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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 05/ 8/2007

Comment Box: Elia Kazan, Go Ahead and Watch

By Liz Kelly

Martin Scorsese looks on as director Elia Kazan brandishes his lifetime achievement Oscar. (AP)

"A Face in the Crowd" is a[n] Elia Kazan flick. We still blackballing him, or can I watch this now? -- Submitted during last week's Celebritology Live discussion

You're referring, of course, to the director's 1952 testimony to Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in which Kazan named eight of his old friends as members of the Communist Party. Though Kazan later argued that the names were already known to the committee, he was thereafter dropped by many former friends and colleagues and made the target of a "reverse blacklist" that (some argue) limited his exposure and his career.

In 1999 Martin Scorcese and Robert DeNiro led Kazan on stage to receive a lifetime achievement Oscar to the applause of stars like Karl Malden and Vanessa Redgrave (though some, like Ed Begley, Jr. and Holly Hunter, sat on their hands in protest). Public reception was also mixed, with protesters outside the ceremony carrying placards reading "Elia Kazan: Nominated for Benedict Arnold Award" and "Don't Whitewash the Blacklist."

Kazan's credits include groundbreaking movies like the Brando-fronted "Streetcar Named Desire" and "On the Waterfront," Andy Griffith's typecast-shattering turn in the above-mentioned "A Face in the Crowd" and Natalie Wood's Oscar-nominated "Splendor in the Grass" performance.

Kazan died in 2003, leaving a conflicted legacy tied to one of the darkest periods of American history. I have a hard time summoning the requisite outrage to forego watching the movies listed above. Perhaps, as Jacob Weisberg wrote in a Slate article in 1999, "He [Kazan] deserves an Oscar as much as anyone living -- for best director, not for best human being. Who in the movie industry qualifies for that second one anyway?"

I heard on the radio that Brad and Angelina were "all but done." Unfortunately, my phone rang and I had to get it (since I am at work...), so I didn't get to hear anything else. I've been unable to confirm this by searching on the Internet, but most sites are blocked on my work computer. Can you do some digging into this? -- via e-mail

Don't worry, you didn't miss much. The answer to your question continues a discussion we started in last week's Celebritology Live chat about the conflicting reports to which we, the celebrity obsessed, are daily subjected: Are Brad and Angelina "exuding old world romance" and "enjoying steamy romps with a 23-year-old supermodel" or is Brad "back in the arms of ex-wife Jennifer Aniston" while Angelina Jolie is "locked in a Prague hotel bathroom?"

Unfortunately, none of the above stories contain any remotely corroborated tidbits -- we have the usual "sources" and "friends close to the couple" which is tabloid shorthand for "Yo, I totally made this up." Still, there are a few conclusions we can draw from a careful read:

Two actors named Brad Pitt (who is a "Hollywood hunk") and Angelina Jolie (who "flaunts sexual power") share custody of four children and are currently residing in Prague while Jolie films the movie "Wanted."

Is their relationship in trouble? Your guess is as good as mine.

At first I was happy to hear that Paris got jail time but I've got to mirror the other posters who are torn. I think this will be a blip on the radar and she's going to come out no different than she went in, with "Free Paris T-shirts" no doubt... -- Petal reacts to Paris Hilton Gets Jail Time

From your lips to the entrepreneurial ears of these fine businesses, that have already rushed "Free Paris" t-shirts into production. If you're more of a hater, you may want to snap up your own "Go Away Paris" baseball cap or thong from Citizens for a Better America a group that is apparently capable of riding the coattails of the latest celebrity scandals, but not updating their Web site.

Comment of the Week:
"You all are a bunch of mindless, brainwashed, blahblahblahberring, which hunting, sycophantic, moronic, hate mongering, jealous, unhappy, sad, lifeless, pestilent, pernicious and loathsome A-Holes." - Little Nepeatize takes the time to put our interest in TomKat in perspective

Have Celebritological questions? Submit them to Thursday's Celebritology Live discussion or drop me an e-mail at celebritology@washingtonpost.com.

