Jerry Tallmer Went Too Far!
Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
August 5, 1959, Vol. IV, No. 41
Dear Sir: Sick? Vicious? No, I can't be as damning as Jerry Tallmer demands in his piece last week on "He Who Must Die," but his use of the word "Stalinist" and subsequent apologetics was blatantly irresponsible.
First, let's limit ourselves to this one word; this is the issue, not the relative aesthetic-technical value of "He Who Must Die."
I have read his Answer carefully, and his bill of particulars on the flick are that it was: boring, banal, poor theology, black-white allegory, and a misadaptation of text. It matters not whether these accusations are justified; true or not, they in no way establish the fact of "Stalinism." In fact, if true they are weaknesses of craft duplicated daily in Hollywood. He even admits this when he uses the bad guy-good guy movie analogy. If a movie with political-social implications is an unsubtle as a typical Western, it is a bad movie, not a "Stalinist allegory."
There are then two possible explanations for his use of the adjective. First, that he considers economic-revolutionary situations "Stalinist," which is about as insulting as a man can be to the Kronstadt mutineers, Trotsky, and the hundreds of thousands of revolutionary Socialists who were the real victims of "Stalinism." Furthermore, while it may be poor theology, the "revolutionary Christ" allegory is not particularly an indication of "Stalinism," as any Catholic Worker could tell Mr. Tallmer.
The other explanation could be that Mr. Tallmer is aware that the film's director, Jules Dassin, was blacklisted by Hollywood some years back. Either way, to equate a revolutionary-left outlook with Stalinism and accept a Hollywood blacklist as proof (not just of the artist, but also of his product) is grossly irresponsible. - Marc D. Schleifer, West 12th Street
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]
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.