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  • The Many Lives of Cy Endfield: Film Noir, the Blacklist and Zulu by Brian Neve
  • Bernard F. Dick
The Many Lives of Cy Endfield: Film Noir, the Blacklist and Zulu Brian Neve Wisconsin Film Studies, Madison: U of Wisconsin Press, 277 pages

One would have to be a scholar of the blacklist to speak authoritatively about Cy Endfield. Although Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote appreciatively about him in "Pages from the Endfield File" (Film Comment, November-December 1993), Endfield is largely unknown except to B movie buffs. He never experienced the notoriety of the Hollywood Ten or was granted the privilege accorded to Carl Foreman, whom HUAC allowed to testify about himself without naming names, which in 1956 was unprecedented. When Enfield decided to purge himself in 1960, he was not that fortunate. To those who have written about HUAC's witnesses, friendly and otherwise, Endfield is just a name. Thanks to Neve, a name has been given a life, and a shadow has taken on substance in this compelling narrative of a Scranton, Pennsylvania native who attended Yale without completing a degree, joined the Young Communist League and the John Reed Club, became involved in radical theatre without being a radical himself (compared to Fascism, he found Communism "least bad" [22]), wrote for radio and then film, directed shorts at MGM, and finally graduated to features, beginning on Poverty Row with Gentleman Joe Palooka (Monogram, 1946).

The Many Lives of Cy Endfield reads like a Bildungsroman. As a Scranton native myself, I found Neve's reconstruction of Endfield's boyhood and adolescence quite accurate. The city, where King Coal reigned and railroad tracks were a line of social demarcation, would spur anyone with ambition to leave. To Endfield, Scranton was "a contradiction to everything that I have made himself and am making myself" (25). It was at Yale where the self-made Endfield acquired a political conscience and found a kindred spirit in Israel Shapiro, later known as screenwriter Paul Jarrico, who was more committed to the Party than was Endfield himself. Like many young intellectuals, Endfield joined the Party because he was disturbed by the economic disparity between the classes in the early 1930s. But his career took precedence over his politics, which he managed to work into his films, starting with The Argyle Secrets (1948), which revealed the existence of war profiteers who did business with the Nazis during World War II. He went further in A Sound of Fury (1950), a study in mob violence that culminated in an off-screen lynching. That same year saw the release of The Underground Story, revered by film noir aficionados and left-wingers. For the rest, it was a hardboiled melodrama about a black maid falsely accused of murder. Interestingly, a white actress, Mary Anderson, played the maid but was photographed in such a way that she appeared to be of mixed race. Even so, the film exposed the workings of a corrupt system that would allow a false allegation to be lodged against someone who would not be believed because she was a person of color. Those were Endfield's kind of films. And those would have been the kinds the Hollywood Left would have continued to produce had the blacklist not intervened.

When it did, rather than deal with the inevitable subpoena, Endfield became an expat, working in London where he made several films, none under his own name. In 1960, Endfield decided to return to the States and appear before HUAC, and even though this was the year Otto Preminger announced that he had hired the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo to adapt Leon Uris's Exodus and Howard Fast's Spartacus, these were not easy times for him. The blacklist may have ended for Trumbo, but not for Endfield, who spoke openly to the committee about his Communist past and the comrades he had known. It was a sobering testimony, neither groveling nor arrogant, but that of a man eager to work at his trade. [End Page 89]

Neve includes Endfield's Zulu (1964) in his subtitle and is clearly a fan of the movie, narrated by Richard Burton, which is a good indication that it is...


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