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April 26: Albert Maltz

April 25, 2016

albert-maltz-2Novelist and screenwriter Albert Maltz, who won two Oscars as well as the O. Henry Memorial Award before being blacklisted and imprisoned as one of the Hollywood Ten, died on this date in 1985 at the age of 76. Maltz’s 1944 novel, The Cross and the Arrow, chronicled German resistance to Nazism (and was distributed to more than 150,000 American soldiers); his 1951 screenplay for Broken Arrow — which did not bear his name because of the blacklist — won a Writers Guild of America Award. He also wrote screenplays for The Robe, The Naked City, The Pride of the Marines, and The House I Live In, among other films. Educated at Columbia University and the Yale School of Drama, Maltz published five books of fiction. In 1945, he wrote an essay in the New Masses calling for more intellectual freedom in the Communist Party. In response, the Party’s cultural tsar Victor Jerome organized several well-known writers, included Howard Fast, Mike Gold, and Alvah Bessie, to pile up on Maltz with critical pieces, and he was pressured into writing a retraction of his original essay. He died in Los Angeles in 1985.

“I... read the Marxist classics. I still think it to be the noblest set of ideals ever penned... Where else in political literature do you find thinkers saying that we were going to end all forms of human exploitation? Wage exploitation, exploitation of women by men, the exploitation of people of color by white peoples, the exploitation of colonial countries by imperialist countries. And Marx spoke of the fact that socialism will be the kingdom of freedom, where man realizes himself in a way that humankind has never seen before. This was an inspiring body of literature to read.” —Albert Maltz