Herbert Biberman

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Herbert Biberman
Herbert Joseph Biberman

(1900-03-04)March 4, 1900
DiedJune 30, 1971(1971-06-30) (aged 71)
Other namesHerbert J. Biberman
Occupation(s)Screenwriter and film director
(m. 1930)
RelativesEdward Biberman (brother)

Herbert J. Biberman (March 4, 1900[1] – June 30, 1971) was an American screenwriter and film director. He was one of the Hollywood Ten and directed Salt of the Earth (1954), a film barely released in the United States, about a zinc miners' strike in Grant County, New Mexico. His membership in the Directors Guild of America was posthumously restored in 1997; he had been expelled in 1950.

Biberman was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Joseph and Eva Biberman and was the brother of American artist, Edward Biberman.[2] Biberman's pre-blacklist career included writing such films as King of Chinatown (1939), When Tomorrow Comes (1939), Action in Arabia (1944), The Master Race (1944), which he also directed, and New Orleans (1947), as well as directing such films as One Way Ticket (1935) and Meet Nero Wolfe (1936). He married actress Gale Sondergaard in 1930; the marriage lasted for the rest of Biberman's life. Biberman died from bone cancer in 1971 in New York City.


Though he would become firmly pro-war after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, during the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact, his outspoken opposition to U.S. Lend-Lease to the United Kingdom was so intense, the FBI suspected Biberman (who was actually Jewish) of being a Nazi.[3] In 1947, the Congressional House Committee on Un-American Activities began its investigation into the film industry, and Biberman became one of ten Hollywood writers and directors cited for contempt of Congress when they refused to answer questions about their American Communist Party affiliation. Evidence presented in the hearing showed that Biberman had been a member of the communist party since at least 1944.[4] Biberman and the others were imprisoned for their contempt convictions, Biberman for six months. Edward Dmytryk ultimately cooperated with the House committee, but Biberman and the others were blacklisted by the Hollywood studios.

Biberman worked independently after his release from jail. The result was Salt of the Earth (1954), a fictionalized account of the Grant County miners' strike. The screenplay was by Michael Wilson and it was produced by Paul Jarrico, neither members of the Ten but they were both also blacklisted. Salt of the Earth has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.


One of the Hollywood Ten, a 2000 film chronicling his blacklisting and the making of Salt of the Earth from Biberman's point of view, starred Jeff Goldblum as Biberman and Greta Scacchi as his wife, the actress Gale Sondergaard. The film's closing credits noted Biberman had never been removed from the old blacklist formally, and that Sondergaard had not found work in Hollywood until shortly before her husband's death. Biberman's membership in the Directors Guild of America, which was stripped in 1950, was restored in 1997.


Year Film Role Notes
1935 Eight Bells dialogue director
One-Way Ticket Director (as Herbert Biberman)
1936 Meet Nero Wolfe Director
1939 King of Chinatown Writer (story)
When Tomorrow Comes Writer (uncredited)
1944 Action in Arabia Writer (original screenplay) (as Herbert Biberman)
The Master Race Writer (screenplay) (story), Director
Together Again Writer (story) (as Herbert Biberman)
1946 Abilene Town associate producer
1947 New Orleans Writer (story), associate producer
1950 The Hollywood Ten Himself (uncredited)
1954 Salt of the Earth Director
1969 Slaves Writer, Director


  1. ^ 1921 US Passport Application
  2. ^ "Brush With Life: The Art Of Being Edward Biberman - Documentary Film Description". www.organa.com. Retrieved 2017-10-06. His brother, Herbert Biberman, was the screenwriter and director known for having been one of the Hollywood Ten.
  3. ^ Welky, David (2008). The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and the Coming of World War II. JHU Press. p. 238. ISBN 978-0801890444. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  4. ^ Ryskind, Alan H., "Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters, Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler", Regnery History, Washington, DC, 2015, page 426, ISBN 978-1-62157-206-0

Further reading[edit]

  • Caballero, Raymond. McCarthyism vs. Clinton Jencks. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2019.

External links[edit]