Chetwynd, Powell exorcise ghosts in ‘High Noon’

GOOD MORNING: The confrontation at “High Noon” now has legal guns aiming at each other. “Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents,” a 118-minute feature docu for PBS by Lionel Chetwynd and Norman S. Powell, exorcises the ghosts that still exist from the blacklist era in Hollywood. And yes, says Chetwynd, the film is “an indictment of Stanley Kramer.” The 1952 classic starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly was “a Stanley Kramer production” with screenplay by Carl Foreman. As noted in Daily Variety‘s obituary (by Todd McCarthy) on July 4, 1984, “Foreman also produced although that credit went unrecorded.” The principals in this countdown of “High Noon” are Karen Kramer, widow of Stanley and successor in interest to the Stanley Kramer company, versus “Darkness at High Noon” producers Chetwynd and Powell (plus PBS and the Corp. for Public Broadcasting.) The latter are forewarned by Karen Kramer’s attorneys that should the program be aired “in its present state,” they will all be “exposed to damages in the tens of millions of dollars for causing damages to Kramer’s motion picture properties.” Chetwynd’s attorneys counter that these claims are “an exercise in censorship through the threat of expensive litigation.” The attorney for PBS, one of those charged by Kramer’s attorneys, tells me, “We are hopeful we can address her (Karen Kramer’s) concerns without undermining the integrity of the program.”

“DARKNESS” DETAILS, in part, a lengthy (10 page, single-spaced) letter from Carl Forman to N.Y. Times critic Bosley Crowther in August, 1952. Forman had exiled himself to England after being revealed as a onetime member of the Communist party and refusing to “name names”to the House Un-American Activities Committee. He became persona non grata in the industry and was stripped of the “High Noon” producer credit that he claims should have been his…The docu was completed in August, 2001, after years of preparation by the producers for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and to be aired on PBS. The Corporation told me they had no information of when the film would air. But Koby Atlas, sr. veepee of PBS and co-chief of programming of PBS, admitted to me, “This will be a very controversial event. I still have some need for clarification of narrative. But I am not disputing the facts. We fully intend to show it. People will dispute how it (‘High Noon’s’ crediting) happened … and there’ll be those who say it’s one version. But we fully intend to air it — perhaps at the end of summer. We have a good audience that time of year when so many networks are showing repeats.” I asked Atlas if Karen Kramer had called her on this matter. She had. Kramer tells me, “I am continuing my investigation regarding the veracity of Carl Foreman’s representation and the objectivity of the producers to report facts in a balanced, fair and unbiased manner.” She noted, “if the producers were acting in good faith they would not have waited until my husband was no longer able to defend himself against what appears to be false and defamatory allegations.” She refers to the docu as “a deliberate hatchet job and an unjustified assault on my husband’s character, integrity and reputation.” Kramer died last year (Feb. 19), but Chetwynd says they had earlier tried to talk to him and had also lunched with Karen, who told them Stanley was too ill to participate. Although Karen had been married to Stanley for 35 years — they wed in 1966 — the docu producers say she was not on the scene during ”High Noon.” And they only wanted to get first hand, on-the-scene interviews for their docu and not second-person reports of “what someone said or heard.”

TO SUBSTANTIATE THIS, Chetwynd and Powell respond that they were “scrupulous in pursuing a ‘first person’ principle in their interviews. For example, Mrs. Estelle Foreman, (seen in the film), who was married to Carl at the time of the events in issue, is never permitted to discuss or speculate on conversations or matters that transpired between her late husband and Mr. Kramer. Nor is the second Mrs. Foreman, Eve Williams-Jones, permitted to discuss anything other than the events she witnessed first-hand, that is after Foreman arrived in England. The same rule was applied to the film’s editor Elmo Williams and all other participants.” The producers insist, “The film is not about Mr. Kramer. It is about Carl Foreman and the Blacklist.” The film is expected to be shown at the Miami Film Festival in February and on April 11 and screened by the WGA Foundation and the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art. The docu producers say they will pursue action if the dates are KO’d…Meanwhile the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has announced its “full-scale” exhibition, “Reds and Blacklists: Political Struggles in the Movie Industry,” as a “full history of the blacklist through visual materials.” Larry Ceplair, curator of the extensive visual exhibit, says he’s seen “Darkness At High Noon.” But Ceplair will not include clips from it in the Acad’s exhibit. “There are more sides to it,” he explained. He’s the author of “The Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community, 1930-1960. And in 2002?

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