Sunday, August 2, 2015

Disney's Commie

A Journal of the Plague Years: Maurice Rapf & the Hollywood Blacklist

Blacklisted Screenwriter was the Founder of Dartmouth College's Film Studies Program

Jon C. Hopwood
Maurice Rapf, the blackisted Hollywood screenwriter who became one of the pioneers of cinema studies, was born on May 19, 1914 in New York City to producer Harry Rapf and his wife, Tina Uhfelder Rapf, and given the name Maurice Harry Rapf. Harry Rapf was one of the founders of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer and an Oscar-winner for producing MGM's first musical, The Broadway Melody (1929), an early talkie smash and the studio's first of many Academy Awards for Best Picture.
Unlike his father, Maurice Rapf never won an Oscar; his most significant achievement as a screenwriter arguably was Song of the South (1946) for Walt Disney, which he disowned due to its racism, while his most significant "achievement" as an activist, arguably, was to be blacklisted a year later for his communist sympathies. But he left a lasting legacy through his union activities and as a film professor.
Life With Father
"My father started producing features in 1916 when I was two years old," Maurice Rapf (Dartmouth College '35) wrote in an article for the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine in 1990. "A year later, I began a brief career as a movie actor, playing war orphans, street urchins and assorted brats. That ended when I started school. My father moved from New York to Hollywood and in 1924 became a mogul at MGM. Making movies was the family business, and with parental help, it became mine as well."
Maurice's father Harry Rapf was Hollywood royalty, having worked his way up from minstrel shows and vaudeville to become an independent movie producer in the mid 'Teens. At the tender age of three, Harry enlisted his son "Maury" as a child actor, and Maurice Rapf's personal involvement with the movies began. Maury's career as an actor soon ended, cut short by the exigencies of schooling.
Harry Rapf was hired by indie producer Lewis B. Selznick in 1919, and then moved on to Warner Bros. in 1921, where as a producer, he and the young screenwriter Darryl F. Zanuck turned World War Iveteran Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd saved from the trenches of the Western Front, into an international superstar. When MGM was created from the 1924 merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Productions, Harry Rapf was brought onboard to share central producing duties with Louis B. Mayer (named by TIME Magazine as one of the Top 100 People of the 20th Century) and his protégé Irving Thalberg.
The career change necessitated a permanent shift of the Rapf family from New York to southern California. Harry Rapf was given the job of overseeing the production of the "programmers" that were the bread-and-butter of the studio, pictures starring such box office heavyweights as Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery. With a keen eye for talent, Harry Rapf earned the credit for discovering Joan Crawford in the chorus line of Broadway's The Passing Show of 1924. Rapf was invited by Mayer to be one of the 36 founders of his brainchild, a company union called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences that was intended to fight off unionization by the crafts.
Maury, as the son of Harry, grew up in Los Angeles, trolling the studios, sets, offices and streets of the Culver City production facilities, one of the privileged "Hollywood Princes," like his good friend Budd Schulberg, son of Paramount boss B.P. Schulberg. Maury used to bully Loew's theater owners to get into the movies for free, citing his father's status at Loew's MGM subsidiary. His first screen credit was for writing the story of the Jackie Cooper vehicle Divorce in the Family (1932), which produced by his father. He was 18-years-old.
Like Budd, he went to Dartmouth College, and like Budd, he went to the USSR and flirted with communism. Again, like his good friend, he eventually joined the Communist Party. Rapf and Schulberg reportedly where the inspirations for F. Scott Fitzgerald's Hollywood Princess Cecilia Brady, the daughter of the villainous studio boss Pat Brady in his unfinished last novel The Last Tycoon.
While matriculating at Dartmouth in bucolic small-town Hanover, New Hampshire, Maurice Rapfwas an exchange student at the Anglo-American Institute in the USSR. Muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens, a communist, had proclaimed "I have been over into the future and it works," after a trip to the Soviet Union. Steffens' enthusiasm inspired thousands of other progressives to visit the future themselves, and those visitors included Budd Schulberg and Maurice Rapf.
