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Carl Foreman
Born July 23, 1914(1914-07-23)
Chicago, Illinois
Died June 26, 1984 (aged 69)
Los Angeles, California

Carl Foreman CBE (July 23, 1914 – June 26, 1984) was an American screenwriter and film producer who was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses in the 1950s.



Born in Chicago, Illinois to a working-class Jewish family, he studied at the University of Illinois. As a student in the 1930s he became an advocate of revolutionary socialism and joined the American Communist Party.

After graduating from university, Carl Foreman moved to Hollywood where he used his writing talents and training to work as a screenwriter. From 1941 to 1942 he was involved with writing three films but his career was interrupted by service in the United States military during World War II. Returning to writing commercial scripts, by the end of the 1940s, Foreman had become one of the top writers in Hollywood whose successes included the 1949 Kirk Douglas film Champion for which Foreman received an Academy Award nomination.

In 1950, he adapted Brian Hooker's English translation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac for the 1950 film version, which starred Jose Ferrer, and for which Ferrer won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

In 1951, during production of the film High Noon, Carl Foreman was summoned to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He testified that he had been a member of the American Communist Party more than ten years earlier while still a young man but had become disillusioned with the Party and quit. As a result of his refusal to give the names of fellow Party members, Foreman was labeled as an "uncooperative witness" and blacklisted by all of the Hollywood studio bosses.

Carl Foreman was the screenwriter of High Noon, a film that is seen by some as an allegory for McCarthyism. He was not credited for his associate producer role when the film was released in 1952 but he did receive an Academy Award nomination for his script from his fellow members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Western film is considered an American classic and was #33 on American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Movies, and has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. This would be the last film he would be allowed to work on by a Hollywood studio for the next six years. Unemployed, Foreman and some others who had also been blacklisted such as Ring Lardner, Jr. moved to England where they wrote scripts under pseudonyms that were channeled back to Hollywood. As such, High Noon, the film that was Foreman's greatest screenwriting accomplishment, made no mention of his name as associate producer but did credit him for the screenplay. In 1956 he co-wrote the screenplay with fellow blacklisted writer, Michael Wilson for the equally acclaimed The Bridge on the River Kwai. Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle, the two were not given screen credit and as such the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay went to Pierre Boulle, who did not speak English. This was only rectified posthumously in 1984 and his name was added to the award.

In addition to his writing of screenplays, Carl Foreman produced ten films, including both producing, writing, and directing 1963s anti-war epic The Victors, filmed entirely in the United Kingdom. He also produced and scripted the 1961 smash hit World War II blockbuster The Guns of Navarone, starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn; it remains one of his most popular pictures. He is credited as "presenter" on the smash hit 1966 film Born Free, and both presented and produced its (unsuccessful) sequel, Living Free in 1972. In 1965 he was made a governor of the British Film Institute, serving until 1971. In 1970, Foreman was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Such is his influence on the British film industry, that there is a British Academy Award or BAFTA that bears his name - the Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer.

Near the end of his life, Carl Foreman returned to the United States where he died of a brain tumor in 1984 in Beverly Hills, California. His first marriage produced a daughter, Katie, with his wife Estelle; his second marriage produced two additional children, who were born in London. His daughter, Amanda Foreman, graduated from Columbia University and Oxford University, where she received a Ph.D. in history. His son, Jonathan Foreman, has a degree in modern history from the Cambridge University, a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and was an editorial writer and senior film critic for the New York Post; more recently, he has relocated to London to work for Daily Mail.

High Noon, HUAC, the Red Scare, and the Korean War

High Noon's production and release also intersected with the second Red Scare and the Korean War. Foreman was called before HUAC while he was writing the film. Foreman had not been in the communist party for almost ten years, but declined to 'name names' and was considered an 'un-cooperative witness' by HUAC.[1] When Stanley Kramer found out some of this, he forced Foreman to sell his part of their company, and tried to get him kicked off the making of the picture.[2] Fred Zinnemann, Gary Cooper, and Bruce Church intervened. There was also a problem with the Bank of America loan, as Foreman hadn't yet signed certain papers. Thus Foreman remained on the production, but moved to England before it was released nationally, as he knew he would never be allowed to work in America.[3]

Kramer claimed he had not stood up for Foreman partly because Foreman was threatening to dishonestly name Kramer as a Communist.[4] Foreman said that Kramer was afraid of what would happen to him and his career if Kramer didn't cooperate with the Committee. Kramer wanted Foreman to name names and not plead for his Fifth Amendment rights.[5] There had also been pressure against Foreman by, among others, Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures (Kramer's brand new boss at the time), John Wayne of the MPA (who said he would "never reget having helped run Foreman out of this country" and called High Noon "un-American") and Hedda Hopper of the Los Angeles Times.[6] Cast and crew members were also affected. Howland Chamberlin was blacklisted, while Floyd Crosby and Lloyd Bridges were "gray listed."[7]

Documentaries on Foreman

In 2002, PBS television made a two-hour film about Foreman's ordeal during McCarthyism titled Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents. It was written and directed by outspoken conservative Lionel Chetwynd.

Foreman was also the subject of an episode of Screenwriters: Words Into Image, directed by Terry Sanders and Frieda Lee Mock.

Partial filmography (screenwriter)

Major awards




Notes & Bibliography

  1. ^ Byman, pg 73, 76, and all of Chapter 5
  2. ^ Byman, pg 9, 80
  3. ^ Byman, pg 80, 90
  4. ^ Byman, pg 86.
  5. ^ Byman, pg 76, 80. See also all of Chapters 1 and 5
  6. ^ Byman, p 83, 86, 87
  7. ^ Byman, pg 9

External links


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