[Marxism] Edward Lewis, ‘Spartacus’ Producer Who Defied Blacklist, Dies at 99
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
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
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
“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.”
More information about the Marxism