By Liz Kelly  | May 8, 2007; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Comment Box  
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Next: Morning Mix: Paris's Rival Petitions

Comments

Great comment of the week! Nice use of vocab, although I do have to assume that because you, Liz, picked it as your fave your response is somewhat insouciant.

Posted by: Bogota | May 8, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

It must have really hurt Elia Kazan to be shunned by the likes of Ed Begley, Jr. and Holly Hunter. Where did Judd Nelson stand on the issue?

Of course, a few years later the entire Hollywood community gave a rousing standing O to admitted teen-rapist and fugitive-from-the-law Roman Polanski. Go figure.

Posted by: Johnny | May 8, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

"Which hunting"? My advice - when you go on a rant and call someone names, check your spelling. It takes all the meaning out of your rant. "Pernicious" sounds like a cool word though! I'm gonna have to look it up so I can use it to insult others too!

Posted by: Spell checker mcgee | May 8, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

The quote of the week was fabulous! I'm not sure how all of us armchair Celebritologists are "pestilent" though.

Posted by: jlr | May 8, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Yes I still dont really understand why people go out of their way to read blogs that they obviously dont relate to and then take the time to write in about what time wasters we are??

Posted by: sjcpeach | May 8, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I like the use of "pestilent." It makes me feel like a locust or something.

Posted by: Liz | May 8, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

What on earth is a "reverse blacklist"?

According to dictionary.com, a black lisst is:
1. a list of persons under suspicion, disfavor, censure, etc.: His record as an anarchist put him on the government's blacklist.
2. a list privately exchanged among employers, containing the names of persons to be barred from employment because of untrustworthiness or for holding opinions considered undesirable.
3. a list drawn up by a labor union, containing the names of employers to be boycotted for unfair labor practices.

so, a "reverse blacklist" would mean giving the person listed more opportunities than they deserve, be favored, deemed trustworthy?

Posted by: BF | May 8, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

"Pestilent" also makes me think that we are covered in weeping, oozing sores.
As for E. Kazan, it was so long ago, I say get over it and enjoy his movies. The uppity actors who sat on their hands were morons. They should have been talking to the man and learning a thing or two.

Posted by: POS | May 8, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Sweet, my comment got picked.

I have been told that I am a hater so I'm leaning towards the cap not the t-shirt. Pass on the thong.

Not only do I get a daily dose of celeb news, it adds to the vocab. Thanks to Gwyneth, I use insouciant whenever possible and now pernicious. Sweet.

Posted by: petal | May 8, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

i will be getting a t-shirt with this soon. or maybe "stay in jail paris".

Posted by: go away paris | May 8, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who think we should just get over what Kazan did, I would say why? Yes, it was long ago. But I am sure the 8 people he named who never again had the opportunity to make films still feel the pain and shame of being named (wow, never meant to sound like Dr. Seuss).

How many wonderful films from them would we be able to watch and share and teach our children about if they hadn't been blacklisted.

Kazan was never held accountable for his despicable actions. In fact, by what I am seeing here he was forgiven and then rewarded with respect for his filmmaking genius. He made those films by climbing over the bodies of the ones he betrayed.

By the way, this all happened way before my time, but I still resent what he did and will never watch his films - his estate will never get my money.

As a second by the way - I agree with the poster and am equally disgusted by the respect given Roman Polanski. What a disgusting little man!

DC Filmmaker

Posted by: mwalkerg | May 8, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I was mildly amused/pleased thinking about Paris' predicament...rich, spoiled brat finally gets her come 'uppance or whatever. I am outraged at her "Gov. Arnold, please pardon Paris" petition. Technically, she didn't post it, a "fan" did, but she's calling for "all who oppose injustice" to sign the e-petition. I mean, first of all, the arrogance that a state's governor should intercede for a _parole violation_ on a _traffic charge_ is unbelievable. And the fact that Paris sees this inconvenience as "injustice" completely blows me away. If she had ONCE bothered to wear a T-shirt, that supported some kind of campaign ("save the left handed dolphins!" anything!) then maybe she'd had a little more credibility in identifying her own situation as such. It's the tackiest, most self-serving act I've ever seen. My one hope is that more people will recognize will call her on this massive faux pas and her image will go from "trashy glamor wench" to "trashy wench." Oh, and right, I'm SO sure that a professional PR agent just brained farted out almost an entire year of probation. I'm sure that's how he built his career, but forgetting little things like that. Sorry, sorry - I'm done now. I'm just really mad and skeeved out at the whole situation.

