Walter Bernstein, once-blacklisted screenwriter of ‘The Front,’ dead at 101

Screenwriter Walter Bernstein speaks on the Hollywood Blacklist brought on in the 1950's communism scare at the National Press Club in Washington on December 13, 2007. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)

Jan. 24 (UPI) — Walter Bernstein, a screenwriter who was blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1950s but later wrote scripts for the Oscar-nominated “The Front” and dozens of other films, has died at the age of 101.

Writers Guild of America West president Howard Rodman announced Bernstein’s death on Twitter Saturday.

Bernstein’s wife, literary agent Gloria Loomis, told the Washington Post the cause of death was pneumonia.

Bernstein’s writing credits include “The Molly Maguires,” “Semi-Tough,” and “Yanks.”In the semi-autobiographical 1976 film “The Front,” Woody Allen played a writer named Howard Prince who was hired by three blacklisted TV writers to become the public face of their work. Bernstein’s screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay.

Bernstein was born in Brooklyn in 1919.

The son of a schoolteacher, he became interested in issues of inequality and injustice during the Depression, then joined the Communist Party while attending Dartmouth College.

First published in the New Yorker at 20, Bernstein later joined the Army and served as a war correspondent in the military weekly “Yank.”

Later Bernstein became a television writer — but was blacklisted by the industry in 1950. It was nearly impossible to get off the blacklist without naming other alleged Communists, which he refused to do.

He was not credited with any work until 1958, but wrote under pseudonyms and used fronts who passed off the work as their own — sometimes winning awards he could not accept.

In 1959, director Sidney Lumet vouched for Bernstein to film producer Carlo Ponti, resulting in Lumet’s film “That Kind of Woman” being properly credited to Bernstein.

In his later career, he taught screenwriting at Columbia University, New York University and City College New York.

In 1996, Bernstein published “Inside Out: A Memoir of the Blacklist,” and in 1997 received an Emmy nomination for writing the 1997 HBO telefilm “Miss Evers’ Boys.”


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