The Racism-Ableism Link in Home of The Brave and Bright Victory
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 20, Number 2, 1990
- pp. 18-25
- Additional Information
The Racism-Ableism Link in Home of The Brave and Bright Victory Martin F. Norden Martin F. Norden is Associate Professor ofCommunication at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst Before their eventual demise in the wake of the Red Scare, liberal sentiments rode high in Hollywood during the years immediately following World War II and found expression in numerous films. Their liberalism tempered with a heavy dose of profit-mindedness, these films dealt with individuals struggling against a variety of societal ills such as racism, antiSemitism, alcohol abuse, malignant social institutions-hot box-office topics, all. As reflected in film and other media, the American post-WWII era might well be labeled the age ofthe person misunderstood and victimized by society.  Within this cycle of "problem pictures," Hollywood reached its peak of zealotry with two movies, both directed by Mark Robson, which managed to explore the postwar concerns of three disadvantaged societal subgroups: veterans, blacks, and people with physical al disabilities. In terms of simple categorization, we may place Home of the Brave ( 1 949) and Bright Victor}' ( 1 95 1 ) within the mini-genre of postwar films that examined the physical, psychological, and social adjustments that veterans eventually had to make before leading productive lives as civilians. What sets Home of the Brave and Bright Victoiy apart from the more familiar members of this group, such as The Best Years ofOur Lives (1946) and The Men (1950), are the connections they draw between two forms of discrimination in U. S. society—racism and ableism—using the U.S. military as their microcosmic setting.  The films' treatment of these "isms " forms the focus of this essay. Home ofthe Brave, in which an emotionally unstable black soldier and a physically disabled white soldier endure racist and ableist slurs, is remembered today primarily as Hollywood's breakthrough film on postwar race relations. Producer Stanley Kramer, head of the upstart Screen Plays Corp., and financier Robert Stil man set the project in motion in mid-January, 1949, by purchasing the screen rights to a play by Arthur Laurents for $50,000. Laurents' play featured a Jew in the pivotal role of the soldier who suffers the brunt of the discrimination, but Kramer was not about to make a film on a topic so recently explored in other films (anti-Semitism had been the main subject of 1947's Crossfire and Gentlemen's Agreement, among other films). Anxious to produce the first film on postwar racism—he even codenamed the production "High Noon" to throw Hollywood reporters and competitors off the track—Kramer had his screenwriter Carl Foreman transform the Jewish character into one whose difference would be immediately apparent to viewers: a black. As Kramer noted, "An audience could see the difference in terms of color rather than having one white man saying he was Jewish, another saying he was Christian." The speed with which Kramer and his crew finished Home ofthe Brave and got it into theaters suggests Kramer's eagerness to be the first across the finish line with such a film. Foreman had completed the screenplay by early February, and Kramer's handpicked director, Mark Robson, began filming later that month. (Forty-eight hours before Robson commenced shooting, Kramer announced the true subject of the "High Noon" 18 project.) Robson completed the actual filming in 18 days at a cost well under $500,000. Dmitri Tiomkin's musical score was recorded in late March, and the first composite print of the film was ready in early April. All told, the film was completed in 24 days for $525,000. With United Artists handling the film's distribution, Home ofthe Brave began playing in movie theaters in mid-May, a mere four months after Kramer and Stillman purchased the screen rights and well ahead of other projects on racism announced by other studios.  Home ofthe Brave tells the story of Peter Moss (James Edwards), a black Private First Class who serves as a member of an Army mapping unit in the South Pacific during WWII. Others in the unit include the youthful Capt. Robinson (Douglas Dick), Moss's boyhood friend Finch (Lloyd Bridges), a hardboiled Sgt. Mingo (Frank...