Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Edward Dmytryk


Edward Dmytryk was born in British Columbia, Canada and was the son of Ukrainian immigrants. After his mother’s death in 1913, the family moved to Los Angeles, California. In 1923, at the age of 14, he ran away from home and started working as a messenger boy at the Famous Players–Lasky studios (later Paramount). Dmytryk received a scholarship to study film and after trying out an education at the California Institute of Technology, he returned to Paramount. It was there he edited his first of more than 15 films starting in 1929. During this time he also made his directorial debut with the independently made The Hawk, in 1935, and spent the next eight years directing 23 other films. Dmytryk entered what some consider a Golden Age upon leaving Paramount studios for RKO. In 1943, Dmytryk directed the some propaganda pieces (Hitler’s Children and Behind the Rising Sun) that helped get him assigned to “A” productions, beginning with the Tender Comrade (1943). This drama starred Ginger Rogers as a pregnant woman and Robert Ryan as the husband off at war. It was eventually one of the pictures that the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) later cited as evidence of Dmytryk’s communism tendencies. In 1944, Dmytryk did in fact join the American Communist Party but later claimed it was because he wanted to end world poverty. During this time, he also made many politically charged films like,  Murder, My Sweet (1944) in which he helped to create the genre later known as "film noir". He then created his arguably best work, Crossfire (1947), which was one of the first Hollywood movies to address anti-Semitism. It won him four Academy Awards. Following the release of Crossfire, HUAC summoned Dmytryk to answer charges that he was a communist. He denied his involvement and was cited for contempt of Congress and was blacklisted in 1947. He later left for England, made two films, but ultimately returned to the United States. In 1951, he served several months in prison for contempt of Congress and then made the decision to cooperate with HUAC, becoming the only one of the Hollywood Ten to do so. Dmytryk admitted that he had been a member of the American Communist Party and he gave HUAC the names of other members. He later returned to Hollywood, and despite some backlash, he was given a series of low-budget productions to direct. After catching a break and receiving an oscar nomination for the movie The Caine Mutiny featuring Humphrey Bogart, Dmytryk was once again sought after but never quite returned to the creative height he had found prior to being blacklisted. Dmytryk went on to teach filmmaking at the University of Texas and at the University of Southern California. He wrote several books including Odd Man Out: A Memoir of the Hollywood Ten, in which he wrote of his involvement in the Communist Party and in the HUAC hearings. Dmytryk died in Encino, California, on July 1st, 1999.

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