Carl Foreman

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Carl Foreman
Carl Foreman 1961.jpg
Carl Foreman in 1961
Born(1914-07-23)July 23, 1914
DiedJune 26, 1984(1984-06-26) (aged 69)
Los Angeles
OccupationScreenwriter, film producer
Spouse(s)Estelle Barr
Evelyn Smith[1]

Carl Foreman, CBE (July 23, 1914 – June 26, 1984) was an American screenwriter and film producer who wrote the award-winning films The Bridge on the River Kwai and High Noon, among others. He was one of the screenwriters who were blacklisted in Hollywood in the 1950s because of their suspected communist sympathy or membership in the Communist Party.

He once said his most common theme was "the struggle of the individual against a society that for one reason or another is hostile."[2] He elaborated that "the stories that work best for me involve a loner, out of step or in direct conflict with a group of people."[3]


Born in Chicago, Illinois, to a working-class Jewish family, he was the son of Fanny (Rozin) and Isidore Foreman.[4]

He studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. In 1934 at age 19 he quit college to go to Hollywood. "I was mostly on the bum and saw the underside of Hollywood", he later said.[5]

He soon returned to Chicago and attended the John J. Marshall School of Law, working at a grocery store to earn money.[6][3]

Foreman dropped out of law school and worked as a newspaper reporter, fiction writer (selling stories to Esquire), press agent, play director and carnival barker. "I was one of the few college trained barkers in the business", he said.[7]|author=Foreman returned to Hollywood in 1938. He worked as a story analyst for several studios and as a film laboratory technician, while continuing to write.[6][8] He was a member of the Communist Party from 1938 to 1942. "The idea was just in the air", he later said.[9]

Monogram Pictures[edit]

He won a scholarship for a screenwriting course where his teacher was Dore Schary.[2] He later gave credit to Michael Blankfort for mentoring him.[3]

Foreman's first screen credit was for producer Sam Katzman at Monogram Pictures, Bowery Blitzkrieg (1941), starring the East Side Kids.

Foreman then provided the original story (for $25) and wrote a script (for $200) for the next East Side Kids film, Spooks Run Wild (1941), with Bela Lugosi. Also at Monogram he provided the story for and wrote the script of Rhythm Parade (1942). "I expected recognition but hardly anyone noticed", he said later.[3]

World War II[edit]

Foreman's career was interrupted by service in the United States military during World War II. He served with the U.S Army Signal Corps and was assigned to a unit that made orientation and training films, run by the director Frank Capra. During his time in the services he helped write the script for Know Your Enemy – Japan (1945). He provided the original story for a John Wayne Western, Dakota (1945). Foreman says "I began to learn the craft in a serious way", in this time.[3]

Stanley Kramer[edit]

On his return to Hollywood, Foreman became associated with producer Stanley Kramer and George Glass. Kramer produced Foreman's next credited script, So This Is New York (1948), starring comedian Henry Morgan, for The Enterprise Studios and directed by Richard Fleischer. It was a mild success. Foreman then wrote a movie for Fleischer at RKO, The Clay Pigeon (1949).

Kramer and Foreman's next film, the boxing tale Champion (1949), was a big success, making a star of Kirk Douglas. Foreman received an Academy Award nomination for his script.

Champion had been directed by Mark Robson and he, Kramer and Foreman reunited on Home of the Brave (1949), an adaptation of Arthur Laurents' play. It was another critical and commercial success.

Kramer and Foreman's third film together was The Men (1950), which introduced Marlon Brando to cinema audiences; he played a paraplegic soldier. The film, directed by Fred Zinnemann, was critically acclaimed although not a popular success. Also acclaimed was their fourth film, Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), which won star José Ferrer a Best Actor Oscar. It was adapted from Brian Hooker's English translation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac.

Without Kramer, Foreman worked on Young Man with a Horn (1950), with Douglas.

