The hoary argument that Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan sought to use their film "On the Waterfront" to justify their decision to name names before the House Un-American Activities Committee was resurrected once again last month in the New York Times Magazine's annual "The Lives They Lived" issue. In his obit for Schulberg and Karl Malden, Anthony Giardina dubbed Schulberg the "Mark McGwire of writers" for testifying before HUAC, "a man whose later achievements wil always have an asterisk by them."
Now Jim Fisher, a professor at Fordham University and author of a recent book about "Waterfront," is shooting back, offering a different account of this episode in film history. At a reading in Brooklyn this week he told the crowd that his book reveals that Schulberg's script was completed six weeks before his testimony before HUAC. “The mistaken assumption that has guided critical approaches to this superlative film may now be turned on its head,” Fisher told the Times. “The issue is not whether Schulberg’s testimony shaped subsequent versions of the ‘Waterfront’ screenplay but whether the act of composing the original screenplay shaped his decision to testify or the character of that testimony.”
Read all about on the Times' excellent City Room blog.
And learn more about Jim Fisher's book and the characters that inspired "On the Waterfront" in this video produced by America.