Saturday, April 20, 2024

Showdown at Broadway’s Coming “High Noon”: Family of Original, Blacklisted Screenwriter Carl Foreman Wants Him Acknowledged


EXCLUSIVE Big trumpeted announcement a couple of weeks ago. The 1952 classic film, “High Noon,” starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, is coming to Broadway as a play in 2023.

“High Noon” is a highly charged political story about a sheriff in a western town who must face down the bad guys while protecting his wife. It’s one of the great movies of all time, produced by Stanley Kramer, directed by Fred Zinnemann, and written by Carl Foreman.

But in the announcement, only Kramer’s name was mentioned. For Broadway, an adaptation of the film’s screenplay is being adapted by Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump”). The producers are Paula Wagner and Hunter Arnold.

The complete omission of Foreman — who was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay — has not gone over well with Foreman’s family. Foreman — a great screenwriter — was Blacklisted in 1952 by Joseph McCarthy, Roy Cohn, and the evil House Un-American Activities Committee.

In other words, Foreman — who saw his name removed from screenplays in the 1950s — is being blacklisted again seven decades later.

According to Glenn Frankel‘s excellent book, “High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic,” Kramer and Foreman were equal partners in a company formed to produced the film. But when Foreman was called before the committee in 1951, he refused to give names of others who were member of the Communist party. He denied having been a Communist when he signed the Screen Writers Guild loyalty oath in 1950. He invoked the Fifth Amendment several times.

The result was that Foreman’s career was destroyed by the committee, McCarthy, and Cohn. Kramer, seeking to distance himself from any taint of Foreman, forced his partner out of their company. Foreman lost the rights to “High Noon” because, now broke, he had to sell his half of the company to Kramer.

According Frankel, the Washington Post summed up what happened to Foreman succinctly: “PARTNER TURNS ON RELUCTANT FILM QUIZ WITNESS.” (Frankel paints a brutal enough picture of Stanley Kramer that the producer should face a re-evaluation in Hollywood history.)

The only reason Foreman’s name remained in the credits is because star Gary Cooper insisted. Foreman was also permitted to stay on the set as “High Noon” was finished. But the next six years of his career were obliterated. All his screenplays were written under a pseudonym. His days of winning Oscars came to a halt. (He’d been nominated for two right before “High Noon.”) He did win an Oscar in 1958 for co-writing “The Bridge on the River Kwai” — but couldn’t accept it in his own name until 1984. Foreman returned to the committee in 1956 to denounce Communism, but he still refused to name names. As for his career, the damage was done.

Kramer, however, went on to make a lot of movies including “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.” He would know.

The Foreman family is not looking for money. What went on in 1952 can’t be changed. Their father has no rights to the now classic screenplay he wrote more than 70 years ago. But they’d at least appreciate acknowledgement that the coming play is based on Carl Foreman’s work.

Instead, so far, it looks like Roth wrote the original movie. Foreman’s name is nowhere to be found in any announcement of the credits. Even his Oscar nomination is omitted. A press release refers to the movie simply as ‘Stanley Kramer’s High Noon.’

The play has not yet been cast, but whoever takes on the roles played by Cooper and Kelly will also be taking on the movie’s political history.

Amanda Foreman, Carl’s daughter, told me: “I don’t think the omission is a conspiracy, but I’d like my father’s work to be recognized.”

Stay tuned…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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