Ben Pleasants

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... is the guest speaker scheduled for the 148th meeting of the Karl Hess Club, to convene on October 16, 2006.


    Ben Pleasants on "Edward Dmytryk's Hollywood Dialectic"

Ben Pleasants says: "Edward Dmytryk was one of the greatest film directors of the 20th Century. He'd never agree to that. He was the opposite of windbags like Orson Welles, but what remains of his work bears that out.  Dmytryk always filled me with hope. His vision of the world was to FILL THE GLASS -- not leave it half anything, as opposed to those who always see the glass empty.

"I got to know Dmytryk in his 90's, when he was still as sharp as a Samurai sword and did the London Times crosswords every morning.

"His films include three great epochs of which he was justly proud: The Caine Mutiny with Humphrey Bogart's greatest performance, The Young Lions (Brando and Clift's only film together), and Raintree County, which the studio took from him, but still has amazing performances by Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Lee Marvin.

"Dmytryk was in the vanguard of film noir, with works like Mirage (Gregory Peck) and Murder My Sweet (where William Powell reinvented himself).

"He did some of the great sex breakthrough films, including Richard Burton's Bluebeard (where Burton set out to seduce each female member of the cast, including Raquel Welch). Dmytryk was one of Spencer Tracy's favorite directors. They did The Mountain and The Broken Lance, together with Robert Wagner, who Tracy demanded in the cast.

"Carpetbaggers is another great film on sex and Hollywood. Dmytryk got incredible performances from Alan Ladd, Carroll Baker, and Archie Moore, the great boxer. I'll tell you about the film Dmytryk did with Ozzie and Harriet, and Bogart's The Left Hand of God, along with the squabble the Communist Party had over Crossfire, a novel about anti-gay brutality in the military that somehow became an anthem on anti-Jewish discrimination.

"He championed the work of John Fante on film, and directed The Reluctant Saint and Walk on the Wild Side. Fante loved Eddie!

" 'My obit will be that I named names,' Dmytryk told me as I was finishing an article for Los Angeles Magazine. And it proved to be so, in the LA Times a few days after he died.  But there is life after obits.  That's the purpose of this talk.

"Edward Dmytryk was a humanist who became a member of the Communist Party for less than a year during WWII, but when he saw for himself the Stalinist strait jacket the CP had planned for Hollywood, Dmytryk reviled the Stalinists in Hollywood: the gang like John Howard Lawson who covered up the Gulag.  It was Ted Turner of Turner Classic Movies who gave Dmytryk his due.

Read Dmytryk's book about his life inside the Communist Party!

"I'm here to discuss his legacy and a devoted friend. I'll pass out a letter Marlon Brando wrote to me in his praise. I'll let you hear for yourselves a little of the ten hours of tapes I did with Edward Dmytryk. I think you'll enjoy what he had to say."


    About Ben Pleasants


"My last book was Visceral Bukowski (2005, Sun Dog Press). My next is Bukowski Fante & The Maserati Moon.

My last two plays were Contentious Minds: The Mary McCarthy/Lillian Hellman Affair (2002) and The Hemingway/ Dos Passos Wars (1998).

My next play is Mencken & Sara: A Love Story. My new novel, The Thrill of Agony & The Victory of Defeat will be published in 2008 by a gigantic New York firm."