Committee against Silence info

Marta Russell ap888 at
Tue Mar 23 11:19:33 PST 1999

For those of you interested in the Kazan thing. Marta Russell


On Saturday, Feb. 13th, a small gathering of progressives along with several blacklisted screenwriters and actors formed a Committee Against Silence in Los Angeles to launch a protest against the Academy's March 21st Lifetime Achievement Award for Elia Kazan, the informer. We organized into 3 sub-committees:

1. An AD committee--

It's purpose was to take out a full page AD in both the Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter to appear on Friday, March 19th, condemning Kazan for

his actions and calling for attendees of the Academy Awards to sit when Kazan gets his award and not stand up and clap. About 350 signatures were gathered from around the country, including members of the Academy, SAG,

WGA, AFTRA, DGA, independent writers, producers, editors, as well as family members and relatives of the blacklisted, academics, etc. Even Gore Vidal was contacted in Italy and he signed on! Thank you for your signatures and contributions to defray the cost of both ADS. It had a significant impact on the growth of our protest and was highlighted in many electronic and print media stories in the US and around the world. When Sean Penn signed on, whose father Leo Penn was a blacklisted director, as well as Carl Reiner, Rod Steiger and other celebrities, I started to receive phone calls from actors and producers who said that they supported our efforts but were too afraid to sign on to the AD because they are still working in the film industry! So, fear of recrimination and the blacklist still exists1

2. A publicity committee--

We wrote and faxed press releases to print and electronic media and we got an overwhelming response. The blacklistees were giving interviews day and night for 3 weeks prior to the Academy Awards. From Amy Goodman's Democracy Now, to Larry King and Nightline, the press couldn't get enough of the Kazan controversy, and this is the first time, as a publicist, that I got such a positive and enthusiastic response from the media. We organized a press conference on Thursday, March 18th at the Academy's headquarters in Beverly Hills and close to 150 media outlets from around

the world were present including reps from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, Australia, etc. Most of these people were under 40 years of age and fascinated by the history of the blacklist and spent hours asking questions about what happened in the 50's. It was a unique experience. Every day, I would be in contact with David Robb, a labor/business staff

writer for the Hollywood Reporter who wrote wonderful stories about our struggle, as did the infamous Army Archerd of the Daily Variety, who wrote daily attacks on Kazan and said he would sit on his hands during the Academy Awards. Then there was an onslaught of articles from around the US, which were mostly sympathetic to the blacklistees. When Richard Dreyfuss wrote a brilliant editorial in the LA Times condemning Kazan, it was a real turning point in our struggle and many more individuals signed onto the AD.

3. A demonstration committee--

This group organized the picketing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on the evening of the Academy Awards. People were calling us from San Diego to Santa Barbara saying they were carpooling up to the demonstration. Members of the National Lawyers Guild met with the LAPD to work out the logistics--reserving sidewalk space for our protest, etc. About 600 people showed up for the demonstration at 3 PM on Sunday, March 21st. There were 100 anti-communist protestors from the Ayn Rand Institute across the street, plus a few anti-communists from the Jewish Defense League and the police reneged on keeping them separated from us. Fortunately, we had organized our own defense teams which were responsible for keeping the peace and preventing any fights. As we lined the sidewalk chanting, "Don't Stand for Kazan", hundreds of limousines passed us, and quite a few rolled down their windows and gave us a thumbs up sign. One of the highlights was when Haskell Wexler, the famous cinematographer, stood up in his limousine and held a sign that said, "Kazan is a Rat". Haskell is one of the 39 Board of Governors of the Academy that unanimously voted to give an honorary award to Kazan. He obviously changed his mind!

After the demonstration ended at 5:30 PM, we adjourned to watch the Academy Awards on TV. While the cameras didn't show how many people refused to stand up and clap for Kazan, Roger Ebert (of Siskel and Ebert) said on ABC that only 40% of the audience stood up and clapped. Army Archerd in his 3/22 Daily Variety column said that he was sitting in the

middle of the auditorium, and that not more that 20% stood up for Kazan.

In addition, De Niro and Scorcese, the presenters of the Kazan award, were very nervous and uncomfortable and both wanted to drop in a hole and disappear!

So, our 5 week struggle led to a big victory. Now the blacklistees and their supporters will be leading a campaign to get the Academy to honor them next year at the 2000 Academy Awards and to apologize for how the Academy went along with the blacklist and ruined peoples careers and lives.

We will also be organizing teach-ins on university campuses in various film schools so that the younger generation will know about this period of history which they have never been taught.

For more information, contact me:

Joan Sekler 310 458-6566 phone & fax; e:mail: sekler at

P.S. If anyone has newspaper clippings on the Kazan controversy from around the country, particularly in cities other than NY and LA, please fax them to me, or mail them to:

Joan Sekler

833 Lincoln Blvd. #4

Santa Monica, Ca. 90403

******************************** Joan Sekler Coordinator LA Alternative Media Network Phone / Fax: (310) 458-6566 Email: sekler at ********************************

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