On Writing 30


The 1950s are often referred to as the McCarthy Era. But long before Senator Joseph McCarthy rose to prominence on the national stage, a Red scare–fueled blacklist was rampant in the entertainment industry.

The blacklist ruined careers and destroyed lives.  So it is not surprising that a film about it involves suicide, ulcers and a prison sentence—but it’s a bit unexpected that the film is a comedy.

Walter Bernstein was blacklisted from 1950 to 1958. His script, The Front, weaves together his experiences and those of people he knew with fictional characters and situations. The film is a poignant comedy that is not only entertaining, but also provides a sense of life during the blacklist.  We are pleased to be publishing it here for the first time along with Jeremy Pikser’s conversation with Bernstein about the film.

We are also pleased to have a special introduction by Victor Navasky, chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review, former editor and publisher of The Nation and author of Naming Names, a book about the Hollywood blacklist.

On The Back Page, we have Lawrence Block’s tribute to author, screenwriter and Writers Guild, East council member Donald Westlake, who died on December 31, 2008. A slightly different version of this piece appeared in The Third Degree, the newsletter of Mystery Writers of America.

– Arlene Hellerman, Editor

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