Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 453: The Blacklist

I've long believed that nobody calling themselves an artist has any right to tell another artist what they can or cannot do with their talents let alone where or for whom they can perform.

Recently, there's been a building brouhaha designed to convince entertainers of all stripes to either refuse the booking or withdraw from performing at this week's Presidential inauguration in Washington, DC.

Across the media, both traditional and social, pretty much anybody with a recognizable name in film, television or music has urged their peers to teach President-Elect Trump some kind of lesson by not showing up for the gig.

Now, I'm not a Trump fan -- and isn't it interesting that I have to issue that kind of disclaimer -- because otherwise a whole bunch of people would either just stop reading this or get busy calling me a racist, a misogynist and all sorts of other insults of the day. But where do any of you get off dictating the terms of somebody else's employment?

None of those people or what they have to say bothers me much, since most have a tighter grasp on ideology than actual talent. And few if any would ever get an invitation to perform at a Presidential Inauguration, no matter who was taking the oath of office.

Still, they go after everybody from the Radio City Rockettes to marching bands from Alabama, artists they'd probably never personally pay to see -- shaming, promising career disaster and uttering death threats.

Seriously. Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli withdrew this week because he'd been getting death threats. What kind of person sends death threats to a blind man?

Just how deep this hatred goes was illustrated this weekend when Nicole Kidman merely refused to take a shot at Trump and said she was adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Director Josh Whedon immediately issued the following tweet...

Good thing Mr. Whedon has gone out of his way to declare himself an avowed feminist. Otherwise, God knows what kind of venom he might've spewed.

All of this has reminded me of a rainy night in the mid-1990's, when I ducked into a Santa Monica bookstore and stumbled into a reading by one time movie director and the only Canadian member of the Hollywood Ten -- Edward Dmytryk.

At some point in Edward's youth, his family had moved from BC to Los Angeles and he landed a job as a messenger at Paramount Studios. From there he moved to film editing and then directing. Among his first features were the Film Noir classics "Murder, My Sweet" and "Crossfire" for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

He would go on to direct dozens of notable films including, "Back to Bataan", "The Caine Mutiny", "Raintree County", "The Young Lions", "Walk on the Wild Side", "The Carpetbaggers" and "Mirage".

But all that talent and the millions he'd earned for the studios didn't mean much when the House Un-American Activities Committee arrived to uproot Communists in Hollywood and discovered Edward had been a party member for a brief time in 1945. 

Like others of "The Hollywood Ten", Edward refused to testify before the committee and went to jail, his career destroyed. 

Later, HUAAC gave him a chance to redeem himself, so Edward named the guys he was already in the slammer with and they let him go.

While lining up to get my copy of his book autographed, I thumbed the pages, finding a photograph of Edward in Convict Blues leaning against a gas pump where he worked gassing up the the prison vehicles. During his reading, he'd referred to it as "The best job I ever had". 

I asked him to sign that photo instead of the title page. He laughed and we started a conversation that would go on for several weeks. Mostly about screenwriting, editing and directing. But also -- what happens when artists are turned against one another merely to suit someone's political agenda.

You can find Edward Dmytryk's exceptional work almost anywhere. But here's a taste of what Andrea Bocelli won't be doing on Inauguration Day but Country Star Toby Keith will. Part of me hopes Toby sings one of my personal faves. It might be quite fitting.

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