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Paul Jarrico (1915-1997) - original name Israel Shapiro


American screenwriter, who was blacklisted on the both sides of the Iron Curtain, in the United States and in the Soviet Union, from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Jarrico's most important film as a producer was Salt of the Earth (1953), about a successful 13-month strike at a zinc mine in New Mexico. It was made by black-listed professionals with miners involved in the strike.

"This was the first American narrative film set in America that dared to have women standing with their husbands against the oppressors. Significantly, their liberation is achieved by them independently - it is not, cannot, be given to them by men; their liberation is then in turn a liberating catalyst for men, who are also trapped by sex-role conventions. The film's strong theme is that the liberated woman is no real threat to her man; her existence will benefit him." (from Guide for the Film Fanatic by Danny Peary, 1986)

Paul Jarrico was born Israel Payssah Shapiro in Los Angeles, California. His name Jarrico legally changed in 1940. Jarrico's father, Aaron Shapiro, was a lawyer, and amateur poet, who had adopted Zionist-socialist views in his youth in Kharkov, Ukraine, and had once been sent to prison there as a "dangerous character". With his brother Chaim, he had established in Los Angeles the law firm Shapiro and Shapiro to defend the poor, trade unionist, and immigrants. Aaron also campaigned for Socialist Party candidates. Jarrico's mother, Jennie Kraus, was from Minsk, Belorussia. After immigrating to the United States, she had married Morris Kraus (né Krachinsky), who died of tuberculosis. Jennie never quite learned to speak English. "I remember her working hard to learn how to leave a properly written note to the milk man and so on," Jarrico later said.

While studying at the University of California, Los Angeles, Jarrico joined the National Student League, and then the Young Communist League. From 1937 until the mid-1950s, Jarico was an active member of the Communist Party. However, in the 1930s Jarrico wrote scripts mostly for comedies and crime movies, which had nothing to do with Communist causes. These feature films included No Time to Marry (1937), a comedy starring Richard Arlen, Mary Astor, and Lionel Stander, the co-scripted I Am the Law (1938), about a D.A. fighting corrupt city government, The Little Adventures (1938), and Beauty for the Asking (1939), an early Lucille Ball feature with feminist tones. In 1936, Jarrico married Sylvia Gussin, who shared his political sentiments. Their only son, William Aaron Jarrico, was born in 1940. Jarrico and Sylvia divorced in 1966, but she maintained a friendship with her former husband. Her unmarried partner for 42 years was the actor William Horace Marshall, perhaps best known for his title roles in Blacula (1972) and Scream Blacula Scream (1973). She also worked on the scripts of the films and co-authored with Elena Boder The Boder Test of Reading-Spelling Patterns: A Diagnostic Test for Subtypes of Reading Disability (1982).

Jerrico worked in Hollywood for the MGM in the 1940s. His scripts from this period include The Face Behind the Mask (1941), directed by Robert Florey and starring Peter Lorre. Lorre played an immigrant, whose face has been disfigured in fire, and who has become a crime boos. He meets a sightless girl (Evelyn Keyes), who believes in his inner goodness. "If you could see my face, you would feel sorry for me," Lorre says to her. When his gang kills the girl by mistake, he eliminates the gang, sealing his own fate, at the same time. "For my sins, I have earned my punishment. I shall die too." The film was adapted from a story by Arthur Levinson, which was based on a radio play by Thomas Edward O'Connell. Jarrico did not meet Lorre, but recalled that the role was tailored for the actor's talents.

Jarrico's best screenplay was perhaps the comedy Tom, Dick, and Harry (1941), starring Ginger Rogers as a girl who cannot choose between her three boy friends. Jarrico was nominated for an Academy Award for his original script. Other Jarrico's films were Men of the Timberland (1941), and Thousand Cheer (1943), an all-star show with Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, and other top MGM actors.