The Soviets gave foreign visitors tours of fake "Potemkin" villages. Schulberg had been impressed by what he saw, as had Rapf, whose own tour had been sponsored by the National Student League and had included future double-Oscar winning screenwriter, and Hollywood Ten alumnus, Ring Lardner Jr., who would serve nine months in jail for his beliefs a decade-and-a-half after that visit.
After attending the Institute, Maurice Rapf made a trip to Germany in 1934, at a time when Hitler and the Nazi Party were consolidating their dictatorship over all aspects of German life after terminating democracy with extreme prejudice the year before. It was a bold move for someone of the Jewish faith, especially one only 20-years old. His personal experience of Nazi Germany convinced him that communism was the best bulwark against Nazism.
Hollywood Communist
Maurice Rapf joined the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA) and was an active member throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s. He remained a committed member where others, such as Elia Kazan, dropped out due to disillusionment with the Party after the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany, that set up the two totalitarian tyrannies' invasion and partition of Poland.
"The thing that most impressed me and probably made me a communist was that anti-Semitism was illegal in the Soviet Union," Rapf would later claim, "and that the Soviets were very anti-fascist, which the US was not."
"Making movies was the family business, and with parental help, it became mine as well," Rapf wrote in his 1990 memoir. As a college boy returned to his family's studio, he co-wrote We Went to College(1936), They Gave Him a Gun (1937), and The Bad Man of Brimstone (1937) for his father's production unit, which had been one of several set up by Louis B. Mayer as a 'college of cardinals' to replace the ailing central producer Irving Thalberg, and also to dilute his power. Harry Rapf's power at MGM had been on the wane since suffering a bad heart attack in 1933, which is likely that his son eventually sought employment at other studios.
Along with Budd Schulberg, Maurice Rapf was one of the founding members of the Screen Writers Guild (since renamed the Writers Guild of America), the screenwriters trade union, which is ironic in his light of the ongoing attempts of his father's generation to forestall unionization of the movie industry. With the Guild duly accredited as the screen writers' bargaining representative with the studios, a formal system of pay and credit was instituted to protect the rights of writers. Rapf became a secretary of the SWG, while his friend Budd Schulberg served on the Guild council.
Rapf became a busy and serious screenwriter, working on many movies, typically in the action genre. He helped develop the story for the political thriller Sharpshooters (1938) for 20th Century-Fox, where production was headed by the progressive Darryl F. Zanuck, his father's old Rin Tin Tin collaborator, and then bounced over to Columbia for North of Shanghai (1939).
Maurice Rapf (Dartmouth, '35) received credit for indie producer Walter Wanger's Dartmouth-based college love-story Winter Carnival (1939), on which he replaced F. Scott Fitzgerald (Princeton, '16) as the collaborator with fellow Dartmouth alumnus Budd Schulberg, after the great writer of "The Great Gatsby" went off on one of his Brobdingnagian boozing binges. By the time that film was released, he was working as a staff screenwriter for Warner Bros.
According to a memoir published by screenwriter Malvin Wald, when he was first employed by Warner Bros., Maurice Rapf was made his collaborator after another collaborator changed an original story of his beyond all recognition. When Warners screenwriter-in-chief John Huston invited Rapf to join the Writers Table, Rapf's collaborator was invited as well. Wald found Rapf to be a "considerate and patient teacher," who was concerned with his young protege's professional well-being. Eventually, the writing team lost one producer, and then their replacement producer was fired, and their contracts were terminated by production chief Jack Warner. Wald couldn't complain, as under Rapf's tutelage, he had learned the business and even had qualified for membership in Rapf's Screen Writers Guild.
