Jarrico, Paul

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Writer. Nationality: American. Born: Israel Shapiro in Los Angeles, 12 January 1915. Family: Married writer-editor Sylvia Gussin (divorced); married Lia Benedetti; son: Bill Jarrico. Education: A.B., University of Southern California, 1936. Military Service: Served in the United States Merchant Marine, 1943; served in the United States Navy, 1945–46; Career: Joined the National Student League and Young Communist League, 1930s; joined the Communist Party; began writing B-film scripts for Columbia Pictures, 1937; made his A-film breakthrough with his script for Tom, Dick and Harry, 1941; refused to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, and was blacklisted, 1952; produced Salt of the Earth, made with other Hollywood blacklistees, 1953; worked as a television writer on such series as The Phil Silvers Show and The Defenders, mid-1950searly 1960s; left the United States for Europe, where he worked for the following two decades, 1958; returned to the United States and eventually wrote a play, Leonardo, and taught film at the University of California, Santa Barbara (where he was Regents Lecturer and visiting assistant professor of writing), 1977–87; served as executive story editor of the TV series Call to Glory and Fortune Dane, 1984–86. Awards: Academy Award nomination, Best Original Screenplay, for Tom, Dick and Harry, 1941; Lt. Robert Meltzer Award, 1999 (awarded posthumously). Died: In an auto accident, while driving from Beverly Hills to his home in Ojai, California, 28 October 1997.

Films as Screenwriter:


Little Adventuress (Lederman) (co-story only); No Time to Marry (Lachman) (also story); I Am the Law (Hall) (contributed to script)


Beauty for the Asking (Tryon) (co-sc)


Tom, Dick and Harry (Kanin) (also story); The Face Behind the Mask (Florey) (co-sc); Men of the Timberland (Rawlins) (story only)


Thousands Cheer (Sidney) (co-sc and story); Song of Russia (Ratoff) (co-sc)


Little Giant (Seiter) (co-sc)


The Search (Zinnemann) (co-sc)


Not Wanted (Clifton, Lupino) (co-sc)


The White Tower (Tetzlaff)


The Las Vegas Story (Stevenson) (co-sc, originally uncredited)


The Girl Most Likely (Leisen) (story and co-sc, originally uncredited)


5 Branded Women (Ritt) (co-sc, originally uncredited)


All Night Long (Dearden) (co-sc, billed as Peter Achilles)


Treasure of the Aztecs (Siodmak) (uncredited)


Wer Kennet Jonny R? (Who Killed Johnny Ringo) (Madrid) (co-sc; as Peter Achilles)


Le Rouble a Deux Faces (The Day The Hot Line Got Hot) (Perier)


Sarajevsky Atentat (The Day That Shook the World; Assassination at Sarajevo) (Bulajic) (co-sc)


Messenger of Death (Thompson)


Stalin (Passer—for TV) (uncredited rewrite)

Other Films:


The Hollywood Ten (short) (doc) (pr)


Salt of the Earth (Biberman) (pr)


Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist (Chaikin) (doc) (creative consultant)


By JARRICO: articles—

"A True-Blue Red in Hollywood: An Interview With Paul Jarrico," interview with Patrick McGilligan, in Cineaste (New York), no. 1, 1997.

On JARRICO: articles—

"Reunion Recalls Movie on Hispanic Strikers Made at Time of Film Blacklist," in New York Times, 3 May 1982.

Kernan, Lisa, "'Keep Marching, Sisters': The Second Generation Looks at Salt of the Earth," in Nuestro, vol. 9, May 1985.

Goldstein, Patrick, and Fred Alvarez, "Blacklisted Writer Dies after Long-awaited Triumph," in Los Angeles Times, 30 October 1997.

"Paul Jarrico, 82, Blacklisted Screenwriter" (obituary), in New York Times, 30 October 1997.

"Blacklisted Screenwriter Is Honored, Then Dies," in Newsday (Melville, New York), 30 October 1997.

Vosburgh, Dick, "Obituary: Paul Jarrico," in Independent (London), 5 November 1997.

Ybarra, Michael, "The Real Story of the Hollywood Ten: Blacklist Whitewash," in New Republic (Washington, D.C.), 5 January 1998.

* * *

Paul Jarrico's career is inextricably linked to the Hollywood blacklist—and to spirit and daring with which he responded to the post-World War II House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) witchhunt. Back in the early 1950s, when he was called to testify before HUAC, Jarrico took the Fifth Amendment. Not only did he recoil at naming names before the committee but challenged the very nature of HUAC when he declared, in his testimony, "I should be happy to help this committee uncover subversion, but one man's subversion is another man's patriotism. I consider the activities of this committee subversive of the American Constitution." He added, "I believe this country was founded on the doctrine of freedom, the right of a man to advocate anything he wishes—advocate it, agitate for it, organize for it, attempt to win a majority for it. And I think that any committee that intimidates people, that makes it impossible for people to express their opinions freely, is subverting the basic doctrine of the United States and its constitution."

Because of the blacklist, Jarrico's work as a screenwriter is a footnote to his career. Yet even before he was expunged from Hollywood, his screen output was markedly uneven. His best film by far is Tom, Dick and Harry, a romantic comedy about a telephone operator who is determined to marry for money but ends up with the man she truly loves, an idealistic garage mechanic. After entering the industry and toiling on several B-film scripts, Tom, Dick and Harry brought Jarrico to the A-list forefront and earned him an Academy Award nomination. Otherwise his pre-blacklist credits are a hodgepodge of features, ranging from the Abbott and Costello comedy Little Giant and the Gene Kelly-Kathryn Grayson musical Thousands Cheer to Song of Russia, about an American orchestra conductor's love affair with a Russian musician. He also co-scripted The Search, a penetrating drama about a young Czechoslovakian concentration camp survivor who is looked after by an American GI while his mother searches the prison camps for him. Jarrico's work here is overshadowed by the contributions of others, and the controversy surrounding star Montgomery Clift's rewriting and improvising his lines.