High Noon and Blacklisting[edit]

Foreman and Kramer's next collaboration was the Western, High Noon. During production of the film, Foreman was summoned to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He testified that he had been a member of the American Communist Party more than ten years earlier while still a young man but had become disillusioned with the Party and quit. As a result of his refusal to give the names of fellow Party members, Foreman was labeled as an "uncooperative witness" and blacklisted by all of the Hollywood studio bosses.[6]

High Noon is seen by some as an allegory for McCarthyism.[citation needed] The Western film is considered an American classic and was No. 27 on American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Movies, and has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. This would be the last film he would be allowed to work on by a Hollywood studio for the next six years. High Noon, the film that was Foreman's greatest screenwriting accomplishment, made no mention of him as associate producer but did credit him for the screenplay, and he did receive an Academy Award nomination for his script from his fellow members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In October 1951 Foreman sold his interest in the Stanley Kramer Corporation for a reported $250,000. He formed a new company, Carl Foreman Productions, where the stockholders included Gary Cooper. Foreman signed a three-picture deal with Robert L. Lippert to write, produce and direct. Lippert said he "had no doubt for Foreman's Americanism."[10] However no films resulted. Public pressure forced such investors as Gary Cooper to withdraw their support. Foreman successfully sued the State Department for a passport, which had been denied him because of the blacklisting, and in 1952 he emigrated to England.[11]

Foreman later said if the blacklist "hadn't happened I was moving towards becoming a director. That was where the action was."[12]


There were a number of blacklisted writers in England at the time, such as Ring Lardner Jr.. As "Derek Frye" he and fellow blacklistee Harold Buchman wrote the thriller The Sleeping Tiger (1954) which was directed by another blacklistee, Joseph Losey. Foreman would use the names of his friends, Herbert Baker, John Weaver, and Alan Grogan, on his scripts as a personal signature.[12]

In November 1953 the State Department ordered Foreman to surrender his passport with the American Consul, and in September 1954 they ruled Foreman was not entitled to his passport.[13]

In 1954 Foreman worked as assistant for Alexander Korda. "I was very angry full of rage and self pity", he said of this time.[9]

After working on Born for Trouble (1955), he wrote a draft of the screenplay for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) for Sam Spiegel and David Lean. Foreman later fell out with Lean, but was the one who recommended his replacement, fellow blacklisted writer Michael Wilson. Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle, the two were not given screen credit and the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay went to Pierre Boulle, who did not speak English. This was only rectified posthumously in 1984 and his name was added to the award. However, as early as 1958 Foreman was publicly claiming credit of the script.[14][15][16]

Foreman also worked uncredited on A Hatful of Rain (1957), directed by Zinnemann.

Eventually a court ruled that the State Department could not take away someone's passport without a quasi-judicial hearing. In January 1956 Foreman was given his passport back.[13] In August 1956, at Foreman's request, he came to the United States and testified in executive session before the House Un-American Activities Committee, but refused to become an informant.[6][17]


Bridge on the River Kwai had been a massive commercial and critical success, and Foreman's contribution had not gone un-noticed. He set up his own production company, Highroad and in March 1957 signed a deal with Columbia Pictures, who had released Kwai, to make four films over three years.[17]

In 1957 he announced he would make Insurrection about the 1916 Easter Rebellion with director John Guillermin.[18] It was not made.

Foreman wrote and helped produce The Key (1958), a war film directed by Carol Reed. Highroad then made the Peter Sellers comedy The Mouse that Roared (1959), a big hit. Mouse was meant to be part of a four picture slate from Foreman worth $11 million, the others including The Guns of Navarone, The League of Gentlemen and Holiday.[19]

Foreman wrote and produced The Guns of Navarone (1961), based on a best selling novel. Foreman fired director Alexander Mackendrick shortly before production. The resulting movie was a massive hit. He was meant to follow it with The Holiday with Anthony Quinn, Charles Boyer, Earl Holliman and Ingrid Bergman.,[20] but the film was subsequently never produced.

Navarone's success enabled Foreman to direct as well as produce and write his next film, The Victors (1963) for Columbia. Although another war story, it was a box office disappointment.