In the early '40s, Maurice Rapf bounced between Paramount, Budd Schulberg's father's old studio, and 20th Century-Fox, which was headed by Joseph Shenck, the brother of Loew's Inc. President Nicholas Shenck, the capo di tutti capi of MGM. Rapf even made a house-call as a script doctor at
Poverty Row for Republic Pictures' Call of the Canyon (1942). He eventually wound up at Walt Disney & Co., which would prove to be his final home studio. It seems ironic that his longest stint in a studio, even longer than the professional association he had with his father's, was at Walt Disney, as the eponymous owner had the reputation as being perhaps the premier anti-communist in Hollywood.
In 1944, Walt Disney offered him a chance to rewrite a script based on Joel Chandler Otis' Uncle Remus stories. Rapf was worried that writing for an animated film would hurt his career as it was considered a kind of ghetto in Hollywood, and he also expressed his anxiety over the racism in the stories. Disney assured him that the film would be a live-action feature, and that he was being hired to expressly cut the racism out of the script, although what he likely was looking for in hiring Rapf was political cover from the left. Rapf accepted the job and did the rewrite while waiting for a commission from the U.S. Navy.
After working on the "Uncle Remus" screenplay, he and fellow communist (and fellow traveler to 1934 Russia) Ring Lardner, Jr., helped co-write the animated short The Brotherhood of Man, which was co-produced by the United Auto Workers labor union and United Productions of America (best known for their post-war Mr. Magoo cartoons), and released by the U.S. Navy. When the "Uncle Remus" movie eventually was released after the war, Rapf expressed his dismay that the film, now entitled Song of the South," failed to rid itself of its residual racism. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People denounced Song of the South for perpetrating racial stereotypes.
At Disney, Rapf wrote an early draft for an animated feature film based on the fairy tale "Cinderella," for which he would receive no credit. The last film he worked on at Disney was the slice-of-AmericanaSo Dear To My Heart (1949). He left Disney under a cloud of suspicion, as the movie moguls had agreed at the Waldorf Conference, a film industry summit meeting called after the 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) had the Hollywood Ten indicted for contempt of Congress, to fire any communists they had in their employ. Maurice Rapf was subpoenaed to testify before the HUAC, but was excused because he became sick with the mumps.
Ironically, the communist Maurice Rapf got along well with the right-wing Republican Walt Disney, whom he categorized as a personally modest perfectionist, and both enjoyed arguing politics. Disney told Rapf that he became a Republican when, as a boy, a gang of young Democrats pulled down his pants and coated his testicles with hot tar. Contrary to the now-accepted caricature of Disney as a racist reactionary, Rapf wrote
in his 1999 autobiography Back Lot that Walt Disney was neither a red-baiter, nor an anti-Semite.
"I never knew anyone in the Party - in all the years I was associated with it, which was a long, long time - who was seeking anything but humanistic goals. Certainly, there was never any attempt on the part of the people I knew to overthrow the government of the United States.... We did believe in class struggle. I still believe in class struggle," Rapf was quoted in the book Tender Comrades.
Marx described class struggle as the conflict between capital (the bourgeoisie) and labor (the proletariat). While capital and labor do have common interests, as the proletariat must sell its labor for wages and the bourgeoisie must expend capital to obtain labor, one class' individual interests inevitably lead to conflict with the other class, as capital seeks to enhance its surplus by immiserating labor. The history of Hollywood from the mid-1920s and up through the mid-1930s, and again after World War II, was a "class struggle" between the studios and the various crafts over wages, working conditions, and ultimately unionization when the company union that was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences could not or would not protect the interests of the crafts.
This paradox also was a metaphor for Freud's Oedipal conflict (itself a metaphor), that set privileged "Princes of Hollywood" like Budd Schulberg and Maurice Rapf against the interests of their fathers, all self-made men who rose to the top through a combination of cunning and ruthlessness, who once established, tried to buy respectability through the ostentatious consumption of goods and people, be they respected writers like Fitzgerald, James Hilton, or William Faulkner, or stars and starlets alike, like Clara Kimball Young, Normal Talmadge, and Marilyn Monroe.
