Walter Bernstein

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half-hour interview, Walter Bernstein (1919-2021) discusses being listed in Red Channels in 1950 and talks of his ties to the Communist party. Despite being blacklisted and pressured by the FBI, Bernstein details how he wrote under pseudonyms and with the help of "fronts" for shows including Danger; Charlie Wild, Private Eye; Colonel March of Scotland Yard; You Are There; and David Susskind's Dupont Show of the Month productions of "The Prince and the Pauper" and "The Bridge of San Luis Rey." Bernstein then tells of how he was cleared to work in film and wrote several movies, including Fail Safe and The Front, but it took longer before he could return to television writing under his real name. He then discusses being cleared for television and talks about writing several HBO movies, including the Emmy Award-winning Miss Evers' Boys. He concludes with remarks about why he believes the Blacklist happened, what the industry should learn from it, and shares his thoughts on colleagues he worked with throughout his career. Sunny Parich conducted the interview on April 20, 1998 at Bernstein's home in New York, NY.

"You have to be true to yourself, to what you believe in. You have to have a bottom line. You have to have some place beyond which you know you can't be pushed. It's not politics. It's morality."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Walter Bernstein on how he knew he was blacklisted and using the pseudonym Paul Bauman
Walter Bernstein on getting fired by his agent when he was blacklisted
Walter Bernstein on becoming close with fellow blacklisted writers Arnold Manoff and Abraham Polonsky
Walter Bernstein on "fronts" he used on Danger and how he worked out the income and rewrites
Walter Bernstein on the role government should play in television
Walter Bernstein on how he would like to be remembered
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years and influences; on growing up in Brooklyn; on spending time in France after he graduated high school and getting his first exposure to Communism; on attending Dartmouth University and writing for the humor magazine; on selling a story to The New Yorker and becoming a movie critic
On his early political affiliations; on doing a rewrite on a Broadway play; on the first time he saw television; on his service during World War II; on writing for Yank magazine

Chapter 2

On the Army being aware of his left-leaning political beliefs; on writing for Yank magazine; on interviewing Tito; on being interviewed on CBS television about his wartime journalism experience
On life after World War II - working for The New Yorker and writing a book; on joining the Communist Party; on being hired to work at Columbia Pictures as a writer; on working with Ben Maddow and being blacklisted

Chapter 3

On "The Hollywood Ten"; on not thinking he would be blacklisted; on moving back to New York; on working on early live dramatic television series
On writing for Danger
On being listed in Red Channels, his subsequent blacklisting, and how it affected his career

Chapter 4

On working on Danger while blacklisted; on using pseudonyms and "fronts"
On starting a newsletter "Facts about the Blacklist"; on becoming close with fellow blacklisted writers Arnold Manoff and Abraham Polonsky
On writing for You Are There while blacklisted

Chapter 5

On writing for You Are There; on the show's move to Los Angeles; on how the first five years of being blacklisted affected him and his family
On others impacted by the Blacklist; on leaving the Communist Party; on working on Hannah Weinstein's productions including Colonel March of Scotland Yard starring Boris Karloff
On working on David Susskind's Dupont Show of the Month productions of "The Prince and the Pauper" and "The Bridge of San Luis Rey"; on David Susskind's treatment of blacklisted writers; on "fronts"
On working with Carlo Ponti on The Magnificent Seven; on beginning to sign his own name to his film work, but still not being cleared to work in television

Chapter 6

On the end of his blacklisting in the film industry - and on being one of the first people cleared; on how Europeans felt about the Blacklist; on what he would have sad had he been subpoenaed by HUAC; on his first non-Blacklist television script; on keeping in touch with "fronts" and fellow blacklisted writers; on never receiving an apology from anyone about the Blacklist
On wanting to write films at that point, not television; on writing the feature films Fail Safe and The Front
On writing TV pilots; on directing the 1980 feature film Little Miss Marker; on his work for HBO; on writing his memoir Inside Out and the HBO movie Miss Evers' Boys