He signed a contract with MGM to adapt The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, at a fee of $275,000, but this film was never made either. In 1962 he said "the bulk of Hollywood movies are old fashioned and creaky. There is nothing here to compare with the ferment of Great Britain, Italy, France or even Poland."[21]

Foreman's next big success was the smash hit 1966 film Born Free which Foreman presented.

In 1968 Foreman announced he would present a musical, The House of Madame Tellier based on a story by Guy de Maupassant with music by Dimitri Tiomkin and book and lyrics by Freddy Douglas.[22] However, it was not produced.

He wrote and produced Mackenna's Gold (1969) for Columbia, with the same director (J. Lee Thompson) and star (Gregory Peck) as Navarone. It was his first film shot in the US since High Noon. "I tried very hard to break the blacklist but I never succeeded", he said.[23] The film was a flop.

However The Virgin Soldiers (1969), which his company made for Columbia, was a hit in Britain. His company also made Monsieur Lecoq (never completed) and Otley (1969). It developed a project called Fifteen Flags, about the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, which was not made.[7]

"I take no pleasure in being a producer", he said in 1968. "If that hadn't happened I was moving towards being a director. That's where the fun is."[7]

Foreman's next big production was Young Winston (1972), which he wrote and produced, with Richard Attenborough directing. It was not particularly successful; neither was Living Free (1972), a sequel to Born Free.

He tried to get finance for a film about a rafting trip across the Indian Ocean, Finding Ernie, which he would direct, but it was not made.[24]

Return to US[edit]

In 1975 Foreman returned to the US, and signed a three-picture contract with Universal.[8][25]

Foreman co-wrote and helped produce a sequel to Navarone, Force 10 from Navarone (1978), but again it did not match the success of its predecessor.

He executive produced The Golden Gate Murders (1979) and his last credit was as writer of a disaster movie, When Time Ran Out (1980), which was a notable flop.

His final project was writing the screenplay for The Yellow Jersey a proposed film about the Tour de France bicycle race which was to star Dustin Hoffman.[8][6]


Foreman was elected to the executive council of the British Film Production Association, was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was appointed a governor of the British Film Institute (1965–71), the British National Film School and the Cinematographic Film Council.[6]

He was president for seven years of the Writers Guild of Great Britain.[6]

In 1970, Foreman was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Such is his influence on the British film industry, that from 1998 to 2009 there was a British Academy Film Award named in his honor; the Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer.

When he returned to the US, he served on the advisory board of the American Film Institute, on the public-media panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, and on the executive board of the Writers Guild of America. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Nearing the end of his life, Carl Foreman returned to the United States, where he died of a brain tumor in 1984 in Beverly Hills, California. The day before he died he was told he would receive his Oscar for writing Kwai.[15]

His first marriage resulted in the birth of a daughter, Katie, to Estelle; his second marriage brought him two children, Amanda and Jonathan, born in London to Evelyn. He was survived by his mother, Fanny.

Foreman's daughter, Amanda Foreman, graduated from Columbia University and Oxford University, where she received a PhD in history. She won the Whitbread Prize for her 1998 best-selling biography Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, which was followed in 2011 by the epic non-fiction study A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War.

Foreman's son, Jonathan Foreman, graduated in modern history from Cambridge University and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and worked as an editorial writer and senior film critic for the New York Post before relocating to London in 2004 to work for the Daily Mail. In 2008, he became one of the founders of the monthly British centre-right current affairs magazine Standpoint.

