Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Hollywood Left and the Blacklist Era

Private Property - Joseph Losey's The Prowler by Matt Zoller Seitz 

at The L Magazine, March 2010
(also see Justin Stewart's essay on this film in the same issue)
A ghost town also frames the haunting final scenes of Joseph Losey's The Prowler, when an adulterous couple (Evelyn Keyes and Van Heflin) take refuge in an abandoned Mojave desert village so that the woman can secretly give birth to their child. Webb killed Susan Gilvray's husband, successfully making it look like an accident, and he fears that proof of their affair will put him under suspicion.
He's a shady, disaffected cop who first meets Susan when he responds to her report of a prowler. She's a lonely housewife whose husband is an all-night DJ, a disembodied voice on the radio, unable to provide her with the child she craves. Webb takes one look at the wistful blonde and her luxurious Spanish-style suburban palace and decides he wants both. Reluctantly Susan succumbs to his aggressive persistence, as he keeps turning up to investigate an imaginary intruder, finally gunning down her husband, ostensibly by mistake. Fragile and passive, Susan believes Webb's story and marries him; their wedding is mirrored by a funeral at the church across the street.
Isolated in the desert ruin, Susan struggles through a difficult labor. The refuge turns deadly, with dust storms raging, and in desperation Webb finally fetches a doctor to save his wife, and she learns the truth about him when she realizes he plans to kill the man who saved her. The setting is appropriate: though they conceived a child, their relationship built on greed and deception is more barren than Susan's first, childless marriage.   Imogen Sara Smith, 'In Lonely Places: Film Noir Outside the City', Bright Lights Film Journal, Issue 65, August 2009 [my emphasis]
Film Studies For Free, a born "fellow traveller" blog if ever there was one, today brings you some choice links to high quality material pertaining to the study of the Hollywood Blacklist era.

The post begins with Matt Zoller Seitz's latest video essay - a wonderful dissection of Joseph Losey's 1951 film noir thriller The Prowler. This was one of the last films Losey made in Hollywood before fleeing the US, refusing to inform on his friends to the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Zoller Seitz compellingly teases out The Prowler's concerns with social class and property; these would become even more central themes in Losey's film work after his exile to England.  

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