restricted access 1. The Woman on Pier 13: I Married a Communist!
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1 The Woman on Pier 13 I Married a Communist! The political agents of the Kremlin abroad continue to beat out the feminist drums in full awareness of its disruptive influence among the potential enemies of the Soviet Union. —Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia F. Farnham, Modern Woman: The Lost Sex In the wake of the 1947 investigation of communist infiltration of the motion picture industry by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, a series of anticommunist films began to appear in the United States. Although a cycle of silentpictureshadappearedin1919and1920that“paintedinluridcolorsthethreat posed by Bolshevism,”1 the anticommunist pictures produced by Hollywood in the late 1940s and early 1950s are those that have become associated in the public imagination, like some Pavlovian reflex, with the “red menace.” A subset of this second cycle of “red scare” films includes a number of noirinflected features such as Walk a Crooked Mile (1948); I Married a Communist, aka The Woman on Pier 13 (1949/1950); I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. (1951); The Whip Hand (1951); Big Jim McLain (1952); and Walk East on Beacon! (1952). Since these films tended to be made “on the cheap,” they have been derogated by critics for their aesthetic quality. Since they appeared to promote a right-wing agenda unlike left, progressive pre-1948 noir, they have also been excoriated for theirpolitics.In aword,these anticommunistfilmsare—toinvokeDanielLeab’s verdict on I Married a Communist—“awful.”2 In the following chapter, I employ The Woman on Pier 13 as a privileged example of anticommunist film noir in order to explore the received left critique 20 ’50s Noir and Anticommunism of the ideological and aesthetic properties of this subgenre—what one might call the unhappy marriage between film noir and anticommunism—as well as to demonstrate how the discourse of anticommunism is intimately related, via the metaphor of marriage, to issues of gender and sexuality. Section 1, “Production: ‘Paint It,’” examines the production history of The Woman on Pier 13 to highlight the ideological mutability of the film’s ostensible right-wing agenda, one actively endorsed by RKO’s head of production at the time, Howard Hughes. Section 2, “Photography: Paint It Black,” aims to counter the claim that the anticommunist noir is without aesthetic—that is to say, audiovisual—interest by proffering a close textual analysis of a number of classic noir sequences in The Woman on Pier 13. This analysis reveals the structural similarity between the quintessential RKO noir, Out of the Past (1947), and The Woman on Pier 13, both of which were photographed by Nicholas Musuraca. It suggests, moreover, that the melodramatic aspect of The Woman on Pier 13’s dual, hybrid status as a melonoir —one partthriller,one part“woman’spicture”—canberead,notunlikeOut of the Past, as a masque or allegory of the persecutory character of the anticommunist witch hunt. Section 3, “Criss Cross,” argues that—as the film’s original title, I Married a Communist, indexes—the political discourse of anticommunism cannot be divorced from contemporary sociocultural notions about marriage, notions that receive their most charged expression in the film’s figuration of femininity (the femme fatale) and homosexuality (the queer commie). Section4,“PaintItRed,”revisitstheissueofform—here,mise-en-scène—by exploring the figure of the cargo hook and the role of Diego Rivera’s painting The Flower Carrier (1935)inThe Woman on Pier 13.Asreiteratedinthecoda,themininarrative of The Flower Carrier reflects the larger story of The Woman on Pier 13, a motion picture that arguably turns not so much on the men—whether commie boss or “bad boy”—as the women: the “bad blonde” and the “good wife.” In fine, just as The Flower Carrier illustrates the ideological ambiguity of The Woman on Pier 13, so too a stereophonic sense of the film’s libidinal economy intimates that themarriagebetweenfilmnoirandanticommunism—likethatbetweenfilmnoir and melodrama—is stranger and richer than previously imagined, revealing not simply the changing contours of classic noir in the early 1950s but, among other things, the emergence of the “feminine mystique” in mid-century America. Production: “Paint It” When reexamining the anticommunist noir cycle, there’s no better place to start thanIMarriedaCommunist/TheWomanonPier13(1949/1950).Thedualtitleand release date reflect the complicated history surrounding the film’s production. 21 The Woman on Pier 13 RKO purchased the original title—a sensational one, to be sure—from Eagle Lion Pictures in 1948, but it was changed to The Woman on Pier 13 after sneak previews in late 1949 in San Francisco...


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