August 2023

Rivers Running Backwards


Arthur Danin Adler

The timely and jarring juxtaposition of the Hollywood Strike(s) and Christopher Nolan's to-date masterpiece, Oppenheimer, is a painfully recurring echo for historical perspective, a call to stop and stare at who we are now, and who we were.

Hollywood Red, published by Scene4 Books/AviarPress, remains a provocative, controversial, insider's look into the Hollywood "circus", the American political system, civil rights and the abuses of law enforcement.

Hollywood Red coverIt is a scathing measure of what has changed since then and what has not.

It was written by a man who refused to relent, refused to genuflect to the hypocritical authorities who persecuted and prosecuted him: Lester Cole

He was a New York playwright, a prolific screenwriter during Hollywood's 'golden years', a leader and the most vehement member of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten, an honored jurist at European film festivals, a teacher at UC Berkeley, and a film critic. Most respected among his nearly 50 screenwriting credits are his screenplays for Universal's The House of the Seven Gables and his most famous film, the popular Born Free, which he wrote under a blacklisted pseudonym. (You can see the list of his films at D'Arcy -Kane Agency)

He was also a spur and a founding member of the Screenwriters Guild (now the WGA). He was a thorn in the side of the movie -moguls, especially MGM´s golden boy, Irving Thalberg, who banned him from the powerful studio's realm. With typical historic irony, in 1947, as the Red-Scare began to envelope Hollywood, MGM's mogul Louis B. Mayer attempted to dissuade him from his path of confrontation with the congressional House Un-American Activities Committee by offering him his own film as a director. He refused. Mayer promptly cancelled his contract and gave his current project, a treatment and rough draft of "Zapata", to Elia Kazan (who became a famous 'namer of names'). Kazan brought in John Steinbeck to create a vehicle for Marlon Brando, Viva Zapata, based on Cole's work. Cole never received credit for it. Instead, he ended up in prison for one year, ironically, along with the chairman of Congressional committee that put him there.

His greatest regret was not achieving for screenwriters what all other 'composers' had and still have — control over their work.

Lester Cole's life was rich, complex, and full of intriguing experiences, some of which remain contradictory and unexplained. You can step into the details of a 'witness of the 20th Century' (1904-1985) in this raw and uneven autobiography, which reveals as much between the lines as it does in the printed words.

Take a look at this remarkable book at Scene4Books.


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Arthur Danin Adler is a playwright, writer and the founding Editor of Scene4. For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives.


©2023 Arthur Danín Adler
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine


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August 2023

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