Red Scare[edit]

High Noon's production and release also intersected with the second Red Scare and the Korean War. Foreman was called before HUAC while he was writing the film. Foreman had not been in the Communist Party for almost ten years, but declined to 'name names' and was considered an 'un-cooperative witness' by HUAC.[26] When Stanley Kramer found out some of this, he forced Foreman to sell his part of their company, and tried to get him kicked off the making of the picture.[27] Fred Zinnemann, Gary Cooper, and Bruce Church intervened. An outstanding Bank of America loan helped Foreman remain on the picture, as Foreman hadn't yet signed certain papers. He moved to England before it was released nationally, as he knew he would never be allowed to work in America.[28]

Kramer claimed he had not stood up for Foreman partly because Foreman was threatening to dishonestly name Kramer as a Communist.[29] Foreman said that Kramer was afraid of what would happen to him and his career if Kramer didn't cooperate with the committee. Kramer wanted Foreman to name names and not plead his Fifth Amendment rights.[30] There had also been pressure against Foreman by, among others, Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures (Kramer's brand new boss at the time), John Wayne of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (who said he would "never regret having helped run Foreman out of this country" and called High Noon "un-American") and Hedda Hopper of the Los Angeles Times.[31] Cast and crew members were also affected. Howland Chamberlain was blacklisted, while Floyd Crosby and Lloyd Bridges were "gray listed."[32]

Documentaries on Foreman[edit]

In 2002, PBS television made a two-hour film about Foreman's ordeal during McCarthyism titled Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents. It was written and directed by outspoken conservative Lionel Chetwynd.

Foreman was also the subject of an episode of Screenwriters: Words Into Image, directed by Terry Sanders and Freida Lee Mock.


Year Title Writer Producer Presenter Director(s) Notes
1941 Bowery Blitzkrieg Yes Wallace Fox Uncredited
Spooks Run Wild Yes Phil Rosen
1942 Rhythm Parade Yes Howard Bretherton
1945 Know Your Enemy – Japan Yes Frank Capra
Joris Ivens
Documentary film
Dakota Yes Joseph Kane Story only
1948 So This Is New York Yes Richard Fleischer
1949 The Clay Pigeon Yes
Champion Yes Mark Robson
Home of the Brave Yes
Let's Go to the Movies Yes Tholen Gladden Uncredited
Documentary film
1950 Young Man with a Horn Yes Michael Curtiz
The Men Yes Fred Zinnemann
Cyrano de Bergerac Yes Michael Gordon
1952 High Noon Yes Yes Fred Zinnemann Uncredited associate producer
1954 The Sleeping Tiger Yes Joseph Losey Credited as "Derek Frye"
1955 Born for Trouble Yes Desmond Davis
1957 A Hatful of Rain Yes Fred Zinnemann Uncredited
The Bridge on the River Kwai Yes David Lean
1958 The Key Yes Yes Carol Reed
1959 The Mouse That Roared Yes Jack Arnold Uncredited
1961 The Guns of Navarone Yes Yes J. Lee Thompson
1963 The Victors Yes Yes Himself Directorial debut (only directoral credit)
1966 Born Free Yes James Hill Presenter
1967 Monsieur Lecoq Yes Seth Holt Unfinished
1969 Otley Yes Dick Clement Executive producer
Mackenna's Gold Yes Yes J. Lee Thompson
The Virgin Soldiers Yes Yes John Dexter Executive producer
1972 Living Free Yes Yes Jack Couffer
Young Winston Yes Yes Richard Attenborough
1974 Born Free Yes Leonard Horn
Gary Nelson
Barry Crane
Paul Krasny
Russ Mayberry
Richard Benedict
Jack Couffer
Television series
Creator and developer 13 episodes
Story for episode "Elsa's Odyssey"
1976–78 One-Upmanship Yes Ray Butt Television series
Arranger 16 episodes
1978 Force 10 from Navarone Yes Yes Guy Hamilton Story only
Executive producer
1979 The Golden Gate Murders Yes Walter Grauman Television film
Executive producer
1980 When Time Ran Out Yes James Goldstone

Major awards[edit]




