To the back

The House Unamerican Activities Committee forced a lot of people in the entertainment industry out of the public light. For writers, there was the option of writing under a different name. In The Front, Howard Prince poses as a front for several blacklisted writers, putting a public face on their ruse and taking credit for a ten percent cut.

We see a number of people suffering for being blacklisted, a few risky situations, and a fair amount of writing into an early Woody Allen's strengths, or perhaps his improvisations. There's a girl (who would have guessed?), some spying activities, and finally a climax where Howard Prince has a choice to make a moral stand or not.

The film is written by a former blacklisted writer (Walter Bernstein). The director, Martin Ritt, also was blacklisted. And then several of the actors too. If the film is less than objectve, it's not hard to imagine why. It's certainly not inherently bad for a film to have a particular point of view, but it can be telling to note the influence.

To The Front, nothing is more important than this moral stand at the end, which is a shame. They build up a lot of tension, and a lot of interesting details on the way, but all these bits are tossed aside when the movie needs to end. It makes for a letdown, despite the praise the movie heaps on its own lead character (did I just give something away? not that you couldn't have really guessed). It's just very disappointing to have what seems to be a rich tapestry of experiences get wiped out by a saccharine, sentimental ending. The Front probably wouldn't be a tremendous film with a proper third act, but at least it would have been a good one. As it is, you might as well turn it off at the eighty minute mark.

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