Abraham Polonsky

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his nearly three-hour Archive interview, Abraham Polonsky (1910-1999) speaks frankly about appearing before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1951 (in which he was labeled by Congressman Harold H. Velde as "the most dangerous man in America") and his subsequent blacklisting in the film and television industry. He speaks about working as a writer under pseudonym and through several fronts on such television series as Danger (1950-55) and You Are There (1953-57). He discusses several You Are There scripts he wrote including: "The Crisis of Galileo," "The Execution of Joan of Arc," and "The Torment of Beethoven," all of which reflected in theme, the hysteria of the McCarthy era. He recites the famous tag line that he wrote for the series: "'What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our time… and YOU WERE THERE.'" He talks about the collaboration between You Are There writers Walter Bernstein, Arnold Manoff and himself with producer Charles Russell and director Sidney Lumet. He describes breaking into the business, writing for the radio show "The Goldbergs" and his feature film work as a writer-director, a career he resumed nearly 20 years after his 1948 debut "Force of Evil," starring John Garfield, with 1969's "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here," starring Robert Redford and Robert Blake. Charles Davis conducted the interview in Beverly Hills, California on July 6, 1999.

"I got a letter from a college about my stuff. The letter said: 'What is the thing you're proudest of?' I wrote back: 'When the U.S. government pushed me, I pushed back.'  And the kid wrote back: 'That's why we love you!'"

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Abraham Polonsky on his wife Sylvia Marrow
Abraham Polonsky on moving to California, and on meeting Orson Welles
Abraham Polonsky on using pen names during the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on the format of You Are There, and on Walter Cronkite as the host
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years and influences
On entertainment he consumed while growing up; on his education, and on delivering packages to Vaudeville theaters; on attending college, and on becoming a lawyer

Chapter 2

On his wife Sylvia Marrow; on attending Columbia Law School during the Great Depression, and on his early politics; on The Goldbergs star Gertrude Berg, and how he came to write for the radio version of "The Goldbergs"
On moving to California, and on meeting Orson Welles; on first encountering television at the 1939 World's Fair; on his experience with World War II

Chapter 3

On being involved with the OSS during World War II; on writing feature films for Paramount including "Body and Soul"
On writing feature films for Fox; on the Hollywood Blacklist

Chapter 4

On testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee; on Elia Kazan's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee; on using pen names during the Hollywood Blacklist
On writing the series Danger, and on working with Yul Brenner on the show; on writing politics into the series Danger; on his career after the Hollywood Blacklist
On writing for You Are There; on writing specific episodes of You Are There

Chapter 5

On the format of You Are There, and on Walter Cronkite as the host; on writing You Are There while blacklisted; on his novels
On writing for Kraft Television Theatre and Seaway ; on directing feature films like "Madigan" and "Tell Them Willie Boy is Here", and on working with Lew Wasserman

Chapter 6

On Elia Kazan, if the Hollywood Blacklist could happen again, and his family's politics; on advice to aspiring writers, and on his dislike of the internet; on how he'd like to be remembered
On various people he's worked with in his career
Shows

Danger

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Abraham Polonsky on writing the series Danger, and on working with Yul Brenner on the show
Abraham Polonsky on writing politics into the series Danger, and on the guest stars of the show

Goldbergs, The

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Abraham Polonsky on The Goldbergs star Gertrude Berg, and how he came to write for the radio version of "The Goldbergs"

Kraft Television Theatre

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Abraham Polonsky on writing for Kraft Television Theatre and Seaway

You Are There

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Abraham Polonsky on writing for You Are There
Abraham Polonsky on writing specific episodes of You Are There
Abraham Polonsky on the format of You Are There, on Walter Cronkite as the host, and on Bill Dozier
Abraham Polonsky on writing You Are There while blacklisted
Topics

1939-40 World's Fair

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Abraham Polonsky on first encountering television at the 1939 World's Fair

Advice

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Abraham Polonsky on advice to aspiring writers, and on his dislike of the internet

Historic Events and Social Change

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Abraham Polonsky on first encountering television at the 1939 World's Fair
Abraham Polonsky on his experience with World War II
Abraham Polonsky on being involved with the OSS during World War II

Hollywood Blacklist

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Abraham Polonsky on the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee
Abraham Polonsky on Elia Kazan's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and on working in the aftermath
Abraham Polonsky on using pen names during the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on his career after the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on Elia Kazan, if the Hollywood Blacklist could happen again, and on his and his family's politics

Industry Crossroads

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Abraham Polonsky on the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee
Abraham Polonsky on Elia Kazan's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and on working in the aftermath
Abraham Polonsky on using pen names during the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on his career after the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on Elia Kazan, if the Hollywood Blacklist could happen again, and on his and his family's politics

Industry Strikes

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Abraham Polonsky on his work on You Are There, and his continued blacklisting

New Media

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Abraham Polonsky on advice to aspiring writers, and on his dislike of the internet

Television Industry

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Abraham Polonsky on the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee
Abraham Polonsky on Elia Kazan's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and on working in the aftermath
Abraham Polonsky on using pen names during the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on his career after the Hollywood Blacklist
Abraham Polonsky on advice to aspiring writers, and on his dislike of the internet
Abraham Polonsky on Elia Kazan, if the Hollywood Blacklist could happen again, and on his and his family's politics

War

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Abraham Polonsky on his experience with World War II
Abraham Polonsky on being involved with the OSS during World War II

World War II

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Abraham Polonsky on his experience with World War II
Abraham Polonsky on being involved with the OSS during World War II
Professions

Writers

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Abraham Polonsky on advice to aspiring writers, on his dislike of the internet, and on his mother
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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Abraham Polonsky on writing the series Danger
Abraham Polonsky on writing for Kraft Television Theatre and Seaway

Drama Series

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Abraham Polonsky on writing for Kraft Television Theatre and Seaway

News and Documentary

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Abraham Polonsky on writing for You Are There
Abraham Polonsky on writing for You Are There
People

Gertrude Berg

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Abraham Polonsky on The Goldbergs star Gertrude Berg, and how he came to write for the radio version of "The Goldbergs"

Yul Brynner

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Abraham Polonsky on writing the series Danger, and on working with Yul Brenner on the show

Walter Cronkite

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Abraham Polonsky on the format of You Are There, and on Walter Cronkite as the host

Bill Dozier

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Abraham Polonsky on the format of You Are There, on Walter Cronkite as the host, and on Bill Dozier

Elia Kazan

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Abraham Polonsky on Elia Kazan's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee
Abraham Polonsky on Elia Kazan, if the Hollywood Blacklist could happen again, and his family's politics

Lew Wasserman

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Abraham Polonsky on directing feature films like "Madigan" and "Tell Them Willie Boy is Here", and on working with Lew Wasserman

Orson Welles

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Abraham Polonsky on moving to California, and on meeting Orson Welles

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