Friday, 3 February 2012

LETTERS OF NOTE: Steinbeck vs. Hitchcock


The issue of racism in Hollywood filmmaking stretched back to D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation in 1915. The film, which is responsible for creating many of the editing conventions we take for granted, painted a sympathetic portrait of the Ku Klux Klan in the post-Civil War era of America. The film effectively ended Griffith's career, and his lengthy follow-up Intolerance was a case of the lady (or gent) protesting too much.

Today's Letter of Note concerned John Steinbeck falling out with Alfred Hitchcock over the screenplay to Lifeboat, Hitchcock's 1943 thriller set entirely at sea which was based on one of Steinbeck's novellas. Steinbeck, as is well known, was a man of strong political and social principles whose works fought the dignity of the common man, whatever his colour. Steinbeck took exception to the depiction of the black character in the film, and asked his name to be removed from the credits.