Inside Out

Walter Bernstein wrote the screenplay for THE FRONT (1976), a comic denunciation of the Hollywood blacklist, which for a dozen years destroyed the careers of some actors, drove some directors overseas, and forced writers to submit their work under the name of someone else willing to front as the pretended writer. Committed to social justice, Bernstein also wrote THE MOLLY MAGUIRES (1970) and in 1997 the teleplay for MISS EVERS’ BOYS. It was his hostility to the cutthroat aspects of capitalism that made Bernstein become a Communist; he insists that neither he nor any of the Communists he knew was any threat to national security. None was engaged in espionage or sabotage. When he learned the facts of Stalin’s crimes and was outraged by the Soviet suppression of Hungarian freedom-fighters, Bernstein left the party. Yet in the witch-hunting hysteria of the Cold War, when screenwriters were accused of “premature anti-facism,” anything mildly left or even not right of center was denounced as subversive, and those so accused were imprisoned and/or driven underground. Bernstein relates his ruses to outwit the system by having his work produced under the guise of a front, while he attacks with a sardonic humor the hypocrisy that denied a blacklist existed while denying (in the name of democracy) people considered politically suspect the right to make a living.

The subtitle of INSIDE OUT: A MEMOIR OF THE BLACKLIST is misleading; it is more accurate to call it a memoir of Bernstein’s life through the ending of the blacklist, for nearly half of the book relates his boyhood, youth, and adventures as a wandering reporter in the Middle East and Mediterranean for YANK during World War II, when he got himself smuggled into Yugoslavia and interviewed Marshall Tito.

Bernstein has an engaging personality and is compulsively readable. INSIDE OUT is instructive, entertaining, even inspiring as he relates the friendships that helped some targets of the blacklist to survive and even triumph over the system. It has received enthusiastic and well-deserved praise from Paul Newman, Sidney Lumet, Arthur Penn, Arthur Miller, Woody Allen, Walter Mosley, and others for its courage, warmth, intelligence, irony, and vivid recreation of a shameful period in American history.