Chapter 7

On his final thoughts about the Blacklist; on then-current television; on the role of government in television; on how he would like to be remembered
On various people he has known over the years, including: Arthur Penn, Irving Lazar, Irving Berlin, Elia Kazan, Irwin Shaw, Budd Schulberg, Charlie Russell, Sidney Lumet, Zero Mostel, Martin Ritt, Abe Polonsky, Arnold Manoff, and his wife Gloria Loomis
Shows

Charlie Wild, Private Detective

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Walter Bernstein on writing for Charlie Wild, Private Detective

Colonel March of Scotland Yard

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Walter Bernstein on writing for Hannah Weinstein's Colonel March of Scotland Yard and meeting Boris Karloff

Danger

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Walter Bernstein on writing for Danger -- via his friend Martin Ritt
Walter Bernstein on using a pseudonym and "fronts" to write for Danger during the Blacklist

DuPont Show of the Month, The

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Walter Bernstein on writing for David Susskind's Dupont Show of the Month production of "The Prince and the Pauper" (written with the assistance of "front" Leslie Slote)
Walter Bernstein on writing for David Susskind's Dupont Show of the Month production of "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" (written with the assistance of a female "front")

Goldbergs, The

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Walter Bernstein on blacklisted actor Philip Loeb of The Goldbergs

Miss Evers' Boys

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Walter Bernstein on writing the HBO TV movie Miss Evers' Boys

See It Now

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Walter Bernstein on Edward R. Murrow's See It Now episode denouncing Senator McCarthy

See It Now: "A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy"

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Walter Bernstein on Edward R. Murrow's See It Now episode denouncing Senator McCarthy

You Are There

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Walter Bernstein on writing for You Are There while blacklisted
Walter Bernstein on other writers on You Are There; on the show's correspondent/hosts and the show's veiled criticisms of McCarthyism
Walter Bernstein on the subversive subtext of You Are There
Walter Bernstein on CBS' loyalty oath, You Are There executive producer Bill Dozier, his favorite episodes, and the show's move from New York to Los Angeles 
Walter Bernstein on writing his first non-Blacklist television script -- possibly the reboot of You Are There
Topics

Advertising and Sponsorship

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Walter Bernstein on sponsor involvement on Danger
Walter Bernstein on sponsor involvement on Danger during the Blacklist

Advice

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Walter Bernstein on what the industry should/could learn from the Blacklist and advice to others who might find themselves in a similar situation to what he went through

Historic Events and Social Change

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Walter Bernstein on how the Great Depression impacted his family
Walter Bernstein on being drafted in 1941, serving in public relations during World War II, and writing a musical comedy play for the troops (pre-USO)
Walter Bernstein on getting transferred to do public relations for the Irving Berlin play "This is the Army" during World War II, controversy over a piece he wrote for The New Yorker, and getting transferred again to write for Yank magazine
Walter Bernstein on writing for Yank, the official magazine of the Army, and traveling overseas as a magazine correspondent
Walter Bernstein on the Army being aware of his left-leaning political beliefs
Walter Bernstein on reporting for Yank magazine from Jerusalem during World War II; on the atrocities against Jews during World War II
Walter Bernstein on reporting for Yank magazine from combat situations during World War II and interviewing Tito in Yugoslavia without the Army's consent

Hollywood Blacklist

View Topic
Walter Bernstein on screenwriter Ben Maddow testifying (and naming names) before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)
Walter Bernstein on being listed in Red Channels, his subsequent blacklisting, and how it affected his career
Walter Bernstein on "The Hollywood Ten"
Walter Bernstein on using a pseudonym and "fronts" to write for Danger and You Are There during the Blacklist
Walter Bernstein on the subversive subtext of You Are There; on Edward R. Murrow's See It Now denouncing Senator McCarthy; on the use of "fronts" during the Blacklist and how he was cleared to work on movies, but not television
Walter Bernstein on the end of his blacklisting in the film industry -- and on being one of the first people cleared; on how Europeans felt about the Blacklist; on what he would have sad had he been subpoenaed
Walter Bernstein on why he thinks the Blacklist happened and how it affected the television industry; on whether something similar could happen again
Walter Bernstein on what the industry should/could learn from the Blacklist and advice to others who might find themselves in a similar situation to what he went through

Industry Crossroads

View Topic
Walter Bernstein on screenwriter Ben Maddow testifying (and naming names) before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)
Walter Bernstein on being listed in Red Channels, his subsequent blacklisting, and how it affected his career
Walter Bernstein on "The Hollywood Ten"
Walter Bernstein on using a pseudonym and "fronts" to write for Danger and You Are There during the Blacklist
Walter Bernstein on the subversive subtext of You Are There; on Edward R. Murrow's See It Now denouncing Senator McCarthy; on the use of "fronts" during the Blacklist and how he was cleared to work on movies, but not television
Walter Bernstein on the end of his blacklisting in the film industry -- and on being one of the first people cleared; on how Europeans felt about the Blacklist; on what he would have sad had he been subpoenaed
Walter Bernstein on why he thinks the Blacklist happened and how it affected the television industry; on whether something similar could happen again
Walter Bernstein on why he thinks the Blacklist happened and how it affected the television industry; on whether something similar could happen again
Walter Bernstein on what the industry should/could learn from the Blacklist and advice to others who might find themselves in a similar situation to what he went through

Television Industry

View Topic
Walter Bernstein on screenwriter Ben Maddow testifying (and naming names) before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)
Walter Bernstein on being listed in Red Channels, his subsequent blacklisting, and how it affected his career
Walter Bernstein on "The Hollywood Ten"
Walter Bernstein on sponsor involvement on Danger
Walter Bernstein on sponsor involvement on Danger during the Blacklist
Walter Bernstein on using a pseudonym and "fronts" to write for Danger and You Are There during the Blacklist
Walter Bernstein on the subversive subtext of You Are There; on Edward R. Murrow's See It Now denouncing Senator McCarthy; on the use of "fronts" during the Blacklist and how he was cleared to work on movies, but not television
Walter Bernstein on the end of his blacklisting in the film industry -- and on being one of the first people cleared; on how Europeans felt about the Blacklist; on what he would have sad had he been subpoenaed
Walter Bernstein on what the industry should/could learn from the Blacklist and advice to others who might find themselves in a similar situation to what he went through
Walter Bernstein on the role government should play in television

War

View Topic
Walter Bernstein on being drafted in 1941, serving in public relations during World War II, and writing a musical comedy play for the troops (pre-USO)
Walter Bernstein on getting transferred to do public relations for the Irving Berlin play "This is the Army" during World War II, controversy over a piece he wrote for The New Yorker, and getting transferred again to write for Yank magazine
Walter Bernstein on writing for Yank, the official magazine of the Army, and traveling overseas as a magazine correspondent
Walter Bernstein on the Army being aware of his left-leaning political beliefs
Walter Bernstein on reporting for Yank magazine from Jerusalem during World War II; on the atrocities against Jews during World War II
Walter Bernstein on reporting for Yank magazine from combat situations during World War II and interviewing Tito in Yugoslavia without the Army's consent

World War II

View Topic
Walter Bernstein on being drafted in 1941, serving in public relations during World War II, and writing a musical comedy play for the troops (pre-USO)
Walter Bernstein on getting transferred to do public relations for the Irving Berlin play "This is the Army" during World War II, controversy over a piece he wrote for The New Yorker, and getting transferred again to write for Yank magazine
Walter Bernstein on writing for Yank, the official magazine of the Army, and traveling overseas as a magazine correspondent
Walter Bernstein on the Army being aware of his left-leaning political beliefs
Walter Bernstein on reporting for Yank magazine from Jerusalem during World War II; on the atrocities against Jews during World War II
Walter Bernstein on reporting for Yank magazine from combat situations during World War II and interviewing Tito in Yugoslavia without the Army's consent
Professions

