Walter Bernstein, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “The Front” who had spent years on the blacklist in Hollywood, has died. He was 101.
Bernstein died on Friday night, according to former WGA West President Howard Rodman.
In the 1950s, Bernstein was blacklisted from Hollywood after he was suspected to be a communist working in the entertainment industry.
“There was a little booklet called ‘Red Channels,’ which was a collection of about 150 names of people in the entertainment business, with a listing of their so-called ‘communist’ or ‘communist front’ associations, and if you were named you were automatically blacklisted,” Bernstein told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. “There were about eight designations for me — all true, all things I’d done. I’d written for communist magazines, I’d supported Russian war relief, I’d supported the loyalists in Spain.”
As a result, Bernstein said he needed to rely on multiple “fronts” to get work in Hollywood — an experience that would later inspire Bernstein to write “The Front,” which starred Woody Allen as the friend of a blacklisted TV screenwriter who becomes a “front” for the screenwriter, signing his name onto scripts in exchange for money.
Still, Bernstein would spend nearly a decade on the blacklist before he wrote “The Front.” His comeback, so to speak, wouldn’t happen until 1959, when he was credited as a screenwriter on “That Kind of Woman,” a film starring Sophia Loren and directed by Sidney Lumet.
Bernstein would then go on to write — and be credited for writing — films like “Paris Blues,” “Fail-Safe” and “The Molly Maguires.”
In his tribute to Bernstein, Rodman described the screenwriter as a “fighter for social justice.”
“Without exaggeration: we shall not know his like again,” Rodman wrote. “Walter, at his core, was a fighter for social justice. From the time he was young, until his very last weeks. May his life be an example for all of us.”
Bernstein is survived by his wife Gloria and his four children.