Norma Barzman obituary


The author Norma Barzman, who has died aged 103, was believed to have been the final survivor of the Hollywood blacklist, a kind of who was recognized as a communist earlier than the Home UnAmerican Actions Committee (Huac), and whose profession was stymied by their actions.

She and her screenwriter husband, Ben Barzman, averted having to testify earlier than the committee by emigrating in 1949, and for years labored in Europe, typically anonymously. In her later life, after returning to Los Angeles, she was a kind of who saved the legacy of the “crimson scare” alive, in writing and interviews, and by main campaigns to revive credit to these pressured to labour in disguise.

Norma already had authentic story credit on two movies – together with her husband for the Errol Flynn comedy By no means Say Goodbye, and alone for John Brahm’s noirish The Locket – when, in the summertime of 1947, their Beverly Hills neighbour Groucho Marx advised them in passing that “they have been scorching”.

They came upon what he meant when a younger girl, additionally named Norma, stopped on her solution to a celebration at Vincente Minnelli’s to inform them the police have been surveilling guests to their home. A few years later they realised that younger girl was the long run Marilyn Monroe.

When Ben, whose screenwriting credit included the hit films Again to Bataan (1945) and the racial prejudice allegory The Boy With Inexperienced Hair (1948, with fellow blacklisted author Alfred Levitt), was referred to as to London in 1949 to revise a screenplay for Edward Dmytryk, one of many high-profile Hollywood 10 leftists who may solely get Give Us This Day made overseas, the Barzmans determined, with the scenario worsening within the US, to remain in Europe. They moved to Paris, and ultimately settled within the Provençal city of Mougins, the place their neighbours included Pablo Piccasso.

In 1951, the screenwriter Leo Townsend was the primary to call the Barzmans as communists earlier than Huac. Dmytryk adopted; he had been imprisoned on his return to the US. “With a view to get out of jail he named us and lots of different individuals,” Norma stated; the American embassy in Paris confiscated their passports.

The blacklisted neighborhood labored collectively: her screenplay for Ending Faculty (AKA Luxurious Ladies) was made in Italy by Bernard Vorhaus (her credit score went to an Italian “entrance”), whereas Ben labored on quite a few tasks with Joseph Losey. Additionally they labored in tv, however Norma had the additional job of elevating seven kids. Because the blacklist weakened, and Ben labored on huge movies resembling El Cid, The Damned and 55 Days at Peking (initially uncredited), they returned to the US for the primary time in 1965, and moved again completely in 1976, to Los Angeles.

Born in Manhattan, New York, Norma was named after the Bellini opera by her mother and father, Goldie (nee Levinson) and Samuel Levor, an importer. The household hung out in France when she was younger and, after beginning at Radcliffe Faculty, Massachusetts, she dropped out to go to the nation, returning after battle broke out. She then left Radcliffe once more, to marry Claude Shannon, a arithmetic prodigy at MIT who later turned often known as “the daddy of knowledge idea”.

She moved with Shannon to Princeton’s Institute for Superior Research, New Jersey, the place he turned a colleague of Albert Einstein’s, whereas she labored for the fast-fading League of Nations. The wedding was over after a yr, in 1941, and Norma moved to LA together with her widowed mom, stopping in Reno, Nevada, alongside the best way for a quickie divorce.

Her cousin Henry Myers, a longtime Hollywood author and a founding father of the Display Writers Guild, advisable Norma research on the League of American Writers’ faculty, whereas she labored as a options author for the Los Angeles Herald. Myers was additionally a Communist celebration member; at a 1942 fundraiser for Russian battle reduction held by the director Robert Rossen, he launched his cousin to Ben Barzman. When Ben advised her trendy films have been “approach too powerful for girls”, she threw a lemon meringue pie in his face. Just a few months later, in 1943, they have been married.

She additionally joined her husband within the Communist celebration, partly as a result of she admired the best way ladies and men have been working equals within the Soviet Union. When her leftist sympathies have been identified to the Herald’s proprietor, the fiercely rightwing William Randolph Hearst, he reportedly stated: “I don’t care if she is a Purple. I by no means hearth a great reporter.”

In 1982, she and Ben collaborated on a novel, Wealthy Desires, fictionalising the lifetime of the schlock author Harold Robbins; one reviewer referred to as it “not lurid sufficient”. Ben died in 1989, after which Norma turned extra open in expressing her perception that she had been held again by male attitudes as a lot as by the blacklist.

She wrote a column on rising older, The Greatest Years, for the Los Angeles Instances, and was interviewed for research of the blacklist, most notably Tender Comrades by Patrick McGilligan and Paul Buhle (1997). In 1999 she led the protest exterior the Academy Awards when a lifetime achievement Oscar was introduced to the director Elia Kazan, who famously did title names.

She revealed two memoirs, The Purple and the Blacklist (2003), adopted by The Finish of Romance: A Memoir of Love, Intercourse and the Thriller of the Violin (2006), combining the hidden historical past of Cremona, Italy, together with her affair with a younger violin maker and her love/hate relationship with Myers.

In 2017 she was concerned in a memorial of the blacklist on the Writers’ Guild theatre; 5 years later she helped spur the Academy and Turner Traditional Films to honour these blacklisted on the seventy fifth anniversary.

Requested about her activism, she advised Movie Speak: “I’m not bitter, as a result of there’s at all times one thing to work for, whether or not it’s a wedding, or democracy.”

She is survived by two daughters, Suzo and Luli, 5 sons, Aaron, Daniel, John, Paolo and Marco, and by eight grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.


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