The absolute omnishambles that was Carl Foreman’s career in Hollywood should be a lesson in decency, morals and how not to treat people and his blacklisting, along with that of so many other creatives, serves as a testament to what is arguably Hollywood’s darkest period.
Born in Chicago in 1914, Carl Foreman attended the University of Illinois, quitting in 1934 at 19 to go to Hollywood. He came back to Chicago to study law, before dropping out again to work as a newspaper reporter, press agent, theatre director, among other things. He returned to Hollywood in 1938 and, in 1941, he received his first screen credit for Bowery Blitzkrieg (dir. Wallace Fox), the first of his films with Monogram Pictures. In the early 40s, he served in US military, and, in 1945, he wrote Know Your Enemy – Japan (dir. Frank Capra) as well as Dakota (dir. Joseph Kane), starring John Wayne. He then began a prosperous if tumultous working relationship with producer-director Stanley Kramer, starting with So This Is New York (1948, dir. Richard Fleischer), then Champion (1949, dir. Mark Robson), for which Foreman received his first Oscar nomination. Then came Home of the Brave (1949, Robson), and, in 1950, he wrote The Men (dir. Fred Zinnemann), Cyrano de Bergerac (dir. Michael Gordon) and Young Man With a Horn (dir. Michael Curtiz), which I covered here. Then in 1952, as he was writing what would become High Noon (dir. Fred Zinnemann), he was summoned by the House Un-American Activities Commitee, after being accused of being a member of the Communist Party. He was subsequently blacklisted, but amazingly received an Oscar nomination for the screenplay of the film, which to this day is still being debated as an allegory for McCarthyism. He ended up emigrating to England that same year and, while there, he wrote the screenplay for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, dir. David Lean). Due to his blacklisting, the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay went to someone else as a front – we now know that this wasn’t the only time this happened. He continued to write and produce films, including The Guns of Navarone (1961, dir. J. Lee Thompson) and he eventually became the President of the Writers Guild of Great Britain. He received a CBE for his contributions to British cinema and the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut is named in his honor. In 1984, Carl Foreman died of a brain tumor at the age of 69. The day before he died, he was told that he would finally receive his Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai.