Although much of Frankel’s material is familiar, the blacklist is a gift that keeps on giving. There always seems to be something new to chew on, in this case the transcripts of HUAC’s secret executive sessions. Besides, it’s a story that bears retelling because Hollywood, not to mention the rest of the country, is haunted by ghosts that won’t go away (witness Newt Gingrich’s recent call for a resurrection of HUAC, now to be wielded against ISIS, not Communists) ... Surprisingly, it is Gary Cooper, a card-carrying conservative, who emerges as one of the few heroes of this story. Called before HUAC in the middle of production, Foreman gave his star the opportunity to leave the picture — guilt by association was de rigueur in those days — but Cooper refused ... Frankel narrates this story well. He has a sure ear for the telling anecdote, and a good eye for detail. (Parnell Thomas chaired the HUAC hearings sitting on a phone book covered by a red cushion to compensate for his diminutive stature.) The era has been labeled 'the plague years,' but Frankel is forgiving of those caught up in its tangle of principle and expediency, courage and cowardice. He adopts the verdict of Dalton Trumbo, another of the Unfriendly Ten: 'There were only victims.' ”
Frankel’s fresh understanding, to be sure, owes a lot to plain old digging. A former Washington Post reporter, he unearthed Kramer’s confession of helplessness, for instance, in a taped conversation that had languished for decades. The provenance is clarified in one of the text’s many hundreds of endnotes — and his bibliography is equally exhaustive. The heaps of research, however, never snuff out what’s entertaining about scenes such as the culture clash around the émigré’s piano. Frankel’s grasp of cinema’s 'collaborative effort' leads to a juggling act, switching points of view among the film’s chief contributors ... Although the Red Scare’s trail of betrayal and ruin looks as heartbreaking as ever, the story can’t help but feel a tad rehashed. Frankel’s chapters on the hearings and their consequences rely on the same intense research as the rest (including material never published before), but they lack the warmth of the biographical passages ... Though Frankel began this sumptuous history long before the latest election, he ends up reminding us that 2016 was far from the first time politicians trafficked in lies and fear, and showing us how, nonetheless, people of integrity came together to do exemplary work.
...a detailed investigation of the way anti-communist persecution poisoned the atmosphere around one film, which succeeded nonetheless, and damaged the lives of the people who made it ... The connection between Cooper in the movie and in real life is apparent, so Frankel does not have to overplay it. It's obvious that Cooper and Foreman's personal lives somehow doubled the film's story after Cooper was cast in the lead ... A pox lies dormant in American politics, like shingles, and it has broken out again. The Trump administration, even before taking power, began to request lists of government employees who might disagree with its policies on climate change, gender equality, and anti-terrorism; a right-wing website is compiling a watch list of professors it accuses of liberal bias. Frankel's book makes clear how volatile and destructive such lists can become, and the kind of people they empower ... As our new era unfolds, with the explicit promise, or threat, to make America as great as these 1950s again, we will soon find out if the bizarre tales in Frankel's book will be repeated with a new cast of actors and writers.
Frankel is a lively and original social historian first and foremost, and this is an expertly detailed, occasionally revelatory reconstruction of a time (1951), a place (Los Angeles), and a fraught political milieu (the Red Scare traumatizing movieland’s idealistic if foolish Commies, ex-Commies, and liberals alike). It’s also a sympathetic but trenchant set of portraits of the key players involved in bringing High Noon to the screen ... What makes the book compelling is the rich texture of everybody’s back-stories and Frankel’s rendering of the larger picture, from the appeal of Communism in the 1930s to the looming demise of the studio system and the politics of hysteria that gave the HUAC clout. Even readers broadly familiar with the era’s history will enjoy Frankel’s knack for the right summarizing detail or revealing quote as he sets the scene ... The case Frankel tries to make for the movie’s greatness is unlikely to sway skeptics ... Instead, the book is most impressive in how skillfully it turns High Noon into a many-faceted, still resonant cultural artifact, as well as a signal moment in the careers of everyone involved.
Frankel meticulously traces the fraught production and tug-of-war for credit that took up decades, a conflict intertwined with Foreman's blacklisting and his acrimonious split with producer Stanley Kramer ... Hollywood was a target because its stories had the power to shape public opinion, and their interrogations were meant to be humbling. Frankel paints a devastating picture of a powerful force crumbling under oppression — a cautionary tale in borrowed cowboy hats ... High Noon is a sharp social history that reminds us just how common for a broken system to abuse its power and cause deep human damage — the worst is coming, any second — but also that a little cynicism can be useful. Kane defends a worthless city; Kane wins. There are no clean endings, except in the movies.
Frankel introduces a host of extras who were part of the scene, including staunch Commie foe John Wayne and a B-list actor named Ronald Reagan, who at the time was the liberal president of the Screen Actors Guild but was heading down the path that would take him to the White House as a conservative some 30 years later ... In a time that’s shaping up to be a tumultuous era in U.S. history, this story of politics, art, loyalty and conscience is more relevant than ever. And a nice bonus: Although it may impart a civics lesson, it doesn’t read like one.
The blacklist has provided grist for many books, including Victor Navasky's seminal study Naming Names. But Frankel's book feels fresh nonetheless. Using newly discovered records, he tells the story through the prism of a beloved Hollywood movie. He spotlights the major players — Foreman, producer Stanley Kramer, star Gary Cooper and director Fred Zinnemann — and deftly loops them all into the bigger picture.
Frankel's book takes a good while to get to the actual filming and the reception of High Noon, but the side roads en route are worth it ... The Red Scare Hollywood era is familiar nonfiction territory, but Frankel makes it vital and gets down to the roots ... Without turning his book into a screed against Donald Trump's America and current political ideologies that aim to take the country back to 1952, Frankel keeps both eyes on the lessons of the past, as well as the movies that got made, despite opposition.
Frankel, who won a Pulitzer Prize at the Washington Post and went on to teach journalism at Stanford University and the University of Texas at Austin, draws on a plethora of sources to craft a tale that, as a thriller, rivals High Noon itself.
Much of his broader story has been told before, and Frankel sometimes manages the neat trick of spinning out prose that is both breathless and burdened with minutiae. But by surveying the era through one film, he both distills and refines ... High Noon — either the book or the movie — couldn’t be more timely.
In his wide-screen narrative, High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic, cultural historian Glenn Frankel follows the outrageous fortunes of the film and its creators … The House Committee on Un-American Activities began to probe for Communist influence in Celluloid City. As a shelf of books have indicated, the congressmen pursued ink and air time as avidly as they hunted ‘subversives’ … The movie High Noon, great in itself, is all the greater for the backstory Mr. Frankel tells.
The story of High Noon, in Frankel’s hands, is a fascinating one. The filmmakers began with a simple story, a meager budget, and not much confidence from the studio heads. Yet they ended up with a certifiable hit — and a political imbroglio, when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which was investigating alleged Communist activities in Hollywood and blacklisting people with suspect politics, set its sights on the film's mastermind … An added treat of the book is the gossipy insights it offers into the true characters of Hollywood celebrities of a bygone era.