Lifetime Achievement

Abraham Lincoln Polonsky, 1910-1999

One of the most talented of Hollywood blacklistees, Bronx-born writer-director Abe Polonsky died last week in Los Angeles. Friends tell me he was reading a newspaper. (What was the article?) Polonsky-much quoted in the press during last March's contretemps around Elia Kazan's lifetime Oscar-directed his first movie, Force of Evil, in 1948 and his second, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, 20 years later. Both are highly original, unusually cerebral, openly left-wing genre films; his last feature, the 1971 Romance of a Horse Thief, was the first Hollywood movie taken from a Yiddish-language novel. Polonsky also wrote hardboiled, socially acute screenplays, including those for Body and Soul, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, and (with novelist John O. Killens as his front) Odds Against Tomorrow. He was a certain kind of New York intellectual-funny, feisty, and sharp as a tack. I once saw him use an owlish combination of Union Square sarcasm and City College Latin to handle a red-baiting journalist and had the pleasure of introducing his introduction to a rare screening of Romance of a Horse Thief's lone 35mm print (borrowed from a Finnish archive). The audience was delighted with the film and so was Polonsky, who told them that it was "the mohel's own cut."
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