During World War II, Jarrico served at the merchant marine in the North Africa and Italy. Song of Russia (1943), which Jarrico co-scripted with Richard Collins, was produced by MGM under the pressure of President Roosevelt to create sympathy for the Soviets. The Search (1948), starring Montgomery Clift, was shot after the war in the American zone of Germany. It depicted the fate of the orphan children in post-war Europe, focusing on the fate of a Czech mother and her nine-year-old boy. Jarmila Novotna, a Metropolitan Opera singer and herself a Czech, played the mother. "Montgomery Clift is superb," wrote the Tribune. "As the young soldier who brings back the little European waif into the fold of humanity Clift gets precisely the right combination of intensity and casualness..." Richard Schweizer and David Wechsler received an Academy Award for their original story; Jarrico polished the dialogue. Not Wanted (1949) was directed in reality by Ida Lupino and not the credited Elmer Clifton, who had an heart attack on the third day of the production.

In the 1950s, Jarrico was blacklisted after hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he refused to testify. His closest friend and colleague gave his name to HUAC, as well as Budd Schulberg and Robert Rossen, who had worked with Abraham Polonsky, another black-listed writer. After Nikita Khrushchev revealed in his famous speech in 1956 many of Stalin's crimes, Jarrico resigned from the Communist Party. He became an anti-Stalinist and later he criticized Brezhnevist Communist ideology.

Jarrico's last major work in Hollywood in the 1950s was the script for The White Tower, based on a novel by James Ramsay Ullman (1907-1971), writer on mountaineering and travel. It was Howard Hughes's attempt at grandeur, produced by RKO. In the symbolic melodrama a group of people climbs an Alpine mountain. Alida Valli a was a woman, who wanted to revenge her mountaineering father's death. Glenn Ford played a cynical ex-G.I., Lloyd Bridges was a Nazi bigot, and Claude Rains an alcoholic French writer. Howard Hughes fired Jarrico immediately, when he heard that Jarrico had received the subpoena for the hearings.

Jarrico's passport was confiscated after his journey to London in 1951. His most important project in the following years was Salt of the Earth, a union-sponsored drama about the appalling conditions of striking coal miners in New Mexico. In the film Ramon Quintero, a Mexican-American striking miner tries to adjust himself in the situation. Against usual gender roles, his wife Esperanza (Rosaura Revueltas) becomes a political activist, while he takes care of the home. The story was written by Michael Wilson and directed by Herbert J. Biberman, one of the Unfriendly Ten, who served a five-month jail sentence for contempt of Congress. It was the only independent production made by blacklisted people in the US film industry. Salt of the Earth was subsequently blacklisted and its distribution was prohibited, but later it has gained the status of a cult film and was selected by The Library of Congress as one of only 100 American films to be preserved for posterity.

In 1958, Jarrico left United States and worked in Europe for nearly 20 years. He lived mostly in Paris, but he also spent periods in London, Rome, Berlin, Prague, Zürich, Geneva, and the French Riviera. After divorcing Sylvia Gussin, who had followed him into political exile, Jarrico married a Yvette Le Floc'h. "My lady is French [born in Quiper, January 25, 1925], a writer, very left, the mother of an eleven year girl, and recently divorced," Jarrico wrote soon after meeting her. "She has been living in Prague for some years, adapting Czechoslovakian plays into French, and writing screenplays for the Czech film industry. Meanwhile, she'd bee studying Slavic languages, in which she became an expert (Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, Czech, and one or two others). She understands English almost perfectly, and reads it, but she's somewhat shy about speaking it." (from The Marxist and the Movies: A Biography of Paul Jarrico by Larry Ceplair, 2007.) In 1965, he flew with Yvette to New York. With the help of Abraham Polonsky, he got a writing assignment for Seaway, a Canadia drama series. After Yvette was interrogated by the FBI agents and she was told to leave the country, Jarrico decided to move back to Europe. For the next eleven years, they lived a suitcase-life, traveled to work on or promote various jobs, constantly changing their address. The most interesting joint project from this period was Big Brother, about the Czech Communist leader Alexander Dubcek, who launched a liberalization campaign, called the Sprague Spring, which led to Soviet invasion of Chechoslovakia in 1968. None of the major directors, whom Jarrico contacted (John Boorman, Lindsay Anderson, Jules Dassin, Joseph Losey, Milos Forman), wanted to touch the project.

