Abe was a communist. Now, before you go all Reagan and shout “Evil empire” and stuff, go learn about communism first. Read about its ideology and philosophy. You may realize that the USSR and other communist countries were not truly “communist,” but more totalitarian. You may also realize how silly and impossible true communism is because human beings simply don’t operate that way. Altruism is fantasy no matter how much you believe in the goodness of man. We have wants, desires, and jealousies. We are apes with cars. Why the Hell am I talking about this, go read a book! Abe got called before HUAC and refused to name names (unlike Elia Kazan & Edward Dmytryk (Dmytryk, at first, refused to name names but flip flopped in order to save his career)), thus getting blacklisted.
Body and Soul – What?! Polonsky didn’t direct Body and Soul, Robert Rossen did. Yeah yeah yeah, but there’s so little of Polonsky’s work out there and this movie is so much about the writing. Abe had a distinctive style in his writing. There’s a certain cadence and word structure that’s simply Polonsky-esque (much like a Paddy Chayefsky or David Mamet script). Body and Soul is a boxing movie with themes most folks today would recognize from Rocky or Raging Bull. But here’s a couple things that stood out for me. They are subtle and they may not register to most folks as being significant. First of all, Charlie Davis (John Garfield) is Jewish. It’s significant because nothing is ever made of this, it’s just a throwaway line. This was the same year as Oscar winner Gentleman’s Agreement which was about anti-semitism and also had the actors John Garfield and Anne Revere from Body and Soul. Gentleman’s Agreement was also directed by name namer Elia Kazan whom Polonsky hated for the rest of his life. Another thing that stuck out for me was the treatment of the black boxer, Ben (Canada Lee). I felt he was treated as an equal. He was just another boxer on the same level with our hero. Bad guy Roberts may be perceived as racist, but I saw him more of treating Ben like any other piece-of-meat boxer. This was shot by the great James Wong Howe, who wore roller skates in the boxing ring to get some of his shots. This also had William (Louisville represent!) Conrad in it. And for you Trekkers, the role of best friend Shorty was played by future Trek directer Joseph Pevney.