Posted by: Paris Petition | May 8, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I think we should to cut the problem off at the source. Let's circulate a petition and send it to her father: "For the good of American culture, please keep your daughter on a island without cameras or blackberrys."

Posted by: Re: Paris | May 8, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I am curious as to whether or not Mr. Kazan ever apologized for what he did, or even acknowledged that it was wrong. If he did, that would go a long way with me. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you don't acknowledge or learn from them, I am less willing to cut you slack and move on.

Posted by: CJB | May 8, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

to "li'l" nepeatize...sticks and stones, pal, sticks and stones...

re: elia kazan...i remember seeing husband and wife acting duo amy madigan and ed harris settin' on their hands, too. and amy had that really tight-lipped look on her face too. i think she meant it.

Posted by: methinks | May 8, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

"He made those films by climbing over the bodies of the ones he betrayed."

Wait, isn't that what Hollywood is all about?

Posted by: Bored @ work | May 8, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Paris Petition: I'll sign it! I'll sign it! I don't understand why people are torn about her sentence. It was not harsh, the judge gave her what the average citizen would get. It's very simple, she broke the law, not once, but twice, she was in violation of her probation. Look at it this way, if she does the 45 days, she more than likely will use a driver from now on. The judge will have saved a life or two.

Posted by: Sharon | May 8, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Little Nepeatize is like that little girl who just sobs whenever she sees Sanjaya. Little infatuated w/TomKat??

Posted by: Sharon | May 8, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

To mwalkerg:

I agree with your statement that we should not just "get over" what Elia Kazan did because it happened a long time ago. The passing of time is never a reason to lessen the significance of an event or someone's actions.

However, it would help to address exactly what Kazan "did." To equate Polanski's acts (drugging and raping a 13-year-old) to Kazan's acts (giving truthful testimony to HUAC in order to save his own career and livelihood)would be unfair.

Kazan appeared before HUAC and testified that he had once been a member of the Communist Party, but had resigned in the 30's. After initial reluctance to do so, he named the names of the other Party members that he knew. Evidence suggests that Kazan had been told by studio execs that he would be blacklisted if he did not do so.

Were Kazan's actions "despicable"? On the one hand, Kazan's testimony appears to have been truthful -- the Party members he identified had actually been Party members. History shows that the U.S. Communist Party at the time was funded and used as a tool by the Stalinist regime in Moscow. Kazan simply made the Party membership of these individuals public. Evidence also suggests that HUAC had the names of these individuals before Kazan testified.

Pushing the needle back towards the "despicable" range is the fact that Kazan had to have been aware of the menacing goon-squad methods and history of HUAC and its Hollywood toadies. Although HUAC may have already had the names Kazan provided, his dramatic testimony gave the Committee a much-desired propaganda boost. Despite his protestations to the contrary, Kazan's motives for testifying were less than pristine -- one of the major reasons he did so was to avoid damaging or sinking his own career and ability to continue making movies and money.

So on balance, a reasonable argument can be made that Kazan's actions were despicable, or at least lacking in character. Such judgments about 1952 are easy to make from the safety of 2007, however. We'd like to think that, in Kazan's shoes, we would have done the "right" thing and refused to testify, risking imprisonment and career and financial ruin in the process. But who knows, until actually confronted by such a horrible choice.

While I respect your decision to boycott Kazan's works, I wonder if, in fairness, your boycott extends to the works of others who "named names" to HUAC:
West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, The Pajama Game, On the Town (Jerome Robbins).
The Godfather, Dr. Strangelove, Nine to Five (Sterling Hayden).
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Roots (Burl Ives).

Posted by: Johnny | May 8, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Priceless, there is a petition to disregard the petition for clemancy.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/jailparishilton/index.html

Posted by: petal | May 8, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Go Liz. Embrace that inner locust!

Posted by: erm | May 8, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Johnny good, insightfull comment

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