B.P. Schulberg and Harry Rapf were doers, while their more artistically inclined sons Budd and Maury were observers, but observers who had carried the gene for action. After observing that something was rotten in the state of Hollywood, they were determined, like Hamlet, to do something about it. Indeed, Schulberg's Oedipus-like blow against the Hollywood system that nurtured him, What Makes Sammy Run?, his excoriating exegesis of studio executive Sammy Glick, was credited by Schulberg himself with terminating his father's career in Hollywood.
Budd Schulberg makes no bones about it in What Makes Sammy Run? The old type of Hollywood-hustler/immigrant-Jew who made the motion picture industry and believed in assimilation with society at large while indulging their gross individual appetites embarrassed him. The Party went so far to censure him publicly for anti-Semitism after the novel was published in 1941. Schulberg dated his own disillusionment with the Party to the time he refused the order of the CPUSA dramaturge, future Hollywood Ten member John Howard Lawson, to submit to Party discipline with his novel.
The Cold War & The Black List
As history developed in fact, not theory, the dictatorship of the proletariat proved to be a legal justification by which tyrants imposed a totalitarianism over their subject peoples. Democracy for the post-War communist activist often meant ensuring a unanimity of interests in which one interest, that of the Party, could veto and thus gain control over all other competing interests. In the 1930s and '40s, Stalin and his NKVD spent almost as much time eliminating fellow socialists, leftists and fellow travelers as it did in fighting fascism, and indeed, had been fascist Germany's ally in the opening days of World War II.
Documentation reveals that the Hollywood Ten's legal defense of aggressive non-cooperation (rather than just taking the Fifth Amendment) was dictated from the Soviet Union via CPUSA, which Moscow financed, and that screenwriter and Hollywood Ten blacklisted John Howard Lawson was the CPUSA point man in Hollywood, reading members' work and demanding emendations. (That none of the Hollywood Ten members sang in 1947 was considered a brave act, but now seems to be an expression of party discipline.) Of course, how effective this party discipline was for getting out communist propaganda can be called into doubt, as so many movie industry writers of every political persuasion were used by the studios to write, rewrite, and then rewrite a rewritten script.
Indeed, one scoffs at the exaggeration of many charges of certain Hollywood professionals being "red" or "pink" or a "fellow-traveler," such as those leveled against outspoken liberal Burt Lancaster, whose swashbuckling movies of the early '50s contained the thematic element of the oppressed rising up against their oppressor.
Yet, Lancaster's business partner, former CPUSA member Harold Hecht, in friendly testimony before HUAC told of how, when he was employed by the Works Progress Administration's National Theater Project, he was commanded by CPUSA to fire Party critics and retain Party members when the organization's budget was cut and layoffs were immanent. To his credit, Hecht did claim that CPUSA did not have inordinate influence over the National Theater Project, as had been claimed by Congressional anti-communists before the War. So, there was real interference with Party members, as Elia Kazan noted in his justification of his own friendly testimony before HUAC; it just seems like it never was very effective in actually creating communist propaganda.
The sole exception was Warner's 1943 release Mission to Moscow, made at the request of the federal government, a pro-Stalin potboiler written by future blacklisted screen writer Howard Koch that justified the Soviet dictator's show-trials of the late 1930s as having been undertaken to rid the USSR of real and potential spies for Nazi Germany. The leader of this Nazi Fifth Column, the chief culprit behind all this skullduggery was, of course, Stalin's nemesis Leon Trotsky, who had been murdered in Mexico in 1940 by an NKVD agent under Stalin's orders. Many leftists, including educator John Dewey, who ran an inquiry, were fully aware at the time of the purges that the show trials were staged theatricals whose victims confessed to improbable if not downright impossible crimes. Stalin was imposing a cruel and implacable dictatorship on the Soviet Union, in effect, consolidating his grip on the USSR through the judicial murder of his old Bolshevik and Menshevik allies to eliminate potential rivals and any possible challenge to his monopoly on power, real or imagined.)
The Hollywood red-baiting and witch-trials must be understood in the context of the intense backlash against the New Deal that gained strength when Harry Truman assumed the presidency, and which gained more momentum when Truman unexpectedly won the 1948 presidential election, thus keeping the Republicans out of power for four more years.
