Friday, April 03, 2009

Adapting The Bridge On The River Kwai

In the latest issue of Cineaste magazine there's an article by Joseph Dmohowski about how blacklisted screenwriter Michael Wilson came to adapt The Bridge On The River Kwai (from the novel by Pierre Boulle and after a script by Carl Foreman). The article is online courtesy of The California Chronicle.
In September 1951, after he had completed the script for George Stevens's A Place in the Sun, Wilson, who, like so many other college students during the Great Depression, had joined the Communist Party, was subpoenaed to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). He refused to cooperate or answer any questions from members of the committee. He would not incriminate himself or become an informer and identify acquaintances that may or may not have been fellow members of the Communist Party.

It didn't matter to the film industry that, six months after his HUAC appearance, Michael Wilson won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for his work on A Place in the Sun. By then he had already been blacklisted as an "unfriendly witness." He immediately became officially unemployable and the promising career of one of Hollywood's most talented young screenwriters seemed over just as it was beginning to flourish. Michael Wilson's career as a blacklisted screenwriter, however, one forced to work "under the table," had just begun.

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