Directors

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Walter Bernstein on his style as a director
Walter Bernstein on his strengths as a writer and how that helped him as a director

Writers

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Walter Bernstein on always wanting to be a writer and his early writing in grammar school and high school
Walter Bernstein on his writing process with screenwriting partner Ben Maddow
Walter Bernstein on the writing process on Danger -- and getting blacklisted while on the show and continuing to write under a pseudonym; on trying to get a "front"
Walter Bernstein on the writing and research process among blacklisted writers Abraham Polonsky, Arnold Manoff, and Walter Bernstein for You Are There
Walter Bernstein on his strengths as a writer and how that helped him as a director
Walter Bernstein on how long it takes to write a half-hour script for HBO
Walter Bernstein on rewriting the HBO movie The Doomsday Gun and the process of doing a rewrite; on how it feels to be rewritten
Walter Bernstein on how his experiences (particularly being blacklisted) affected his writing
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

View Genre
Walter Bernstein on how he started working on early dramatic television series and his impressions of the early years of television
Walter Bernstein on writing for Danger -- via his friend Martin Ritt
Walter Bernstein on using a pseudonym and "fronts" to write for Danger during the Blacklist
Walter Bernstein on working on David Susskind's Dupont Show of the Month productions of "The Prince and the Pauper" and "The Bridge of San Luis Rey"

Drama Series

View Genre
Walter Bernstein on writing for Hannah Weinstein's Colonel March of Scotland Yard and meeting Boris Karloff

News and Documentary

View Genre
Walter Bernstein on writing for You Are There while blacklisted
Walter Bernstein on other writers on You Are There; on the show's correspondent/hosts, the show's veiled criticisms of McCarthyism, and the show's move from New York to Los Angeles
Walter Bernstein on writing his first non-Blacklist television script -- possibly the reboot of You Are There

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
Walter Bernstein on writing and directing the HBO production Return to Kansas City starring Matt Dillon and Kyra Sedgwick
Walter Bernstein on writing the HBO TV movie Miss Evers' Boys
People

Woody Allen

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Walter Bernstein on writing the feature film The Front, starring Woody Allen and Zero Mostel

Anne Bancroft

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Walter Bernstein on working with actress Anne Bancroft on Danger

David Begelman

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Walter Bernstein on writing the feature film The Front, approved by the head of Columbia Pictures, David Begelman

Irving Berlin

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Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Irving Berlin

Herbert Brodkin

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Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Herbert Brodkin

Yul Brynner

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Walter Bernstein on working with the original director of Danger, Yul Brynner

Fred Coe

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Walter Bernstein on working with Fred Coe; on Coe not hiring him during the Blacklist

Walter Cronkite

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Walter Bernstein on whether the host of You Are There, Walter Cronkite, or any of the other correspondents, knew that the writers of the show were blacklisted

Bill Dozier

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Walter Bernstein on whether You Are There executive producer Bill Dozier knew the writers of the show were blacklisted
Walter Bernstein on why You Are There executive producer Bill Dozier moved the show to Hollywood

John Frankenheimer

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Walter Bernstein on not having much interaction with then-assistant director John Frankenheimer on Danger
Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on John Frankenheimer

Lee Grant

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Walter Bernstein on Lee Grant's comments to him about the feature film The Front

Moss Hart

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Walter Bernstein on the first time he saw television - at Moss Hart's house

Harold Hecht

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Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Harold Hecht

Laurence Johnson

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Walter Bernstein on controversy over Charles Russell hiring John Randolph on Danger

Boris Karloff

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Walter Bernstein on writing for Hannah Weinstein's Colonel March of Scotland Yard (with Abraham Polonsky) and meeting Boris Karloff

Elia Kazan

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Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Elia Kazan