The Grand Old Party began to be dominated by reactionary, anti-interventionists, who wanted to isolate America from the rest of the world and from its dolorous influences. It was an ancient theme, as old as the Republic itself, when George Washington in his farewell address cautioned his new country against becoming entangled in foreign alliances. Like Metternich at the Congress of Vienna, who wanted to turn post-Napoleonic Europe back to the status quo ante-bellum of monarchies that could suppress the spreading liberalism that threatened to upset the old social equilibrium that Napoleon had knocked off-kilter, many Republicans and some conservative Democrats wanted to return the United States to its inward-looking self, and Washington, D.C. back to the swampy, sleepy Southern town it had been before the War. But it's impossible to turn back the clock, and Harry Truman was determined to contain Soviet communism while avoiding World War III.
Many pre-war proto-fascists of the old pro-Nazi German American Bund and the anti-Roosevelt America First isolationists were quick to launch a crusade against the USSR and its American supporters after World War II's end mooted the necessity for an anti-Axis alliance. They were joined by many others, including some anti-communist converts whom had once been enthusiastic New Dealers, such as newspaper columnist and radio personality Walter Winchell, who grown older, wealthier and more conservative, turned into a red-baiter. In addition to being an outburst of anti-Semitism by the old proto-fascists that were now part of the anti-red right, the anti-communist witch-hunt of the late 1940s and early '50s can be seen as a reckoning by conservatives, both the dyed-in-the-wool variety like studio boss Walt Disney and the arriviste like Winchell, against liberals, who were enjoying a 20-year run in power via the Roosevelt-Truman administrations.
The country that they, and most Americans, had known had changed dramatically, and there was a great deal of anxiety out and about that could be exploited by the ruthless power-seeker. Attacked by the hard left via the Progressive Party, dedicated New & Fair Dealer Harry Truman was forced to tack right himself, as did many liberals desiring to survive the onset of the political winter for liberalism in Hollywood and the country at large. The studio bosses, themselves ruthless power-seekers, made common cause with the inquisitors for the sake of their bottom-lines, already being ravaged by a post-War recession and soon to fall victim to an even more insidious 'foreign menace,' television.
Anthropology holds that social phenomenon such as witch-trials are a type of homeostatic device to regulate the stress building up in a community by discharging excess pressure to eliminate the strain that could wreck the community. By directing the community's anxieties against a scapegoat that is then destroyed, the community purges itself of the dangerous buildup of psychic stress. Many people were sincerely concerned about the future welfare of the United States and the direction the country was headed in, while many others were not, but used the social distress as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement. There was an element of the show-trial in the HUAC hearings of 1947 and the early '50s, in which conservatives sought to hobble the left and individuals grasped for recognition and power.
Through a wide network of informers put together by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the American Legion, and the California Assembly's own Un-American Activities Committee, HUAC had a good idea who was or had been a member of CPUSA. It had been said that by the early 1950s, when almost all of the communist networks that had been active in the US during World War II had been broken up by the FBI or terminated by Moscow soon after the war (afraid its operatives might get caught), there were more FBI agent-member-informers of CPUSA than there were authentic, card-carrying communists. The Alien Registration Act of 1940, a.k.a. the Smith Act, had been used to destroy CPUSA by banning knowingly or willfully advocating, abetting, advising, or teaching the necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing the government of the U.S. or any of its subdivisions by force or violence, or by assassination of its officials. It also outlawed the printing, publishing, editing and distribution of materials advocating violent revolution, and made it a crime to organize, help or make attempts to organize any group advocating the same.
By outlawing "advocacy," a class of speech seemingly protected by the First Amendment, Congress had cast a wide net in which it caught many writers and performers with liberal tendencies, including life-long Republican Henry Fonda and old liberal war-horse Edward G. Robinson, both of whom effectively were "gray-listed" out of films for almost a decade and were forced to make their living in the theater, in which no blacklist existed. Interestingly, despite the theater being a form of communication, and the new medium of television rapidly evolving as the most potent form of mass communication ever, many members of the gray- and black-list (those who refused to testify before HUAC), could find employment.
