New Theatre, April 1935. “Black Pit vs. Black Fury: Which Play is Propaganda?”. United Mine Workers of America District 3. The year the Pennsylvania coal mining film was released, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression; unemployment was at 21%, a staggering number compared to the average of 5%, and 10 million people were out of work. Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. United Mine Workers of America District 5. Putnam’s Sons, 1974), 185. xix Franc Dillon, “He’s a Fugitive from Hollywood”, Movie Classic, January 1935, Paul Muni Papers, *T-Mss 1967-005, Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Retrieved from Explorepahistory.com. The prolonged economic depression had deeply shaken people’s faith in American institutions; discontent with the AFL was growing, millions of workers were striking and support for Marxist organizations was reaching unprecedented levels. Found in Paul Muni Papers. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2011. lxxvi “Symposium”, The Hollywood Reporter, April 27, 1935. lxxvii Paul Muni, quoted in “A Word with Paul Muni”, New York Times, (New York, NY), January 27, 1935, 4. lxxix Emanuel Eisenberg, “Paul Muni Denies All”, New Theatre, March 1935, New York Public Library of Performing Arts. lxxi Kaspar Monahan, “The Show Shops: in which we go to bat for ‘Black Fury’ assailed by the left wing”, Pittsburgh Press, May 5, 1935. lxxiv Ben Blake, The Awakening of the American Theatre, (New York: Tomorrow, 1935), 35. lxxv Herbert Kline, “Black Pit”, New Theatre, April 1935, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Musmanno Papers, Duquense University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “It was the only way to do it,” Mensore said. Michael Curtiz (United States: First National Picture, 1935). Radek’s strike simply brought a return to the status quo, which implied there was no controversy to begin with.
Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1996. xxi “A Word with Paul Muni”, New York Times, January 27, 1935. xxii Letter from Paul Muni to Musmanno quoted within Musmanno’s letter to his brother, Sam, November 9, 1933, Musmanno Papers, Duquense University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “Labor vs. Capital”. Some reviews of Black Fury reflected the political bias of the newspapers by interpreting the film as support for the AFL and a denouncement of non-AFL unions. Minutes of the meeting of the General and Exceptional Photoplays Committees, 1. xciv James Shelley Hamilton, “Paul Muni and the Labor Problem”, National Board of Review Magazine X, No. Sizemore said he was “more than blown away” when he first learned about the film. The Board’s committee discussion in April 1935 can be seen as a microcosm of diverse national responses. He had referred to Maltz’s Black Pit in his April article when he stated that if “the Communist theatre is entitled to whack the existing order, then it is equally proper and perhaps even important that the capitalist theatre defend the American political philosophy”.lxxxv Both Maltz and Sennwald believed art could and should include an ideological message, but their consensus ended there. The committee debated many of the same arguments brought up in the newspapers. Twenty-one members of the National Board of Review met in the Warner projection room to discuss the film’s qualifications for inclusion on their list of the year’s “exceptional photoplays”.lxxxvii Although the organization was started as a method of counteracting government censorship of films, the Board was dedicated to encouraging the artistic quality of film after 1916.6, lxxxviii According to the Board’s executive secretary, Wilton A. Barrett, “The field of the National Board did not lie in the realm of criticising the film industry and our work is that of a citizen group trying to encourage the best uses of the motion pictures”.lxxxix The Board put out a monthly publication, the National Board of Review Magazine, which included a list of its committee’s selected Exceptional Photoplays. Another entity concerned with the content of Black Fury was the National Coal Association (NCA), which was keen to prevent an unfavorable presentation of operators. Retrieved at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Letter from Michael Musmanno to Sam Musmanno, June 30, 1934. Special Collections and University Archives, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. http://pitt.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/74... http://explorepahistory.com/odocument.php?docId=1-4-29A. Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. October 12, 1934. Retrieved from http://pitt.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/74.... Blake, Ben. This may have been influenced by the state’s ongoing agricultural labor battle, in which much of the media backed big business.lx, While some papers praised Warner Brothers as brave for broaching the sensitive issue of labor, others pointed out that the film refrained from taking an explicitly political stance. Furthermore, the operators’ responsibility for the actions of their CIP is diminished by portraying the operators as reluctant to hire the guards. Labor History 27, (1986): 564-80. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,uid&db=bt.... Young, William H., and Nancy K. Young. Held in Pittsburgh, PA, November 12-18, 1935. Although the film avoided making an explicit sociopolitical statement about the issues in the coal fields, the New York, Maryland and Chicago censor boards banned Black Fury, deeming it “conducive to social unrest”.xi Black Fury’s production coincided with Hollywood’s transition to a strictly enforced code regulating morality issues and requiring deference to authority and government institutions. In Russia they could do it differently”.xci This low level of expectations from a Hollywood production was not shared by everyone in the committee; some thought separating the coal operators from responsibility for the violence disqualified the film from any mention by the Board. At the film’s climax, Radek stages a one-man strike after a vicious CIP beats his best friend to death.1 With the help of a returned and penitent Anna, he barricades himself in the mine rigged with explosives. Musmanno Papers, Duquense University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Louise I. Gerdes, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press: 2002), 269. xlviii David Brody, Workers in Industrial America: Essays on the Twentieth Century Struggle, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1980), 95. xlix Kaspar Monahan, “Court Fight is Outlook if ‘Black Fury’ is Cut”, Pittsburgh Press, March 29, 1935. l “New York Censors Pass ‘Black Fury’”, Pittsburgh Press, April 4, 1935. United Mine Workers District 5, Special Collections and University Archives, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Local union meeting records of Dr. Mildred Beik Collection MG 127, UMWA District 2 MG 52, UMWA District 3 MG 67, UMWA District 5 MG 66, UMWA District 25 MG 109. xxxv Letter from Abem Finkel to Musmanno, June 8, 1934, Musmanno Papers. The story highlights a dangerous and often underappreciated profession, but after a friend in the coal industry scoffed at Mensore’s initial script, “it was back to square one,” he said. W. R. Hearst’s Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph praised it as “grimly realistic” and “an industrial study”.liv In Missouri it was called “a thrilling melodrama about labor and capital” that was “exceptionally realistic”.lv Possibly the greatest exaggeration of the film’s social significance came from the Los Angeles Evening Herald, which claimed that the film “dealt frankly, honestly and sincerely with labor problems… and concisely explained the differences between laborers, employers and capitalists”.lvi These aggrandizing statements may have been prompted by the sheer novelty of seeing industrial labor depicted on film since Hollywood usually avoided the subject of labor.lvii. See Muni’s May 7, 1934 letter to Musmanno. Time magazine argued, “Actually, ‘Black Fury’ is not courageous at all. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library, 1. However, it had little material consequence for how Black Fury turned out. Notably, the story does not end after the one-man strike as it does in Black Fury; instead, Volkanik goes to Washington and makes a speech that leads to a negotiated settlement for better conditions. As a result, the public was increasingly sensitive towards any statement that appeared to advocate for a particular side of the union conflict. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1985. viii Black Fury, dir. The film was highly anticipated since news of its trouble with state censor boards had appeared in newspapers weeks before. Stapleton Library, Special Collections and University Archives, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “Symposium”. Paul Muni Papers. It is soon revealed that Croner is an operative of a detective agency; his mission is to instigate a strike to create a necessity for the operators to hire the agency’s guards as auxiliary CIP. *T-Mss 1967-005. 771 (September 11, 1929): 87. xviii Jerome Lawrence, Actor: The Life and Times of Paul Muni (New York: G.P. Ultimately, Jan Volkanik was an activist story designed to elicit public outrage and desire for change.xxiv, Muni’s response after reading Musmanno’s manuscript revealed his personal objections to propaganda and his understanding of what could realistically be made into a mainstream film. New York: G.P. The motion picture that aroused fierce debates among intellectuals, partisans, film critics and labor activists does not appear to have warranted discussion among the miners closest to the conflict. xlii Battle, Breen, and Warner correspondence quoted in Francis R. Walsh, “The Films We Never Saw: American Movies View Organized Labor, 1934-1954”, Labor History 27, 566. xliii Letter from Finkel to Musmanno. 1-16 of 658 results for Books: Literature & Fiction: "Coal Mining" Dirty Mines: Coal Mining in Pennsylvania by John Fitzgerald and Long list of coal miners.
McMahan Bros., Pittsburgh, PA. Pamphlet retrieved from Manuscript Group 66.
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