Thursday, June 7, 2012
GUILTY BY SUSPICION
(March 1991, U.S.)
If you've never heard of Irwin Winkler, then perhaps you should look him up. Among many things, he produced all of the ROCKY films and many of Martin Scorsese's films. GUILTY BY SUSPICION marks his first time as a director and he's chosen perhaps the most intruiging time period in the history of show business; the time of the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s. During this historical rising tide of McCarthyism and the Red Scare, many lives were destroyed for nearly twenty years. Those who refused to cooperate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities and implicate others by naming names were denied the right to earn a living and often went to jail. It's safe to say that America was at war with itself and those that sat behind the great big desks and the microphones weren't taking prisoners.
David Merrill (played by Robert De Niro), a director in 1950s Hollywood, returns from abroad to find that McCarthyism has completely taken over the town he once knew and loved. As the "golden boy" of 20th Century Fox head Daryl F. Zannuck, he quickly discovers that he won't be allowed to work in films any longer unless he decides to implicate his colleagues as Communist agents. He must decide whether to turn informant, or to stick to his principles and convictions at the cost of his life's work. As traditional cliche would have it, you can probably guess which decision he ultimately makes.
This is a simple, yet solid historical drama with an ensemble cast who can actually act their way through a challenging story. Most noteworthy is Martin Scorsese playing a film director forced to leave the country in order to ensure his own career. We already know what a spectacular team Scorsese and DeNiro have made over the decades, but it's a real pleasure to watch them act opposite each other in a film, even if it's only for a brief moment. The chemistry between the two of them simply speaks for itself.
GUILTY BY SUSPICION is just one of several films I own that deal with the ugliness of McCarthyism. Other titles include THE MAJESTIC (2001) and GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK (2005). Somehow, it's seems a subject that never gets stale and continues to work for those filmmakers who care to tackle it with some degress of freshness and originality.
Favorite line or dialogue:
David Merrill: "I might not be the best citizen in this country, but I was raised to stand up for what I believe in, and I'm going to raise my son in the same way, and as hard as that is sometimes, I'm gonna try to live it, and if that isn't what a real American is, then we've failed!"