The theater and television did not have the labor troubles that Hollywood did, nor the likely level of organized-crime affiliation that had been exposed during the extortion trial of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees President George Browne (also a vice president of the American Federation of Labor) and his right-hand man, Chicago mobster Willie Bioff, shortly before the war that had led to the imprisonment of industry bagman Joe Shenck of 20th Century-Fox.
Interestingly, the studios' initial payoff to the mob was done in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel where a decade later, the movie magnates would agree to impose the blacklist.) The movie moguls and Hollywood craft unions, whose members were dunned 2% of their wages for a "strike fund" that was channeled back to Bioff's "Outfit" (the old Al Capone mob) in Chicago, paid The Outfit as much as $15 million to ensure labor peace, in a symbiotic relationship the skirted the fine line between bribery and extortion.
The federal government eventually broke up the Hollywood racket, in no small part because Screen Actor's Guild president Robert Montgomery had initiated an investigation of the situation. A Chicago tax court tackling the case ruled that the studio bosses "knowingly and willingly paid over the funds and in a sense lent encouragement and participated with full knowledge of the facts in the activities of Browne and Bioff."
The moral rot of Hollywood was all pervasive. Sammy Glick was every bit as rotten as Budd Schulberg had warned.
Event though he was excused from testifying and did not defy the Committee, Maurice Rapf, after being called by HUAC (thus indicating industry knowledge of his connection to CPUSA) was subsequently blacklisted in accordance with the movie magnates Waldorf Statement.
Maurice Rapf was done in partly due to his association with fellow unapologetic Stalinists like Lillian Hellman, a HUAC unfriendly witness, but more likely due to his militant support of labor unions during a time when Hollywood was besieged with labor troubles and tended to tar union activists as "red" in order to deliver Hollywood into the hands of more-amenable mob-controlled sweetheart unions. Disney was known to be an implacable foe of unionization, and although the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization (separate entities until 1955) fought communists and had been purging them from their member unions for years, the charge of being a secret red remained a potent weapon in the studios' anti-labor arsenal for years to come.
Life After Hollywood
Now blacklisted and thus technically unemployable as a screenwriter, Rapf left Hollywood and began a new life across the border from Hanover, New Hampshire in Norwich, Vermont. He was one of the founders of The Dartmouth Film Society in 1949, the first college film society in the US. Like many blacklisted screenwriters who chose to remain in the country and pursue their craft, Rapf had to use various fronts to market his work. He also worked in the production of industrial films and television commercials in New York City, functioning as a writer, director and. In addition to these labors, Rapf was a movie critic for the mass-circulation periodicals Life and Family Circle.
It was in these years that his old friend and fellow Hollywood Prince forever tarnished his crown when he appeared as a friendly witness before HUAC on May 23, 1951, and named names. One of the 15 names he named was Maurice Rapf.
Budd Schulberg told HUAC that CPUSA tried to dictate changes to What Makes Sammy Run? so that it conformed to the Party line. He was ordered to talk to John Howard Lawson, their generalissimo of the arts in Hollywood, who asked him to submit an outline so that Lawson could vet his novel, a request Schulberg ignored. At a meeting with V.J. Jerome, the CPUSA theoretician whom former Daily Worker managing editor and blacklistee Howard Fast termed the Party 'cultural czar', Schulberg was told "my entire attitude was wrong; that I was wrong about writing; wrong about this book; wrong about the Party.... I remember it more as a kind of harangue. When I came away I felt maybe, almost for the first time, that this was to me the real face of the Party." Schulberg, once again playing Oedipus, proved determined to slay another patriarch.
In 1967, Maurice Rapf was hired by Dartmouth College as an adjunct professor to teach about the cinema. In 1976, he was promoted to full professor with the portfolio of establishing Dartmouth's new film studies program. As a professor, he was prized for his honesty; many of his students, after having established themselves in the business, would return to him for critiques and advice on their film projects.
