Weekend Video: Salt of the Earth

salt-of-the-earthSalt of the Earth (1954) is an American drama film written by Michael Wilson, directed by Herbert J. Biberman, and produced by Paul Jarrico. All had been blacklisted by the Hollywood establishment due to their alleged involvement in communist politics. The film is one of the first pictures to advance the feminist social and political point of view. Its plot centres on a long and difficult strike, based on the 1951 strike against the Empire Zinc Company in Grant County, New Mexico. In neorealist style, the producers and director used actual miners and their families as actors in the film.

The film was called subversive and blacklisted because the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers sponsored it and many blacklisted Hollywood professionals helped produce it. The union had been expelled from the CIO in 1950 for its alleged communist-dominated leadership. Director Herbert Biberman was one of the Hollywood screenwriters and directors who refused to answer the House Committee on Un American Activities on questions of CPUSA affiliation in 1947. The producers cast only five professional actors. The rest were locals from Grant County, New Mexico, or members of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, Local 890, many of whom were part of the strike that inspired the plot.


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