David Merrill, a successful director, has spent the last couple of years working on movies overseas. He returns right in the middle of the McCarthy era Communist witch-hunt that was sweeping through Hollywood. When first approached by the ‘inquisitors’ he rebuffs them, not realizing how much influence they have. He soon finds that he can’t get work, having been blacklisted for failing to cooperate. However, if he will just tell them what they want to know, he can go back to work… From IMDB: Written by Brian W Martz [email protected]}
The original screenplay was written by Abraham Polonsky, the writer of Body and Soul (1947) and writer/director of Force of Evil (1948), two of the great films noir of the 1940s, which both starred John Garfield, who was also blacklisted.
When the director, Irwin Winkler, decided to rewrite the script by changing De Niro’s character from a Communist to a ‘liberal’, Polonsky had his name removed from the film’s credits. Polonksy said in an interview in the New York Times: “I wanted it to be about Communists because that’s the way it really happened… They didn’t need another story about a man who was falsely accused.”
The careers of Polonsky and Garfield were effectively destroyed by the thugs on the HAUC. Garfield’s already frail health did not recover from the blow and he died two years later in 1952 at age 39.