restricted access 7. Salt of the Earth, 1952 &mdash 54 [Includes Images]
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At last . . . a real story, about real people. —Paul Jarrico, 1954 In late August 1950, just before Adrian Scott went to prison, he, Jarrico, and Charles Katz formed a partnership to produce independent films. They had two projects in mind. One was an adaptation of Haywood Patterson’s memoir Scottsboro Boy (cowritten by Earl Conrad);1 the other was an adaptation of a novel about the Iranian crisis of 1946 (The Diplomat by James Aldridge). Jarrico had contracted with Mason Roberson to begin adapting Scottsboro Boy, but Scott, on his trip to Washington for sentencing, became interested in another project concerning blacks in the South: Deep Are the Roots, a play by Arnaud d’Usseau and James Gow.2 Scott thought that it would be an easier project to make into a film than Scottsboro Boy because it had a smaller cast, fewer crowd scenes, and “a hotcha and daring [interracial] romance.” But Jarrico replied that they had already invested too much time and money in the Scottsboro project and that they lacked the resources to do both. In a letter to Katz, Scott expressed a further concern, about Roberson’s writing skills. Scott wrote, “I suppose the principle involved here—Mason’s understanding would far outreach anything that Paul or I could bring but understanding is not enough. We need something good, the first time, for a minimum—without being accused of being sweatshop operators.” Jarrico defended Roberson as a fine writer who had not been able to get a screenwriting job because of his color. Further, 7 Salt of the Earth, 1952–54 Jarrico promised to “do whatever rewriting may prove necessary to bring it up to my own best standard. I’m not trying to stuff anything here—I just don’t see how I can devote full time to this screenplay now, without neglecting many other projects.”3 But in January 1951, Katz and the financial backer he had found began to have second thoughts about the commercial viability of the Scottsboro project. George Willner, who had once tried to sell an adaptation of Howard Fast’s novel about southern blacks, Freedom Road, told them that he was not optimistic about the commercial prospects of Scottsboro Boy. Katz and his backer, who had not yet paid for the film option rights, withdrew from the project. Jarrico then asked Edward Mosk, his personal attorney, to deal with the option contracts, but after paying the option price, Jarrico did not have enough money to continue paying Roberson. Jarrico was furious with Katz but made up with him a few months later because, wrote Jarrico, it “seemed the wrong time for a vendetta with a progressive lawyer.”4 At the end of June, Jarrico began meeting with Herbert Biberman, who had also been developing an independent project, A Woman to Remember, written by Dalton Trumbo. Biberman later said about Jarrico, “In the many years of our association I do not recall Paul ever having said anything was difficult. . . . Paul never saw anything but potentialities.”5 Jarrico had mixed feelings about Biberman. On the one hand, Jarrico, like most of the other blacklistees , thought there was no more conscientious, devoted, and hardworking organizer than Biberman. On the other hand, Biberman could be rigid, abrasive, arrogant, and insensitive. In July, Jarrico met with Biberman, Katz, and Simon Lazarus to lay the groundwork for the Independent Productions Corporation (IPC).6 Jarrico later said that IPC’s founders “had no doubt but that under the Waldorf Declaration, under the acquiescence of the imprisoned producers, and under the ecstatic leadership of Roy Brewer, every conspiratorial and illegal action possible would be directed against their effort to produce an independent film.” But the producers possessed “faith in their ability to find enough independence around the periphery of the industry to serve their modest needs,” and they believed that if they could make just one successful film, they would open the way for many future productions and the 138 BLACKLIST employment of many blacklisted people in this and other production companies. The founders also hoped that the competition from these independent productions “would expose the stupidity, the near-suicide and the criminality of the blacklisting climate-of-fear atmosphere in which the whole motion picture industry [is now] clothed.” Jarrico further noted that much of IPC’s funding “came from individuals who had no belief a film could be completed under such circumstances—but thought the effort worth the risk.” Others believed in the skills and...