Shelley knew about McCarthy-era from their own experiences. They were all blacklisers. Woody Allen who did not participate in directing "The Front" or writing the script delivers realistic and sympathetic performance as Howard, a small apolitical guy, rather a loser who wanted to help his friend, a blacklisted writer, by providing the front for the TV scripts with a little profit for himself to cover his own many debts. While doing so (and helping two more blacklisted writers), Howard soon realized how horrible, unfair and anti-human the blacklist situation was and he wanted to do something about it.

By reluctant pretending to be a writer, he becomes a popular and sought-after figure among the TV producers and actors and makes friends with the beloved TV comedian Hecky Brown (Zero Mostel) who was blacklisted because of the marching during the May Day parade in his youth many years ago. Howard witnesses firsthand the spiral fall of the man who lost everything he lived for because he was not allowed to do the very thing he was born to do - to perform on public, to entertain, to make people laugh. If nothing else, "The Front" introduced me to Zero Mostel, the very symbol of great comedian and the victim of the witch hunts in the 1950. Mostel effortlessly steals every moment he is in, and his last scene could make a stone weep.

If you are prepared for a comedy, The Front is most certainly not a regular one even though it's got quite a few jokes, the majority of which had to do with Howard (Allen) repeating that he was not a writer and could not even write a grocery list. Coming from a man whose next film would be "Annie Hall" that brought him two Oscars for writing and directing and who has received numerous awards and nominations for his work during several decades, especially, for screen writing, makes it for an excellent joke.

The film belongs to its time by giving very personal and honest account on what it was like to be on the notorious blacklist but it works fine for today audiences as well. It's been over 60 years since the dark times of the blacklists, the hunt for the dissenters, for those whose opinions, beliefs, preferences were different from the generally accepted but we all should know about the gross injustice that resulted in many broken lives and never let the dark era of paranoia, abuse of power, and hypocrisy prevail again.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

Recently Viewed