In 2000, he published All About the Movies: A Textbook for the Movie-Loving Layman, based on his 30 years of teaching at Dartmouth. That book was published a year after his 1999 memoir, Back Lot: Growing up with the Movies, an insider's look at the movie business.
The special strength of Back Lot is that Rapf's experiences are gained from first hand experience. He experienced the evolution of the American film industry from silence to sound, from the amalgamation of studio control to the overthrow of the studios by the independent contractor with his or her own production company. Rapf gives special attention to the film community's awakening from an apolitical apathy, focused on assimilation rather than confrontation, towards a community increasingly aware of its social responsibility due to the Great Depression and the war against the fascist Axis powers.
Variety, the bible of show business, reported in its July 31, 1998 issue that the Writers Guild of America, the union that Rapf had helped create, had voted to give screen credits to 13 blacklisted screenwriters, including Rapf, for their unaccredited contributions to 21 movies produced during the period of 1950-69. The WGA's Blacklist Credits Committee had conducted an investigation into the production history of each movie with questionable credits, a process hampered by the blacklisted screenwriters' use of fronts and the pseudonyms. Although Dalton Trumbo of Hollywood Ten fame broke the blacklist in 1960 with credits for Spartacus and Exodus, some screenwriters had continued to write under pseudonyms until the 1970s.
In addition to Maurice Rapf, who was given credit on The Detective (1954), the blacklisted writers included the late Paul Jarrico, one of the more famous of blacklisted screen writers, who posthumously picked up four credits. Jarrico had refused to be given credit by the committee until after it had investigated all other blacklisted screen writers. CPUSA stalwart and Hollywood Ten member John Howard Lawson picked up one credit, while Carl Foreman, one of the first benefactors of credit revision when he and Michael Wilson were given credit (and posthumous Academy Award statuettes) for the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Bridge On the River Kwai, picked up another credit, for the Oscar-nominated screenplay of A Hatful of Rain (1957), which lost to their "Kwai" screenplay incorrectly credited to Pierre Boule, a Frenchman who did not write in English.
Screen writers who were awarded multiple new credits were Henry Blankfort, with three, and Daniel James and Robert L. Richards, with two each. Screen writers receiving a single new credit were Leonardo Bercovici, Jerome Chodorov, Howard Dimsdale, Howard Koch, Jean Rouverol, and Donald Ogden Stewart. WGA West president Daniel Petrie Jr., at the announcement of the new credits, said, "It is with pride and sadness that we announce these changes."
In a speech at the University of Oklahoma, Rapf said that Walt Disney & Co. had contacted him about a re-release of "Song of the South" on DVD. The studio wanted to create disclaimers about the film's "racial insensitivity" and asked Rapf to write them. Ever the committed progressive, he declined, thus able to expiate a sin from the past as he had come to believe that the film was inherently racist, and should never have been made. No one ever claimed that Maurice Rapf was not a man of his word, or a man of courage who stood up for what he believed in. In his belief in himself and his ideals, this idealistic man who was accused of being "anti-American" elucidated the best of the American character.
Maurice Rapf died on April 15, 2003, at the age of 88. He had been married to his wife, the former movie actress Louise Siedel, for 56 years before her death. His daughter, Joanna E. Rapf, is a Professor of English and Film & Video Studies at the University of Oklahoma, but regularly teaches as a Visiting Professor of Film & Television Studies at her father's alma mater.
Upon his death, Dartmouth President James Wright eulogized the man responsible for the success for the college's film department. "Because of Maurice Rapf's commitment, love and encouragement, the Dartmouth Film Society is a highly-regarded Dartmouth institution and Film Studies is a strong and thriving department on campus. Dartmouth is forever enriched by his commitment. We will greatly miss our friend and colleague."
The college bestows the Maurice Rapf Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film at Dartmouth in his honor.

Published by Jon C. Hopwood

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