Woody Allen's dark comic send-up of Hollywood McCarthyism! Allen stars as a cashier posing as a writer who sells a script as his own, when it was actually written by a blacklisted pal. Stars Woody Allen, Zero Mostel, Danny... more » Aiello and more. Nominated for an Oscar® - Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Walter Bernstein, 1977).« less
Perfect presentation of the absurdity of the Blacklist.
R. Spell | Memphis, TN USA | 01/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An exceptional expose on the absurdity of the Hollywood Blacklist. Allen is a restaurant cashier asked by a former high school chum to "front" as a writer so this gentleman can continue to write and get paid. It works so well, two more blacklist writers are added. It's funny to watch unassuming Allen develop an ego as he takes on the persona of an actual writer. In addition, there is a love interest which questions whether this love would grow if he were still a cashier.The second half of this movie really builds around the conflicts involved with whether to testify and "name names". The absurdity is so evident when Allen is forced to testify to escape punishment if he will "out" a purported communist who has just committed suicide. Zero Mostel also has a great role as an actor trying to get work.I strongly recommend this movie to challenge your beliefs about the blacklist. Also, make sure and stay for the credits to see the many involved who were blacklisted but were able to work on this movie. An exceptionally entertaining and educational movie."
POW! -- WHAT AN ENDING!!
David Kusumoto | San Diego, CA United States | 11/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Soon after the release of his hilarious 1975 film, "Love and Death," Woody Allen did something he rarely does...
...he starred in a movie -- that he didn't write or direct.
Back in the mid-1970s, the idea of slapstick actor Woody Allen -- crossing into "serious" territory and coming out heroic -- was unfathomable.
Yet when "The Front" came out in 1976, its ad campaign blared, "America's Most Unlikely Hero." I couldn't shake off Allen's image as a prankster, the same foolish nerd who's vividly on display in his early, fall-down-funny films.
But when I saw Allen in "The Front," directed by the late Martin Ritt, it marked the beginning of my "conversion" -- from an on-the-fence "observer" -- into a full-fledged, Woody Allen fan.
"The Front" feels like it's all Woody Allen -- because it has a comedic flair with which we're familiar in all of his films. But former blacklisted writer Walter Bernstein -- not Woody Allen -- wrote the script for "The Front."
The film is about a serious part of American history. Allen is a cashier and a part-time bookie -- who shoots to super stardom as a "front" for blacklisted television writers who are Communist sympathizers. His built-in persona as a clumsy and intellectual nerd -- vested into a heartfelt character who feels tremendous loyalty and affection for his friends -- is a wonderment. And in 1976, for the first time -- we got to see humanity and horror reflected in a starkly emotional face -- that Allen himself rarely reveals -- when he's an actor in his own films.
When this "PG-rated" picture came out more than 30 years ago, I was shocked by its ending. In 1976, you couldn't end a film like "The Front" without getting slapped with an "R" rating. During the 1970s, only one other American film containing a specific profane expression -- "All the President's Men" -- also released in 1976 -- escaped with a "PG" rating, with the Motion Picture Association of America citing "historical" considerations. That same reasoning must have also applied to "The Front."
Today, the ending of "The Front" seems tame, but it was a revelation during the 1970s. Years later, I look back at "The Front," a film missed by many, as a "turning point" for Woody's career -- a launching pad for the sparkling and serious work Allen himself churned out as a writer and director from 1977 to 1989 -- a stellar period, creatively speaking, that in my view, he's unlikely to top again. And I can't help but think that "The Front," which was released before "Annie Hall" in 1977, played some role in Allen's decision to shift gears forever, writing more films with important themes, yet still stamped with his special brand of humor.
The late Zero Mostel and the luminous Andrea Marcovicci are also fabulous. Mostel was a well-known performer in 1976, hence his polish as an actor shines through. The bigger surprise is Marcovicci. One wonders what kind of film career she could've had -- had she been offered better parts. She's camera-ready radiant and her acting is note perfect in "The Front." (Fortunately, in real life, she got the last laugh, going on to a spectacular career as a cabaret singer in New York.)
I just watched "The Front" again and it still holds up well. Superficially it feels comic, but the undercurrent of tragedy is present. After a horrific plot twist takes center stage, Woody's transformation is complete. His status as a "front" for blacklisted writers becomes more than just about having money and friends. Just before his character has to testify in front of a Congressional committee about Communists in the entertainment industry, he vows to Andrea Marcovicci that he'll NEVER go back to his old life as a cashier. But he doesn't tell her how. In fact, we as an audience -- don't know how Allen's character will achieve this goal -- until he utters the last line in the picture.
Untypically (for Woody Allen) -- that line -- is a crowd pleaser. But everything feels earned. (Frank Sinatra sings "Young at Heart" under the opening AND closing credits.) In sum, "The Front" is a hidden gem more people should see."
