Bernard Gordon, one of the last of the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriters, died May 11 in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer. He was 88.
Gordon, whose films included “55 Days at Peking,” “The Thin Red Line,” “Battle of the Bulge” and “Day of the Triffids,” was blacklisted in the mid-’50s when someone told the House Un-American Activities Committee that he was a member of the Communist Party.
“I was working at Warner Bros. when it was alleged that I was a member of the party, and they fired me,” he recalled in a 1996 interview for Cineaste magazine. According to Wikipedia, he had briefly joined the party during the 1940s.
Gordon then went to work for $50 a week as a salesman for a company in downtown Los Angeles that made plastic covers for mattresses and toasters.
“I was the world’s worst salesman,” he often laughed.
Gordon, who had written three films in the early ’50s before being blacklisted, returned to screenwriting under an assumed name. Gordon was one of the most prolific of the blacklisted writers. In 1957 alone, Columbia Pictures released four films he had written or co-written under the name Raymond Marcus: “Escape From San Quentin,” “The Man Who Turned to Stone,” “Zombies of Mora Tau” and “Hellcats of the Navy,” the only film that Ronald and Nancy Reagan ever appeared in together.
Under that pseudonym he also wrote “Chicago Confidential,” a 1957 United Artists release; and co-wrote “The Case Against Brooklyn,” a 1958 Columbia picture, and “Earth vs. Flying Saucers,” a 1956 Col film.
Under the pseudonym John T. Williams, he wrote “The Law vs. Billy the Kid,” a 1954 film for Col Pictures.
For some writers, the blacklist ended in 1960 when Otto Preminger and Kirk Douglas gave blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo screen credit for “Exodus” and “Spartacus,” respectively. But for others, the blacklist lingered on for several more years.
In 1962, when “Day of the Triffids” was released, the writing credit was given to the producer, Philip Yordan, even though the script was actually written by Gordon. He received on-screen credit for “55 Days at Peking” and the first screen adaptation of “The Thin Red Line.” He produced several Westerns in Spain as well as sci-fi thriller “Horror Express” with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
The WGA, which has been correcting the credits of blacklisted writers since 1980, subsequently changed the credit of “Day of the Triffids” — and a dozen other films Gordon wrote under pseudonyms and fronts — to reflect his authorship.
Gordon was one of the most prolific of the blacklisted writers, and has had more blacklisted credits restored by the WGA than any other writer.
Gordon was born in New Briton, Conn., and attended the City College of New York, where he made a film with his longtime friend and collaborator, Julian Zimet. His first produced screenplay was boxing pic “Flesh and Fury” with Tony Curtis.
In 1999, Gordon led the protest against the awarding of an honorary Oscar to director Elia Kazan, who named names during the blacklist.
Gordon, who remained political to the end of his life, wrote two books about his life, “Hollywood Exile, or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist,” and “The Gordon File: A Screenwriter Recalls Twenty Years of FBI Surveillance.”
He is survived by a daughter.