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."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.