The Writers Guild of America West has recently restored the credits on several dozen films, including such classics as High Noon, Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai. Just three weeks ago, the WGA West gave exiled scribes their due for 23 films.
And on Monday, exactly 50 years after the first House Un-American Activities Committee convened to sniff out alleged Commies, the Directors Guild of America will make amends for one of its own, posthumously honoring Herbert Biberman.
Biberman, along with such legends as John Ford, King Vidor, Howard Hawks and William Wellman, was a founding member of the DGA (originally called the Screen Directors Guild) in 1935, but he was stripped of his membership 15 years later after serving a brief prison sentence for refusing to name names before HUAC.
When called to testify, Biberman attempted to read from a prepared statement (which read in part, "This committee is in the course of overthrowing not Karl Marx but the constitutional way of American life") but was repeatedly hounded by committee members to cooperate. "Mr. Chairman," Biberman told J. Parnell Thomas, "I would be very suspicious of any answer that came out of my mouth that pleased the committee."
Biberman and nine others (Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Sam Ornitz, Robert Adrian Scott and Dalton Trumbo)--collectively called the Hollywood 10--were held in contempt of Congress and sentenced to prison. Biberman served five months in a Texas institution.
After being released, Biberman found his directing career in tatters. Repeated attempts for reinstatement in the guild were scuttled--the bylaws had been amended to prevent any Communist from joining.
He only made two more films. The 1954 classic Salt of the Earth featured a blacklisted producer (Paul Jarrico), screenwriter (Michael Wilson) and actor (Will Geer). The tale of striking New Mexico miners was deemed anti-American and banned in the United States until 1965. (It will be screened on Turner Classic Movies Monday at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.)
His final film, Slaves, an updated Uncle Tom's Cabin, was released in 1969 and starred his wife, blacklisted actress Gale Sondergaard--her first role in 20 years. Biberman died of bone cancer two years later.
The ceremony restoring Biberman's membership is part of a glitzy commemoration of the blacklist slated for Monday. Billy Crystal, Kevin Spacey, John Lithgow, Alfre Woodard, Kathy Baker and James Cromwell (whose father, John, was blacklisted) will also recreate the HUAC hearings at the event, co-sponsored by the DGA, WGA West, Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.