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Monday, February 22, 1999 Published at 15:22 GMT


Hollywood protest at Kazan's Oscar

Marlon Brando and direstor Elia Kazan discuss On the Waterfront

By Entertainment Correspondent Tom Brook

The campaign in Los Angeles against giving US director Elia Kazan an Oscar at next month's Academy Awards has started to intensify.

Tom Brook: More protests are planned for Oscar night
At the weekend protesters attended a ceremony honouring Hollywood screenwriters and pledged further demonstrations on Oscar night.

Kazan named names during the anti-communist "witch-hunts" of the 1950s and his detractors are outraged he is getting an honorary Oscar.

The investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) orchestrated by Senator Joseph McCarthy led to a blacklist of Hollywood names. As a result hundreds of suspected communists were thrown out of work.

[ image: Senator McCarthy led the 1950s hunt for communists in Hollywood]
Senator McCarthy led the 1950s hunt for communists in Hollywood
Kazan, one of America's most respected directors, informed on eight friends who had been communist party members.

Although more than 40 years ago the hearings and Kazan's collaboration are remembered by some with anger. They are outraged that Kazan is now being awarded an honorary Oscar.

Walter Bernstein, a blacklisted screenwriter said of the Oscar: "It is being given to a man who disgraced the industry. Who hurt the industry and the people in it.

It's being given as a lifetime achievement award. One of his achievements were that he co-operated with an infamous committee, and I don't think he should be given and award for that."

[ image: Gregory Peck in Gentleman's Agreement (1947)]
Gregory Peck in Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
But Robert Rehme, the director of the Academy of Motion Pictures has defended the decision to honour Elia Kazan.

"We're honouring him for his work. He is unquestionably one of the major influences in motion pictures in this century," he said.

No-one denies Kazan's body of work is impressive. He won Best Director Oscars for Gentleman's Agreement (1947) starring Gregory Peck and On the Waterfront (1954) starring Marlon Brando.

Many Hollywood stars, even those who opposed the MacCarthy hearing like Gregory Peck, now believes he should get a lifetime achievement award.

"He's made a great contribution to American film, politics aside, as an artist he's made a great contribution, he deserves an award," said Peck.

[ image: Elia Kazan was recently honoured at the Berlin Film Festival]
Elia Kazan was recently honoured at the Berlin Film Festival
The McCarthy hearings have left a bitter taste among those who suffered from the blacklist.

They say it is just not possible to honour Kazan for his work without also validating him for the damage he did to the film industry.

"He hurt that industry. He made it harder for everyone else. Forgive him, okay - forgive him.. just don't give him an award, " said Bernstein.

The outrage over Kazan's honorary Oscar show's no signs of abating.

A demonstration is planned for the night of the Academy Awards and the organisers say they will only drop their protest if Kazan agrees goes on stage and acknowledges he made a mistake.

Kazan's lawyers say there is no chance of that happening.

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