Carl Foreman in 1961
July 23, 1914|
|Died||June 26, 1984
Los Angeles, California
|Occupation||Screenwriter, film producer|
|Spouse(s)||Estelle Barr (?-?)
Evelyn Smith (?-?)
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 that were blacklisted in Hollywood in the 1950s because of their suspected Communist sympathy or membership in the Communist Party.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, to a working-class Jewish family, he was the son of Fanny (Rozin) and Isidore Foreman. He studied at the University of Illinois. As a student in the 1930s he became an advocate of revolutionary socialism and joined the American Communist Party.
After graduating from university, Carl Foreman moved to Hollywood where he used his writing talents and training to work as a screenwriter. From 1941 to 1942 he was involved with writing three films but his career was interrupted by service in the United States military during World War II. Returning to writing commercial scripts, by the end of the 1940s, Foreman had become one of the top writers in Hollywood whose successes included the 1949 Kirk Douglas film Champion for which Foreman received an Academy Award nomination.
In 1950, he adapted Brian Hooker's English translation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac for the 1950 film version, which starred Jose Ferrer, and for which Ferrer won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
In 1951, during production of the film High Noon, Carl Foreman was summoned to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (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.
Carl Foreman was the screenwriter of High Noon, a film released in 1952 that is seen by some as an allegory for McCarthyism. 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 his name 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. Unemployed, Foreman and some others who had also been blacklisted such as Ring Lardner, Jr. moved to England where they wrote scripts under pseudonyms that were channeled back to Hollywood. In 1956 he co-wrote the screenplay for the equally acclaimed The Bridge on the River Kwai with 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.
In addition to his writing of screenplays, Carl Foreman produced ten films, including both producing, writing, and directing 1963's anti-war epic The Victors, filmed entirely in the United Kingdom. He also produced and scripted the 1961 smash hit World War II blockbuster The Guns of Navarone, starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn; it remains one of his most popular pictures. He is credited as "presenter" on the smash hit 1966 film Born Free, and both presented and produced its (unsuccessful) sequel, Living Free in 1972. In 1965 he was made a governor of the British Film Institute, serving until 1971. 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.
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. 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.
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.
High Noon, HUAC, the Red Scare, and the Korean War
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. 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. Fred Zinnemann, Gary Cooper, and Bruce Church intervened. There was also a problem with the Bank of America loan, as Foreman hadn't yet signed certain papers. Thus Foreman remained on the production, but moved to England before it was released nationally, as he knew he would never be allowed to work in America.
Kramer claimed he had not stood up for Foreman partly because Foreman was threatening to dishonestly name Kramer as a Communist. 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. 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. Cast and crew members were also affected. Howland Chamberlin was blacklisted, while Floyd Crosby and Lloyd Bridges were "gray listed."
Documentaries on Foreman
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.
Partial filmography (screenwriter)
- Spooks Run Wild (1941)
- Bowery Blitzkrieg (1941)
- So This Is New York (1948)
- Champion (1949)
- Home of the Brave (1949)
- The Men (1950)
- Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)
- Young Man with a Horn (1950)
- High Noon (1952)
- The Sleeping Tiger as Derek Frye (1954)
- The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
- A Hatful of Rain (1957)
- The Guns of Navarone (1961)
- The Victors (1963)
- Mackenna's Gold (1969)
- Young Winston (1972)
- Force 10 from Navarone (1978)
- When Time Ran Out (1980)
- 1953 : WGA Award for Best Written American Drama – High Noon
- 1958 : Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay – The Bridge on the River Kwai (awarded posthumously)
- 1973 : Writers' Guild of Great Britain for Best British Screenplay – Young Winston
- 1950 : Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay – Champion
- 1950 : WGA Award for Best Written American Drama Champion
- 1951 : Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay – The Men
- 1951 : WGA Award for Best Written American Drama – The Men
- 1953 : Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay – High Noon
- 1953 : Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture – High Noon
- 1962 : Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay – The Guns of Navarone
- 1962 : BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay – The Guns of Navarone
- 1973 : Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay – Young Winston
- Byman, Jeremy (2004). Showdown at High Noon: Witch-hunts, Critics, and the End of the Western. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4998-4.
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