A rare showing of a classic anti-communist movie Thursday morning on TCM
Set your DVR for a real treat being shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) at 8:45 A.M. Eastern Standard Time. The 1949 RKO film The Woman on Pier 13 (originally titled I Married a Communist) dates from the period derisively called "The Red Scare" by people who pretend communism's threat was never anything serious, and that those who tried to alert us to it were paranoid nut-jobs.
As virtually every American Thinker reader already knows, the left did a brilliant job in turning Senator Joseph McCarthy into a demon, aided by his alcoholism and tendency to overstate his charges. For seven decades, Hollywood has celebrated as victims and even heroes those who were "blacklisted" (the term at the time) or "canceled" (to use the modern terminology) during the period when communist influence in the entertainment and media industry was being identified. "McCarthyism" became and remains a term for a search for nonexistent threats.
To be sure, there were some excesses, some people wrongly tainted, and reckless charges hurled. But as we now see all around us, Gramsci's "long march through the institutions" has been spectacularly successful.
But in 1949, after Stalin's forces had brutally occupied Eastern Europe, lots of Americans were deeply concerned about the spread of communism, among them Howard Hughes, who at the time owned RKO Studios. Prior to his purchase, RKO has assembled some formidable talent and became known for producing excellent examples of "film noir" — dark tales of intrigue and betrayal, often with an innocent man deceived by a femme fatale. The use of shadows and darkness is often striking in these films.
Some very talented people at RKO worked on The Woman on Pier 13, including director Robert Stevenson and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, and it shows. The film — even though derided as propaganda by anti-anti-communists — is quite good. The cast is terrific, with Robert Ryan, the star, portraying a reformed ex-communist now rising in a shipping company, blackmailed by the Party into cooperating with an effort to sabotage the docks in San Francisco with strikes.
The femme fatale is memorably played by Janis Carter, who arrives in town as a glamorous photojournalist (communist infiltration of the media!) and an ex-flame of Ryan, who is now engaged to a virtuous woman played by Laraine Day. Carter's character is at the top of the posters, with Day and Ryan relegated to smaller images below.
I won't spoil the plot by going into any further detail, but suffice it to say the operations of the Communist Party USA are portrayed as ruthless and totally sinister. The local CPUSA leader, portrayed by veteran character actor Thomas Gomez, is particularly chilling.
TCM features a weekly series, "Noir Alley," hosted by Eddie Muller, a true expert historian of the genre and the founder of the Film Noir Foundation. Eddie's intros and outros for the films he shows are very interesting, and he often comments on people who were "victims" of the anti-communist period. But the series, as far as I have been able to determine, has never screened The Woman on Pier 13.