  1. ^ "Carl Foreman".
  2. ^ a b CAVANDER, KENNETH. "Interview with Carl Foreman Houston, Penelope". Sight and Sound. 27 (5 (Summer 1958)). London. p. 220.
  3. ^ a b c d e Berges, Marshall (January 15, 1978). "Home Q&A: EVE & CARL FOREMAN". Los Angeles Times. p. j30.
  4. ^ "Carl Foreman Biography (1914–1984)".
  5. ^ Clifford, Terry (June 29, 1969). "Chicago Visitor: Mackenna's Gold' Carl Foreman's First American Film Since 'High Noon'". Chicago Tribune. p. f12.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h PARELES, JON (June 27, 1984). "CARL FOREMAN, PRODUCER AND 'RIVER KWAI' SCREENWRITER, DIES". New York Times. p. A.24.
  7. ^ a b c Blume, Mary (June 16, 1968). "Blacklist Spins 'Gold' for Carl Foreman". Los Angeles Times. p. c16.
  8. ^ a b c Sanello, Frank (June 27, 1984). "CARL FOREMAN, 69, SCRIPTWRITER". Philadelphia Inquirer. p. B.6.
  9. ^ a b Alfred Friendly (April 9, 1971). "The World Had Rocked". The Washington Post. p. B1.
  10. ^ "FOREMAN SETS UP OWN FILM CONCERN". New York Times. October 25, 1951. ProQuest 112125295.
  11. ^ "Carl Foreman dies at 70". The Irish Times. June 27, 1984. p. 1.
  12. ^ a b Folkart, Burt A. (June 27, 1984). "'High Noon' Writer Carl Foreman Dies". Los Angeles Times. p. oc18.
  13. ^ a b "Film Writer Wins Return of Passport: State Department Gives Up Fight on Carl Foreman". Los Angeles Times. January 14, 1956. p. 4.
  14. ^ "'KWAI' SCRIPT HIS, SAYS CARL FOREMAN". Los Angeles Times. March 27, 1958. p. 2.
  15. ^ a b HARMETZ, ALJEAN (March 16, 1985). "OSCARS GO TO WRITERS FOR 'KWAI'". New York Times. p. 1.11.
  16. ^ Dmohowski, Joseph. ""Under the Table": Michael Wilson and the Screenplay for The Bridge on the River Kwai". Cineaste. 34 (2 (Spring 2009)). New York. pp. 16–21, 11.
  17. ^ a b "FILM PACT SIGNED BY HOUSE WITNESS: Foreman, a Writer-Producer, Will Work for Columbia-- Invoked Fifth Amendment". New York Times. March 11, 1957. p. 21.
  18. ^ "NEW WOUK NOVEL WILL BECOME FILM: 'The Lomokome Papers' on Jurow-Shepherd Agenda --Irish Story Planned Carl Foreman's Plans". The New York Times. August 22, 1957. p. 23.
  19. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (March 27, 1959). "Foreman Planning $11 Million Slate: 'Holiday' Added to Schedule; Steve Forrest Has Roman Date". Los Angeles Times. p. A7.
  20. ^ Hopper, Hedda (November 16, 1960). "New Foreman Film Has All-Star Cast: Quinn, Boyer, Ingrid Team; Franciosa May Buy Movie". Los Angeles Times. p. C8.
  21. ^ MURRAY SCHUMACH Special to The (February 8, 1962). "PRODUCER FEARS HOLLYWOOD DOOM: Carl Foreman Urges Subsidy and Industry School An Aging Industry". New York Times. p. 22.
  22. ^ "Carl Foreman Plans London Musical". The Washington Post, Times Herald. February 14, 1968. p. A16.
  23. ^ Palmer, Raymond (February 9, 1967). "Producer Carl Foreman to Return to Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. p. e9.
  24. ^ A. H. WEILER (October 15, 1972). "Carl Foreman Is 'Finding Ernie': Carl Foreman". New York Times. p. D15.
  25. ^ Kilday, Gregg (July 29, 1978). "Foreman Sets a Writers' Table". Los Angeles Times. p. b4.
  26. ^ Byman, pp. 73, 76, and Chapter 5
  27. ^ Byman, pp. 9, 80
  28. ^ Byman, pp. 80, 90
  29. ^ Byman, p. 86.
  30. ^ Byman, pp. 76, 80. See also Chapters 1 and 5
  31. ^ Byman, pp. 83, 86, 87
  32. ^ Byman, p. 9


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