A serious movie reflecting a sick period in our history
718 Session | 06/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of the "ism's" that we have had very few was worse than McCarthyism that took place in the late 1940's and early 1950's. After ruining careers and lives ruthlessly of people in many different areas but particularly in the entertainment business he was finally censured, lost his seat in the Senate and died. There are some of us that still celebrate the anniversary of Joe McCarthy's death. The movie is a somewhat dark comedy. Woody Allen is the only person in real life in the movie who was not affected by the infamous blacklist that ruined so many careers and even caused some to die. The role that the late Zero Mostel had shows how he(also blacklisted in real life) kills himself after not being able to find work. Woody does not play the typical schlep as in so many of his other films. Rather, at the end, he finally expresses (censored on television) his exact feelings to the HUAC members and is last seen being taken off to prison. Yes, there are some funny moments for example, when he is asked to change a script at the last moment and has to depend on some rather interesting methods of doing so. For those who did not live through those dark days and who are not familiar this "ism" this is one avenue to look at and learn just how bad things were. The sad thing is that this movie is simply not shown enough to remind us of all of that."
Brilliant, funny, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking
718 Session | 12/27/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an important film about a time many would rather forget. It's hard to believe that events like these could occur in America but thank God there are films like these around to warn future generations of just how easily the tide can change. As I watched this film, I found myself wanting to believe that I would have had the courage to stand up to such pressure. All I know for sure is how much I admire those who did. This film is far from preachy, though. It's an extremely entertaining look at one of the ugliest chapters in American history."
Great movie, short on features
718 Session | Brooklyn, NY United States | 04/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is always interesting to watch an old movie about an older time. This 1976 examination of the McCarthy-era serves a couple of purposes. At a time when the cold war was focusing on East Asia, the time was right for a re-examation of the excesses of the 50s lest they fade from memory (something that still applies to today). We start off during the opening credits with newsreel scenes from 1952: Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, frontlines from the Korean War, Marilyn Monroe getting her star on Hollywood Blvd, the Rosenbergs being carted off to their execution, new cars, new homes complete with bomb shelters, etc. But the movie focusus on the blacklisitng of writers, directors, and actors in entertainment; specifically at NBC television. The details and the methodology of the blacklist are exact and don't involve a lot of exposition. Halfway through the film, you get a fairly complete picture of how the blacklist worked. The movie is also a good old-fashioned "Screw You!". The film was written by a blacklisted writer (who is obviously drawing from his own experience), directed by a blacklisted director and is populated (not exclusively) by blacklisted actors. The actors who were blacklisted get their own titles in the closing credits. And thirdly, (and most importantly) the movie is good entertainment. Amateur bookie Harold Prince, described by his brother as "a lowlife bum", cares about two things: making money with as little effort as possible and getting laid. He has no apparent talent and no political convictions. Prince's lifelong buddy Al Miller (played by Mike "Jack Tanner" Murphy) has problems of his own: despite award-winning work, he can't get a job writing because word is out that he marched in a May Day parade. Al makes a proposition. He writes the stuff, Harold submits it, and Harold gets to keep 10% of the money. By his own admission, Harold knows nothing and cares nothing about politics or the blacklist. ("Why don't you just sue someone?" he asks). But he doesn't protest: this is easy money, he takes it. When it works, he takes on more writers and finds himself getting both more easy money and more tail than he would have imagined; but as he starts to realize some of the bigger issues at stake, he very slowly (VERY slowly) starts developing a conscience. The humor comes from Prince, trying horribly to fake being a writer. The producers of the TV shows he writes for love him because he doesn't act like a writer. As he becomes more popular, he keeps trying to play it cool with varying results. He finds himself getting very used to success and keeps thinking he can just finesse his way out of whatever problems come up. There are also some priceless scenes with the writers he fronts for as he keeps needing to be reminded that he's not the talented one. Special paragraph for people who hate Woody Allen:
Don't let that stop you from seeing this. It is not "A Woody Allen Movie." (aka "Movie about being neurotic in New York") Woody Allen plays Prince. He doesn't write, he doesn't direct, he even tones down the uber-nebbish character he usually plays. With everything that's come up about Allen since 1975, it is easy to forget that the guy can be very, very funny. But even though Woody is the lead, Zero Mostel (in one of his last films) is the star of this picture. In a couple of scenes we watch him go from top-of-the-world everybody-loves-me, to I've-had-a-setback-but-they-still-love-me, to deep despair. This is made particularly poignent since it parallels Mostel's own career. Even if you don't know Mostel's story (he came up through vaudeville and when he was discharged for disability, spent the rest of the war with the USO entertaining the troops, became a huge splash in Hollywood then couldn't work for 10 years when a producer turned his name over the the House of Un-American Committee and Mostel refused to implicate any of his colleagues in the entertainment industry) his peformance is incredible to watch. You go from hating the guy, to loving him, to pitying him. His emotions really run the gamut.If there's one negative, it is that the DVD has NO features at all. If a flick ever cried out for a special edition, this is it.So give it a rent when you've got a free night. Its got everything: humor, sex, political intrigue, nostalgia, Danny Aiello as a guy selling fruit, Andrea Marcovicci's film debut, and other historical importance."