Irving "Swifty" Lazar

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Walter Bernstein on his agent, Irving Lazar, informing him that Paramount wouldn't approve his contract to write a movie because there was a subpoena out for him from HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee), going on the lam, and Paramount eventually letting him write the film under his real name -- he was cleared to work in movies, but not in television
Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on his former agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar

Cloris Leachman

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Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Bob Markell

Philip Loeb

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Walter Bernstein on meeting blacklisted actor Philip Loeb

Sidney Lumet

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Walter Bernstein on working with director Sidney Lumet on Danger
Walter Bernstein on working with director Sidney Lumet on Danger, contd.
Walter Bernstein on writing for You Are There while blacklisted (produced by Charles Russell, directed by Sidney Lumet)
Walter Bernstein on Sidney Lumet suggesting him as the writer for a Sophia Loren movie, produced by Carlo Ponti
Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Sidney Lumet

Ben Maddow

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Walter Bernstein on getting teamed with screenwriter Ben Maddow to write the film Kiss the Blood Off My Hands
Walter Bernstein on screenwriter Ben Maddow and their writing process
Walter Bernstein on screenwriter Ben Maddow testifying (and naming names) before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)

Arnold Manoff

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Walter Bernstein on becoming close with fellow blacklisted writers Arnold Manoff and Abraham Polonsky
Walter Bernstein on the writing and research process among blacklisted writers Abraham Polonsky, Arnold Manoff, and Walter Bernstein for You Are There
Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Arnold Manoff

Bob Markell

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Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Bob Markell

Paul Monash

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Walter Bernstein on Paul Monash offering to be a "front" for him

Zero Mostel

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Walter Bernstein on his tumultuous friendship with Zero Mostel
Walter Bernstein on writing the feature film The Front, starring Woody Allen and Zero Mostel
Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Zero Mostel

Edward R. Murrow

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Walter Bernstein on the subversive subtext of You Are There and Edward R. Murrow wondering how the show got away with its content; on Murrow's See It Now episode denouncing Senator McCarthy

Arthur Penn

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Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Arthur Penn

Abraham Polonsky

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Walter Bernstein on becoming close with fellow blacklisted writers Arnold Manoff and Abraham Polonsky
Walter Bernstein on the writing and research process among blacklisted writers Abraham Polonsky, Arnold Manoff, and Walter Bernstein for You Are There
Walter Bernstein on writing for Hannah Weinstein's Colonel March of Scotland Yard (with Abraham Polonsky) and meeting Boris Karloff
Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Abe Polonsky

Carlo Ponti

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Walter Bernstein on Sidney Lumet suggesting him as the writer for a Sophia Loren movie, produced by Carlo Ponti

John Randolph

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Walter Bernstein on controversy over Charles Russell hiring John Randolph on Danger

Robert Redford

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Walter Bernstein on writing a script for the feature film The Electric Horseman and Robert Redford not wanting to do parts of the script; on getting removed from the project

Martin Ritt

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Walter Bernstein on writing for Danger -- via his friend Martin Ritt; on Martin Ritt's talents
Walter Bernstein on director Martin Ritt getting him a job in early television
Walter Bernstein on writing the feature film The Front, directed by Martin Ritt
Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Martin Ritt

Charlie Russell

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Walter Bernstein on continuing to work on Danger thanks to producer Charles Russell
Walter Bernstein on working with Danger producer Charles Russell
Walter Bernstein on controversy over Charles Russell hiring John Randolph on Danger
Walter Bernstein on writing for You Are There while blacklisted (produced by Charles Russell, directed by Sidney Lumet
Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Charlie Russell

Budd Schulberg

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Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Budd Schulberg

Irwin Shaw

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Walter Bernstein on his thoughts on Irwin Shaw

David Susskind

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Walter Bernstein on writing for many David Susskind productions after You Are There ended
Walter Bernstein on writing for David Susskind's productions and meeting David Susskind; on Susskind's opinion on the Blacklist

Hannah Weinstein

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Walter Bernstein on writing for Hannah Weinstein's Colonel March of Scotland Yard (with Abraham Polonsky) and meeting Boris Karloff

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