The Front

Drama | In English | 95 minutes

Info

In 1953, Howard Prince, a restaurant cashier and small-time bookie, agrees to be a “front” for his good friend Alfred Miller, a blacklisted TV screenwriter. In exchange for 10% of Alfred’s earnings, Howard signs his name to Alfred’s screenplays and submits them to the network producer, Phil Sussman. The arrangement works flawlessly and more blacklisted screenwriters seek Howard for similar help. Florence Barrett,  a script editor at the TV network, is impressed with Howard’s “talent” and they start dating. But soon, Howard begins to witness the tragedies the blacklist was causing. Actors and writers were losing jobs and income. The worst was the suicide of Hecky Brown, a gifted comedian-actor, who was ruthlessly blacklisted. Howard eventually confesses to  Florence that he is not the talented genius she thinks he is.In fact, he was  a “front” for blacklisted screenwriters. With a shocked and disappointed Florence, Howard decides  to appear before the House  Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC.) He mocks the committee, accuses them of inappropriate accusations, and storms out. The film ends with Howard being taken away in handcuffs, followed by an adoring Florence, and a swarm of protesters who cheer his bravery. 

Cast
Woody Allen (Howard Prince) / Michael Murphy (Alfred Miller) / Zero Mostel (Hecky Brown) / Andrea Marcovicci (Florence Barrett) / Herschel Bernardi (Phil Sussman)
Why Stream This Film?
As with most of his films, Woody Allen did not direct or write The Front.  And yet, as the nebbish Howard Prince, it’s probably  his best performance. Here’s what makes this film so special: the major players, director Martin Ritt, screenwriter Walter Bernstein, and actors Zero Mostel and Herschel Bernardi, were once blacklisted.  They were determined to make this film because they felt a lot of kids in America today don’t even realize that blacklisting ever existed. Right on! 
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score : 71%
Accolades
  • Academy Awards: Nominate, Best Screenplay (Walter Bernstein)
  • Golden Globe Awards: Best Acting Debut (Andrea Marcovicci)
  • BAFTA Awards: Nominated, Best Supporting Actor (Zero Mostel)
At its most appealing, this movie says that people shouldn’t be pressured to inform on their friends, that people shouldn’t be humiliated in order to earn a living. Humbly, this film asks for fairness.
Pauline Kael

The New Yorker

It recreates the awful voice of ignorance that can still be heard today.
Vincent Canby

The New York Times

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