Jarrico admittedly was far-left-of-center; he was a member of the Communist Party, joining in 1937 and remaining on its rolls until the 1950s. According to film historian Larry Ceplair, in the late 1930s the "younger screenwriters—Richard Collins, Budd Schulberg, Ring Lardner, Jr., and Paul Jarrico, among others" formed "a special (party) branch, one in which they could explore how to communicate their radical political and social ideas in scripts and where they could discuss revolutionary theories and techniques of moviemaking. The men and women in this branch. . . fiercely debated their creative role within the Hollywood movie industry." Yet can it be said that Jarrico's politics subverted the content of his scripts, rendering a film like Song of Russia little more than sly communist propaganda? The film's plot is "pro-Russia," to be sure. In his "friendly" testimony before HUAC, Robert Taylor (who played the conductor) declared that he believed Song of Russia to be "distastefully Communistic" and "favoring Russian ideologies, institutions, and ways of life." On the other hand, is Song of Russia innocently supportive of Russia in the same way that Mrs. Miniver is pro-British? After all, the film was made when the United States and Russia were allies, struggling for survival against a common Axis enemy.

Similarly, is Tom, Dick and Harry an anti-capitalist diatribe because its heroine rejects Tom and Dick—the first an "ambitious capitalist" and the second a wealthy man—for Harry, a worker-ofthe-world? Or is it simply a cleverly plotted romantic comedy in which the heroine opts for true love rather than materialistic comfort?

Conspiracy theorists might find hidden meaning in Beauty for the Asking, one of Jarrico's B-films, because it is the story of a money-hungry man who rejects a working woman but comes squirming back after she invents a beauty cream. Another Jarrico B film is The Face Behind the Mask, in which a law-abiding Hungarian immigrant turns to crime when he cannot find employment after being disfigured during a hotel fire. Is this film an innocent entertainment, or is it loaded with left-wing propaganda because it is the story of a man who is denied a livelihood because he is "different"? One can view The Face Behind the Mask, Beauty for the Asking, Song of Russia, and Tom, Dick and Harry decades after their release, and render an opinion.

In the 1940s, Jarrico and his colleague Richard Collins collaborated on the scripts for Thousands Cheer, Little Giant, and the notorious Song of Russia. By the early 1950s, now-former co-writers had become public enemies, denouncing and accusing one another in a highly politicized arena. In April 1952, Collins "named names" before HUAC, testifying that Jarrico and others-including Schulberg, Robert Rossen, Lardner, Jr., Frank Tuttle, Waldo Salt, Abraham Polonsky—were card-carrying Communists. The following month, Schulberg named Jarrico, Salt, Lardner, and others as Communist Party members. Yet unlike Collins and Schulberg, Jarrico valued moral principle over blowing with the shifting winds and refused to kowtow to the HUAC.

Even before his testimony, Jarrico reportedly knew he was going to be blacklisted. At the time, he was under contract to RKO, and found that he was barred from the lot on the morning he was served his HUAC subpoena. As reported in the 7 April 1952 New York Times, Howard Hughes, the studio's principal stockholder and managing director, refused to give Jarrico "screen credit on a movie." The film in question was The Las Vegas Story, and this development resulted in a breach of contract accusation against RKO, filed by the Screen Writers Guild. By contract, the Guild had the authority to determine the writing credits on a film. Yet at the time, Jarrico's name was not restored to the film's credits.

Jarrico was anything but passive in his response to his blacklisting. He was one of 23 film workers who in 1953 filed a $51,750,000 lawsuit in the California State Supreme Court, charging that they had been barred from working in Hollywood. The following year, it was ruled that the motion picture industry had the right to blacklist employees who had refused to testify before HUAC. Meanwhile, Jarrico and fellow blacklistees Michael Wilson (who was his brother-in-law) and Herbert Biberman set out to make Salt of the Earth, the celebrated drama about striking Mexican-American zinc miners—and the only independent film made by blacklisted Hollywood talent. Salt of the Earth is an extraordinary film, a hard-hitting exploration of class and sexual struggle in the United States. The efforts to prevent Salt of the Earth from being produced and, then, distributed, are legendary.

In the late 1950s Jarrico moved to Europe, where he lived and worked for two decades. The first of the relatively few movie scripts he wrote were credited to a pseudonym, "Peter Achilles." All, though, were artistically underwhelming. His final credit is 1988's Messenger of Death, an unexceptional Charles Bronson mystery thriller. Jarrico's later years are distinguished not by any script he authored, but by his remaining at the forefront of the battle to restore the screen credits of blacklisted artists. He even requested that his name be withheld from his work until all others had their credits restored.

On 27 October 1997, the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists produced "Hollywood Remembers the Blacklist," an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the citing of the Hollywood Ten for contempt of Congress for refusing to divulge their political associations during their HUAC testimony. The evening featured dramatic presentations recreating incidents from the era, with Kevin Spacey portraying Jarrico. The 82-year-old screenwriter was present and he and fellow blacklistee Ring Lardner, Jr., won standing ovations after recalling the toll of the times, and how they were driven from the industry they loved by the blacklist. Sadly, Jarrico was killed in an automobile accident the following day, while returning from the event to his home in Ojai, California.

In July 1998, nine months after his death, the Writers Guild of America restored credit on four films Jarrico had scripted during his blacklist years: The Las Vegas Story, The Girl Most Likely (a remake of Tom, Dick and Harry), 5 Branded Women, and All Night Long.

—Rob Edelman