During the 1960s, Jarrico used the pseudonym Peter Achilles. He worked for television productions and co-scripted Jovanka e l'Altri (1960), directed by Martin Ritt, Call Me Bwana (1963), directed by Gordon Douglas and starring Bob Hope and Anita Ekberg, Der Schatz der Azteken (1965), based on Karl May's novel and directed by Robert Siodmark, and Who killed Johnny Ringo (1966). Atentat u Sarajevu, a Czechoslovakian-Yugoslavian coproduction about the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand at Sarajevo, was nominated by the Academy for best foreign picture of 1976, but it did not win. As a result over a dispute concerning Leninist point of view, the Czechs refused to let Jarrico into the country. "The script, yes; me, no," he summarized in a letter. "Which makes me feel very proud. To be blacklisted not only in the West but the East." The Jarricos' also became involved with MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), supported by the Soviet Union. Yvette knew Jonas Savimbi, an Angolan rebel leader, who later fought against MPLA. Jarrico assisted her to raise money for UNITA, formed by Jonas Savimi, and supported by China and Tanzania. He drafted a letter to the leaders of Unita regarding the future of Angola, urging them to choose democratic socialism, instead of following the example of Soviet Union or China.

Jarrico and Yvette divorced officially in 1992, but lived separately from 1977. With the collapse of the black list, Jarrico returned to the United States in the mid-1970s and settled in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. He taught at the University of California, at the University of San Francisco, and continued his career as a screenwriter. Between 1977 and 1997, Jarrico's movie and television writing assignments grossed slightly less than $600,000. "Paul sent us a number of projects, but our subjective opinion was that they were too tough to sell to the broadcasters," said one Hollywood agent. These later American works include screenplay for J. Lee Thompson's Messenger of Death (1988), starring Charles Bronson, and uncredited scripts for television, such as Ivan Passer's dramatized biography of Stalin (1992), starring Robert Duvall. In 1992 Jarrico married Lia Benedetti, with whom he had lived from 1977. Jarrico died on 28 October, 1997, at a car accident, when returning from an event dedicated to victims of black list. Jarrico himself had been a driving force in restoring the credits of blacklisted writers Albert Maltz (Broken Arrow, written under the front name of Michael Blankfort, The Robe), John Howard Lawson (the anti-apartheid movie Cry, The Beloved Country), and Marguerite Roberts (Ivanhoe).

For further reading: Salt of the Earth by Herbet Biberman (1965); The Inquisition in Hollywood by Larry Ceplair & Steven Englund (1980, 1983), Hiljaiset sankarit by Matti Salo (1994); The Marxist and the Movies: A Biography of Paul Jarrico by Larry Ceplair (2007) - Other blacklisted screenwriters: Dalton Trumbo (Spartacus, Johnny Got His Gun) , Michael Wilson (The Bridge over the River Kwai, Friendly Persuasion, Planet of the Apes), Hugo Butler (Edison the Man, The Southerner, Eva) Abraham Polonsky (Body and Soul, Force of Evil).

Selected film works:

  • No Time to Marry, 1938 - screenplay, story by Paul Gallico, dir. Harry Lachman, starring Richard Arlen, Mary Astor and Lionel Stander
  • I am the Law, 1938 - co-script with Jo Swerling, dir. by Alexander Hall, starring Edward G. Robinson, Otto Kruger, John Beal, Barbara O'Neil, Wendy Barrie
  • Beauty for the Asking, 1939 - co-script with Doris Anderson, dir. by Glenn Tryon, starring Lucille Ball, Frieda Inescort, Patric Knowles, Donald Woods
  • The Face Behind the Mask, 1941 - co-script with Allen Vincent, dir. by Robert Florey, starring Peter Lorre, Evelyn Keyes, George E. Stone, Don Beddoe, John Tyrell
  • Tom, Dick and Harry, 1941 - screenplay, dir. by Garson Kanin, starring Ginger Rogers, George Murphy, Alan Marshall, Burgess Meredith
  • Thousands Cheer, 1943 - co-script with Richard Collins, dir. by George Sidney, starring Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, Mary Astor, John Boles
  • Song of Russia, 1944 - co-script with Richard Collins, dir. by Gregory Ratoff, starring Robert Taylor, Susan Peters, John Hodiak, Robert Benchley
  • The Search, 1948 - screenplay (with Richard Schweizer and David Wechsler), dir. by Fred Zinnemann, starring Montgomery Clift, Aline MacMahon, Jarmila Novotna
  • Not Wanted, 1949 - co-script, dir. Elmer Clifton and Ida Lupino (uncredited), starring Sally Forrest, Keefe Brasselle, Leo Penn
  • The White Tower, 1950 - co-script, dir. by Ted Tetzlaff, starring Glen Ford, Alida Valli, Claude Rains, Lloyd Bridges
  • The Las Vegas Story, 1952 - co-script (uncredited), dir. Robert Stevenson, starring Jane Russell, Victor Mature, Vincent Price
  • The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By, 1952 - co-script (uncredited), based on a novel by Georges Simenon, dir. Harold French, starring Claude Rains, Marius Goring, Mästa Torén
  • Salt of the Earth, 1954 - (prod. only), dir. by Herbert J. Biberman, starring Rosaura Revualtas, Juan Chacon, Will Geer, David Wolfe, Mervin Williams, David Sarvis
  • The Girl Most Likely, 1957 - (uncredited screenplay basis), written by Devery Freeman, dir. by Michell Leisen, starring Jane Powell, Cliff Robertson, Keith Andes
  • Jovanka e l’Altr / Five Branded Women, 1960 - co-script (uncredited), directed by Martin Ritt, starring Van Heflin, Silvana Mangano, Jeanne Moreau
  • All Night Long, 1961 - co-script with Nel King, dir. by Basil Dearden, starring Patrick McGoohan, Richard Attenborough, Keith Michell, Betsy Blair
  • Call Me Bwana, 1963 - co-script, dir. by Gordon Douglas, starring Bob Hope, Anita Ekberg, Edie Adams, Lionel Jeffries
  • Der Schatz der Azteken / The Treasure of the Azteks / Mercenaries of the Rio Grande, 1965 - co-script (uncredited), based on the novel by Karl May, dir. by Robert Siodmark, starring Lex Barker, Gérard Barray, Rik Battaglia
  • Die Pyramide des Sonnegottes, 1965 - co-script (uncredited), based on the novel by Karl May, dir. by Robert Siodmark, starring Lex Barker, Michèle Girardon, Gérard Barray (the sequel to Der Schatz der Azteken)
  • La Balada de Johnny Ringo / Who Killed Johnny Ringo, 1966 - screenplay under the pseudonym Peter Achilles, dir. José Luis Madrid, starring Lex Barker, Joachim Fuchsberger, Marianne Koch
  • Der Artz stellt fest / The Doctor Says, 1967, co-script & co-dir. (uncredited), dir. Lazar Wechsler
  • Beyond the Mountains / The Desperate One, 1968 - (uncredited) dir. Alexander Ramati, dased on his novel Beyond The Mountains, with Maximilian Schell, Irene Papas, Raf Vallone
  • Le Rouble a deux faces / The Day the Hot Line Got Hot  / The Hot Line, 1968 - screenplay, dir. Etienne Périer, starring Robert Taylor, Charles Boyer, George Chakiris
  • Atentat u Sarajevu / The Day That Shook the World, 1976 - co-script, dir. Veljko Bulajic, featuring Christopher Plummer, Maximilian Schell, Florinda Bolkan
  • Bilitis, 1977 - co-script, prod.Ectafilms, Films 21, Mars International Productions, dir. David Hamilton, starring Patti D'Arbanville, Mona Kristensen, Bernard Giraudeau
  • Messenger of Death, 1988 - dir. by J. Lee Thompson, starring Charles Bronson, Trish Van Devere, Laurence Luckinbill
  • Stalin, 1992 - (uncredited rewrite), dir. Ivan Passer, starring Robert Duvall, Julia Ormond, Joan Plowright, Maximilian Schell

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