[Marxism] Edward Lewis, ‘Spartacus’ Producer Who Defied Blacklist, Dies at 99

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 16 08:27:24 MDT 2019


NY Times, Aug. 16, 2019
Edward Lewis, ‘Spartacus’ Producer Who Defied Blacklist, Dies at 99
He was the “front” for Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten, but 
ended the subterfuge and insisted that Trumbo be listed as screenwriter.

By Sam Roberts

Edward Lewis, an award-winning producer who hired the banned 
screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to write the movie “Spartacus” and then 
demanded that he be publicly credited, heralding the end of Hollywood’s 
anti-Communist blacklist, died on July 27 at his home in Los Angeles. He 
was 99.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Susan.

“Spartacus,” which was released in 1960, received four of the nine 
Oscars awarded to films produced by Mr. Lewis, as well as a Golden 
Globe. All told, his 33 movies received 21 Academy Award nominations.

His producing credits included nine movies directed by John 
Frankenheimer (among them “Seven Days in May” in 1964) as well as films 
by John Huston (“The List of Adrian Messenger,” 1963) and Louis Malle 
(“Crackers,” 1984).

With his wife, Mildred Lewis, who died in April, he shared an Academy 
Award nomination for best picture for “Missing,” the 1982 political 
thriller directed by Costa-Gavras.

Mr. Lewis produced five more films written by Trumbo, including “Lonely 
Are the Brave” in 1962 and “Executive Action” in 1973, but none packed 
more punch than “Spartacus,” which was directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Mr. Lewis insisted that the movie, which was based on a novel by Howard 
Fast, another blacklisted writer, was never intended to be overtly 
political. It nevertheless climaxes with what amounts to a 
2,000-year-old prequel to the Red Scare, in which members of Congress 
demanded in hearings that witnesses identify colleagues or associates 
suspected of Communist ties.

In the film, the Roman authorities demand that Spartacus’s fellow slaves 
identify him; instead, in solidarity, each stands to proclaim, “I am 
Spartacus!” Trumbo later said that the scene evoked the refusal by many 
congressional witnesses to name names. But Mr. Lewis maintained that 
“Spartacus” was simply a story “about slaves who are overthrowing the 
yoke of oppression.”

Kirk Douglas, left, in the title role, doing battle with the gladiator 
Draba (Woody Strode) in “Spartacus,” based on a Howard Fast novel. Mr. 
Lewis brought the book to Mr. Douglas’s attention.CreditAssociated Press
Mildred Lewis had recommended the novel to her husband, who brought it 
to the attention of the actor Kirk Douglas, his boss at the time at the 
film company that Mr. Douglas had established, Byrna Productions. Mr. 
Douglas would star in the title role.

Dissatisfied with a script by Fast, he and Mr. Douglas hired Trumbo, who 
had not received a screen credit since 1950 after refusing to testify 
before the House Un-American Activities Committee investigating 
Communist infiltration of the film industry.

The script was submitted piecemeal to the studio, Universal 
International, under Mr. Lewis’s name while Trumbo churned out page 
after page, writing in his bathtub with a wooden tray across the top. 
The tray “preserved his modesty and gave him a place to put his 
typewriter, an ashtray, and an ever-present glass of bourbon,” Mr. 
Douglas wrote in “I Am ‘Spartacus!: Making a Film, Breaking the 
Blacklist” (2012).

“Every time Eddie Lewis told someone he was writing ‘Spartacus,’ it 
embarrassed him,” Mr. Douglas wrote, adding. “The revelation of Dalton 
Trumbo’s involvement with ‘Spartacus’ could shut down the entire 
picture. So Eddie continued to play the producer-turned-writer, a 
charade he hated.”

Once Universal had invested heavily in the film (more than $70 million 
in today’s money), making it too late to halt production, Mr. Lewis 
demanded that the studio credit Trumbo and pay him.

When “Spartacus” was released in October 1960, Universal International 
became “the first major movie studio to give screen credit to a 
blacklisted writer,” The New York Times reported. (Otto Preminger had 
announced in January 1960 that his forthcoming film “Exodus,” released 
by the smaller studio United Artists, would be written by Trumbo.)

Edward Lewis was born on Dec. 16, 1919, in Camden, N.J., to Max and 
Florence (Kline) Lewis. His father worked for his own father’s furniture 
company; his mother was a homemaker.

Edward attended Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and enrolled in a 
dental school program. But before graduating he served as an Army 
captain in World War II at a military hospital in England.

After the war he moved to Los Angeles, where he met and married Mildred 
Gerchik, the sister of an Army buddy. She was a Brooklyn transplant 
whose mother had been a garment industry organizer. She had another 
brother who had fought in the anti-fascist Abraham Lincoln Brigade in 
the Spanish Civil War.

“He developed his deep and powerful commitment to social justice under 
her influence,” Susan Lewis said, referring to her mother.

He is survived by another daughter, Joan Lewis, and two grandchildren.

Mr. Lewis was enterprising early on, starting ventures to provide 
housing for returning veterans and health insurance for pets. Both 
failed, but Hollywood beckoned.

Ms. Lewis said of her parents: “At some point I remember them telling me 
that they went to a social gathering where someone presented a 
screenplay in progress. My parents went home and said to each other, ‘We 
can do better than that.’ ”

They adapted Honoré de Balzac’s novel “The Lovable Cheat” into a 1949 
movie, though of the two only Mr. Lewis received a screenwriting credit, 
as well as a producing credit. (In a pan, Variety wrote that it “misses 
on practically all counts.”)

Mr. Lewis went on to work for CBS producing two of the first drama 
anthology series on TV, “The Faye Emerson Show” and “Schlitz Playhouse 
of Stars.” He joined Mr. Douglas’s company as a writer and producer in 1956.

“I couldn’t make a living as a writer, so I became a producer,” he told 
The Los Angeles Times in 1987.

As to what he actually did as a producer, Mr. Lewis recalled a few 
examples. On one occasion he assured animal rights advocates that no 
potential prey would be injured in a fox hunting scene in “The List of 
Adrian Messenger.” Another time, after the filming of “Spartacus,” he 
quibbled with studio censors over whether a slave’s preference for both 
oysters and snails implied that the slave was bisexual.

In other ventures, he collaborated with David Merrick on the 1963 
Broadway adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s 
Nest,” and was an Emmy winner as executive producer of the television 
mini-series “The Thorn Birds” in 1983.

He and his wife also wrote “Brothers” (1977), a fictionalized account of 
the relationship between the black activist Angela Davis and George 
Jackson, a prison inmate.

After decades of producing, Mr. Lewis returned to writing, in one case 
the book and lyrics for a musical called “The Good Life,” which was 
staged briefly in a Hollywood theater.

“The main character is a man who’s principled, believes in things — and, 
at 70, remains a militant, optimistic person involved in what’s going on 
in the future,” he said in 1987, two years before his 70th birthday. 
“And, you know, that’s been the theme of my own life.”

Sticking to his principles, as he did during the making of “Spartacus, 
defined much of Mr. Lewis’s professional life.

“I am most grateful to you,” Trumbo wrote him after being recruited to 
ghostwrite “Spartacus.” “By way of recompense, I want the quality of my 
work to make you grateful to me. And then, nothing but love, gratitude, 
money, success, increment earned and unearned, glamour, six-hundred 
dollar whores and a torrent of good pictures.”

In 1959, Trumbo presented Mr. Lewis with an autographed copy of his 
book, “Johnny Got His Gun.” It was inscribed: “To Eddie Lewis — who 
risked his name to help a man who’d lost his name.”




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