Friday, 22 June 2012 14:55

Salt of the Earth, 1954, movie

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SALT OF THE EARTH

Movie B/W 1954

Review by Arthur Scott

 

   The only blacklisted (banned) American film in history. Based on the two-year strike at the Empire Zinc Co. mine in Silver City during the early fifties.

It depicts the struggle of Mexican-Americans and their families against bigotry and inequality in the mine. It was filmed in Silver City and with the exception of Will Gear, had a local cast made up mostly workers who participated in the actual strike.

   The movie was banned for “its daring political content, which anticipated the civil rights and feminist movements by nearly ten years. This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress in 1992.” I found the movie to be entertaining and educational at the same time. So much so that I watched it twice, which I rarely do.

   I found the following discussion at Peoples World online:

 

“‘50 years of Salt of the Earth

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the making of the film Salt of the Earth, the only movie banned during the McCarthy-era anticommunist witch-hunts in Hollywood.

Salt of the Earth is based on the actual events of the Empire Zinc miners’ strike. It depicts the successful struggle of Mexican American miners and their families in a hard-fought, two-year strike for better wages, working conditions, and justice, with women playing a critical role – a remarkable story, particularly for the 1950s.

The movie was directed by Herbert Biberman, one of the Hollywood Ten defendants who spent six months in jail for refusing to “name names” before Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s committee.

James J. Lorence documents the right-wing campaign against the film in his book, Suppression of the Salt of the Earth. Lorence details how Hollywood studios, Congress, film critics and reactionary-controlled film unions all conspired to stop Salt of the Earth from ever reaching the screens. The filmmakers were barred from using Hollywood crews, equipment or post-production facilities. Rosaura Revueltas, the then-famous Mexican actress who plays the movie’s protagonist Esperanza, was deported in the middle of the filming.

However, when the film premiered in San Francisco and New York City, it received critical acclaim and garnered international awards.

Salt of the Earth is a landmark film. First of all, it was shot on location in New Mexico just months after the strike. Second, it used actual striking miners and their families as the cast of the film, and they decisively shaped the script, correcting initial drafts that underplayed the leadership of Mexican Americans. Lastly, the film was groundbreaking in its focus on the intersection of race, class and gender in the U.S.
  After 50 years, the film is almost universally recognized as a classic of U.S. cinematography and has been chosen as one of only 100 films to be preserved by the Library of Congress for posterity.

Recently an opera entitled “Esperanza” was made based on the film and plans are in the works to remake Salt of the Earth, starring the children and grandchildren of the original cast. Moctezuma Esparza, producer of the film The Milagro Beanfield War, hopes to produce the remake. VHS and DVD versions of Salt of the Earth may be purchased from Harbor Electronic Publishing (www.hepdigital.com) or a number of other sources.

– Libero Della Piana”

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2 comments

  • Comment Link Arthur Scott Friday, 22 June 2012 16:09 posted by Arthur Scott

    Mike, it is currently available on DVD from Amazon.com.

  • Comment Link Mike Scarborough Friday, 22 June 2012 15:12 posted by Mike Scarborough

    Thank you for the post, Arthur. I hope they do remake the movie. Surely it would not be banned this time around.

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