About the Film, SALT OF THE EARTH:
A controversial drama about the struggles of striking mine workers in a small New Mexico town whose views are socialistic and surprisingly feminist. Many of the actors and the film's director were blacklisted after its release.
This is the only authorized edition of America's only blacklisted film. A digitally enhanced transfer provides excellent black-and-white quality. Includes the short documentary on "The Hollywood Ten," hundreds of production photographs, the history and hundreds of pictures of the Empire Zinc strike on which the film was based, Congressional testimony by blacklisted filmmakers, a history of the blacklist in Hollywood, and the theatrical trailer.
- Includes The Hollywood Ten, a documentary about the 10 filmmakers who defied the HUAC, resulting in their imprisonment and blacklisting
- Production stills and photos of the real strike
- Editing and shooting notes
- A history of the McCarthy Era Hollywood Blacklist
- Congressional HUAC testimony of the blacklisted filmmakers
About the Director, Herbert Biberman:
One of the Hollywood Ten, emprisoned for refusing to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, Herbert Biberman emerged to make this independent masterpiece with a screenplay by Michael Wilson, produced by Paul Jarrico. Selected by the Library of Congress as one of the 100 films to be preserved for posterity.
About the Production:
The film was called subversive and blacklisted because the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers sponsored it and many blacklisted Hollywood professionals helped produce it. The union had been expelled from the CIO in 1950 for its alleged communist-dominated leadership.
Director Herbert Biberman was one of the Hollywood screenwriters and directors who refused to answer the House Committee on Un-American Activities on questions of CPUSA affiliation in 1947. The "Hollywood Ten" were cited and convicted for contempt of Congress and jailed. Biberman was imprisoned in the Federal Correctional Institution at Texarkana for six months. After his release he directed this film. Other participants who made the film and were blacklisted by the Hollywood studios include: Paul Jarrico, Will Geer, Rosaura Revueltas, and Michael Wilson.
The producers cast only five professional actors. The rest were locals from Grant County, New Mexico, or members of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, Local 890, many of whom were part of the strike that inspired the plot. Juan Chacón, for example, was a real-life Union Local president. In the film he plays the protagonist, who has trouble dealing with women as equals. The director was reluctant to cast him at first, thinking he was too "gentle," but both Revueltas and his sister-in-law, Sonja Dahl Biberman, wife of Biberman's brother Edward, urged him to cast Chacón as Ramon.
The film was denounced by the United States House of Representatives for its communist sympathies, and the FBI investigated the film's financing. The American Legion called for a nation-wide boycott of the film. Film-processing labs were told not to work on Salt of the Earth and unionized projectionists were instructed not to show it. After its opening night in New York City, the film languished for 10 years because all but 12 theaters in the country refused to screen it.
By one journalist's account: "During the course of production in New Mexico in 1953, the trade press denounced it as a subversive plot, anti-Communist vigilantes fired rifle shots at the set, the film's leading lady Rosaura Revueltas was deported to Mexico, and from time to time a small airplane buzzed noisily overhead ... The film, edited in secret, was stored for safekeeping in an anonymous wooden shack in Los Angeles."