Letter to the Editor
As an actress and a person who cares deeply for America, I am sickened by the Motion Picture Academy’s plan to present an honorary Academy Award to Elia Kazan on March 21.
I very much agree with Alan Garfield who said in his Jan. 25 article in the Los Angeles Times: “You simply do not give an honorary Oscar to a director … who dishonored his very own profession and his very own soul by his betrayal of his eventually blacklisted colleagues.”
Giving this award to Mr. Kazan is tantamount to saying that what Senator Joseph McCarthy, Martin Dies, and the members of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee did was, after all, not so bad — and let’s forget it. It can’t be forgotten, and it won’t — despite Mr. Kazan’s decades-long insistence that he did nothing wrong, that in fact he was being patriotic by informing on his friends, and that he would do it again.
Along with being an actress, I am an Aesthetic Realism consultant. I had the privilege to study with Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, the person most passionately for justice to people. I once heard him say — and I love him for it — that if a wrong was done in this world, no matter how long ago, it is still a wrong, and it has to be seen and honestly regretted, sincerely revoked — not lied about or smoothed over.
If the Motion Picture Academy insists on giving this award to Mr. Kazan — and I fervently hope it will not — I make the following proposal: As Mr. Kazan is onstage having accepted his Oscar, he should remain there, statuette in hand, while the Academy then awards an honorary Oscar to all the men and women whom Mr. Kazan informed on, who were blacklisted, hounded for years, whose careers were ruined, who went to jail, whose lives were ended. There will be an award, for example, for J. Edward Bromberg who, though ill, was called before the Committee, courageously refused to betray his friends, and died shortly after; and for Morris Carnovsky and Phoebe Brand — two persons I knew and worked with, who suffered under the blacklist for decades — and many others. These honorary Oscars for Mr. Kazan’s fellow artists should be presented, with a tremendous sense of remorse and dignity, to their next of kin.
If what I am proposing takes place, it will be rather beautiful, and will do something — not everything — to make persons in the film industry, the theater world, America itself cleaner, and the souls of people all over this country honestly prouder.
– Ann Fielder