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Famous Like Me > Writer > P > Abraham Polonsky

Profile of Abraham Polonsky on Famous Like Me

Name: Abraham Polonsky  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 5th December 1910
Place of Birth: New York, New York, USA
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Abraham Lincoln Polonsky (December 5, 1910 - October 26, 1999) was an American screenwriter blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses in the 1950s.

Abraham Polonsky was born in New York City as the oldest son of Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was a pharmacist. In 1928 Polonsky entered City College of New York and after graduating he studied at Columbia Law School, receiving his B.A. in 1935. He practiced law and taught at the New York City College. In 1937 he left his work as a lawyer and decided to devote himself to writing, first for radio. Polonsky wrote essays, radio scripts and several novels before starting his career in Hollywood.

Sometime in the late 1930s Polonsky also joined the American Communist Party. He participated in the union politics and established and edited a local newspaper, The Home Front. In 1940 Polonsky published his first novel, a mystery story The Goose Is Cooked, which he wrote with Mitchell A. Wilson, using co-pseudonym Emmert Hogarth.

Polonsky signed a screenwriter's contract with Paramount before leaving the US to serve in Europe in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II (from 1943 to 1945). After the war he returned to Hollywood writing for Paramount Pictures. After a brief stint at Paramount, he wrote the screenplay for Robert Rossen┬┤s independent production Body and Soul, (1947) starring John Garfield and Lilli Palmer. In the movie when John Garfield's boxer finds his life threatened because he changes his mind about throwing a fight, he replies with the Polonsky-written line, "What can you do, kill me? Everybody dies." The screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. After the success of Body and Soul, Polonsky became a film director.

Polonsky's first film as a director, Force of Evil (1948), is considered by some to be the most overtly political of all the crime films of the 1940s. Garfield plays a corrupt lawyer who faces a moral crisis over a Fourth of July weekend. Force of Evil was not successful when released in the United States but it was hailed as a masterpiece by film critics in England. The film was based on Tucker's People by Ira Wolfert.

Polonsky┬┤s film projects were stopped when he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1951. Illinois congressman Harold Velde called the director a "very dangerous citizen" at the hearings. While blacklisted, Polonsky had one film script used after it was submitted under a pseudonym. With Harry Belafonte and Robert Wise he made Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). Polonsky wasn't given public credit for the screenplay until 1997 when the Writers' Guild of America restored his name to the films credits.

In 1968, Polonsky was the screenwriter for Madigan, a police thriller, where Polonsky once again used his own name in the credits. The film was directed by Don Siegel, starring Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda.

In the early 1980s he was an uncredited scriptwriter for Mommie Dearest, based on Christina Crawford's memoirs of her mother Joan Crawford, and The Man Who Lived at the Ritz (1981), based a novel by A.E. Hotchner. He received the Career Achievement Award of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association in 1999. From 1998 1999 he taught a philosophy class at USC School of Cinema-Television called "Consciousness and Content". Polonsky died on October 26, 1999, in Beverly Hills, Ca.


"First of all, directing is an idea that you have of a total flow of images that are going on, which are incidentally actors, words, and objects in space. It's an idea you have of yourself, like the idea you have of your own personality which finds its best representation in the world in terms of specific flows of imaginary images. That's what directing is." (Polonsky quoted in the book Directing the Film by Ed Sherman, 1976)

Films as screenwriter

Selected films as screenwriter:

  • Golden Earring (1947) (co-screenwriter)
  • Body and Soul (1947) - remade in 1981 and for TV in 1998.
  • I Can Get It Wholesale (1951)
  • Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)(uncredited, novel by William P. McGivern)
  • Madigan (1968)
  • Avalanche Express (1979)
  • Monsignor (1982)
  • Mommie Dearest (1981) (uncredited)

As director-screenwriter

  • Force of Evil (1948) (based on Ira Wolfert's novel Tucker's People)
  • Tell them Willie Boy is Here (1970) (based on Harry Lawton's novel)
  • Romance of a Horsethief (1971)

Novels and essays

  • The Goose is Cooked (1940) (with Mitchell A Wilson - pseudonym Emmett Hogarth)
  • How the Blacklist Worked in Hollywood (1970)(essay)
  • Making Movies (1971) (essay)
  • Zenia's Way (1980) (novel)
  • Children of Eden (1982) (unfinished novel)
  • To Illuminate Our Time: The Blacklisted Teleplays of Abraham Polonsky (1993)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Abraham Polonsky