Neve’s most recent book is the first published study of the filmmaker Cyril (Cy) Endfield (1914-1995). Neve conducted several interviews with Endfield, an American filmmaker associated with various left movements of the thirties who made a problematic beginning to his Hollywood career (with the banned MGM short film, Inflation (1942)), before making a belated breakthrough as a Hollywood feature director at the end of the forties with two impressive crime melodramas (constituting what came to be seen as film noir): The Underworld Story ((1950) and The Sound of Fury/Try and Get Me (1950).
An issue that recurs in Neve’s work is the Hollywood blacklist, a phenomenon that had its origins in the 1947 hearings on Hollywood communism by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), and which had its strongest impact in the fifties. The book on the Scranton born Endfield deals with the director’s distinctive experience with the blacklist, bringing to light new information and documents. The director resettled in the UK, in London, in 1952, and the later chapters of the book explore his British based career, key films such as Hell Drivers (1957) and Zulu (1964), and his less well-known work. The book prompted 2015/2016 retrospectives of Endfield’s work (which the author attended) at the Cinematheque, Madison, University of Wisconsin; the Anthology Cinema Archives in New York; and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Billy Wilder Theatre, Hammer Museum, in Los Angeles.
Kazan’s work in the cinema, recently showcased at the BFI Southbank (February-March 2020) has prompted further discussion and reassessment of the director’s life and work. Brian Neve’s book provides a critical survey, draws on new primary sources, including Kazan’s own papers and the Warner Bros. archive, and situates Kazan within the culture and politics of his times.
Kazan’s complete film career is examined here, from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) and his studio apprenticeship, through to the New York based films of his own production company, to The Last Tycoon (1976), his final film. Neve explores the process of filmmaking, including censorship issues – for example those relating to A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). He examines Kazan’s key artistic collaborations, including those with Budd Schulberg (beginning with On the Waterfront), Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, and his work with actors, including James Dean and Brando, in grounding his characters in convincing behaviour and psychology. Neve discusses a pattern of resonant themes running through his film work, in particular the struggles of American social change, issues of identity (especially for the young), and the immigrant saga. In terms of this last theme, Kazan most personal and vivid treatment, as a second-generation immigrant of Greek parentage, was in America America (1963). Neve also discusses questions of Kazan’s visual style and inventiveness, from the colour and wide screen of East of Eden to the distinctive use of location in his films on the American South, notably Baby Doll (1956) and Wild River (1960). He also explores the reception of Kazan’s work and the controversy – which dogged his career – of his Congressional testimony. It is worth adding that several of his films, from the vantage point of 2020, have a particular resonance, including Panic the Streets (1950) and A Face in the Crowd (1957).
In Film and Politics in America: A Social Tradition, Brian Neve presents a study of the social and political nature of American film by concentrating on a generation of film-makers whose formative experiences were those of New York politics and theatre in the 1930s, and who began careers as directors or writer-directors in the Hollywood industry of the 1940s. Neve uses archival and secondary sources to discuss the films of this disparate but linked group with reference to the wider industrial, artistic and political contexts of American film from the late 1930s to the 1960s.
Focusing particularly on Elia Kazan, Abraham Polonsky, Joseph Losey, Jules Dassin, Cy Endfield, Robert Rossen, and Orson Welles, Neve also examines debates concerning Frank Capra’s middle period films, and the role and political implications, in a crucial post-war period of ideological flux, of the semi-documentary movement and of film noir. The book places these case studies within a wider discussion of the impact on film of the various strands of ‘thirties’ American radicalism and liberalism, and the implications and effects of the Hollywood blacklist.
Note: A chapter of the book was republished by the Open University in 2002 for use on its courses.
The concept of ‘un-Americanism,’ so vital to the HUAC crusade of the 1940s and 1950s, was resoundingly revived in the emotional rhetoric that followed the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001. Today’s political and cultural climate makes it more crucial than ever to come to terms with the consequences of the earlier period of repression and with the contested claims of Americanism that it generated.
‘Un-American’ Hollywood reopens the intense critical debate on the blacklist era and on the aesthetic and political work of the Hollywood Left. In a series of fresh case studies focusing on contexts of production and reception, the contributors offer exciting and original perspectives on the role of progressive politics within a capitalist media industry.
Original essays from fourteen scholars – the book in particular showcases the work of a new generation of historians – scrutinize the work of individual practitioners, such as Robert Rossen, Joseph Losey, Jules Dassin and Edward Dmytryk, and examine key films, including The Robe, Christ in Concrete, The House I Live In, The Lawless, The Naked City, The Prowler, Body and Soul, and FTA.
An early, original and eclectic collection of essays on aspects of American film and society, by specialists in cultural history, film studies and American studies. The contributors are Richard Maltby, ‘Made for each other: the melodrama of Hollywood and the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1947’, ‘The political economy of Hollywood: the studio system’; Christopher Frayling, ‘The Western and American society’; Eric Mottram, ‘Blood on the Nash Ambassador: cars in American films’; Ralph Willet, ‘The nation in crisis: Hollywood’s response to the 1940s’; Robert Reiner, ‘Keystone to Kojak: the Hollywood cop’; P.H. Melling, ‘The mind and the mob: Hollywood and popular culture in the 1930s’; Brian Neve, ‘The 1950s: the case of Elia Kazan and On the Waterfront’; Philip Davies, ‘A growing independence’; Mary Ellison, ‘Blacks in American film’; and Leonard Quart and Albert Auster, ‘The working class goes to Hollywood’.
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