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Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance

Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance

By J. E. Smyth
Paperback : 9781496802552, 317 pages, 70 b&w illustrations, January 2015
Hardcover : 9781617039645, 317 pages, 70 b&w illustrations, March 2014

A compelling history of the director's films of war and resistance


Fred Zinnemann directed some of the most acclaimed and controversial films of the twentieth century, yet he has been a shadowy presence in Hollywood history. In Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance, J. E. Smyth reveals the intellectual passion behind some of the most powerful films ever made about the rise and resistance to fascism and the legacy of the Second World War, from The Seventh Cross and The Search to High Noon, From Here to Eternity, and Julia. Smyth's book is the first to draw upon Zinnemann's extensive papers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and brings Fred Zinnemann's vision, voice, and film practice to life.

In his engagement with the defining historical struggles of the twentieth century, Zinnemann fought his own battles with the Hollywood studio system, the critics, and a public bent on forgetting. Zinnemann's films explore the role of women and communists in the antifascist resistance, the West's support of Franco after the Spanish Civil War, and the darker side of America's national heritage. Smyth reconstructs a complex and conflicted portrait of Zinnemann's cinema of resistance, examining his sketches, script annotations, editing and production notes, and personal letters. Illustrated with seventy black-and-white images from Zinnemann's collection, Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance discusses the director's professional and personal relationships with Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Audrey Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and Gary Cooper; the critical reaction to his revisionist Western, High Noon; his battles over the censorship of From Here to Eternity, The Nun's Story, and Behold a Pale Horse; his unrealized history of the Communist Revolution in China, Man's Fate; and the controversial study of political assassination, The Day of the Jackal. In this intense, richly textured narrative, Smyth enters the mind of one of Hollywood's master directors, redefining our knowledge of his artistic vision and practice.


"Smyth, who has steeped herself in the history of resistance movements to write this book, makes convincing claims for Zinnemann's early recognition of the role of women in these struggles, for his constant questioning of the myths created around such movements, and for his dangerous generosity in acknowledging the courageous role of communists in underground activities. . . . It's a stimulating book that illuminates an important career. "

- Philip French, Sight and Sound

"Makes a powerful case for a re-evaluation of the filmmaker, making particular use of his complex and nuanced interrogation of story, script, and research material. . . . Matchless scholarship, with the author exhibiting a broad and authoritative knowledge of other film work, American and European, dealing with these themes of antifascism and women's resistance. Zinnemann is portrayed as a director whose origins, concerns, and sensibility, as well as his shifting abode, distinguishes him as a genuinely 'international' director. "

- Cineaste

"This book is a model for the way to do rigorous film criticism. Smyth does more than just resuscitate Zinnemann—she provides an entirely new and original portrait and understanding of him as a truly independent genius of film. A great book. "

- Sam B. Girgus, author of Clint Eastwood's America

"Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance is as richly researched and rigorously argued as any landmark study in the field of film history. As such, it will profoundly change the way film historians view post-World War II Hollywood cinema. More remarkable still is the elegance of Smyth's prose, which manages to convey dense archival detail and complex reasoning with verve and accessibility, catapulting the book far beyond academe into the realm of quality popular scholarship. A major publishing event. "

- Roy Grundmann, editor of The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film, Vols. I-IV

"Smyth captures Zinnemann's approach to filmmaking. She has put him on the page with an insight displaying the delicacy with which Fred approached chaos, love, and heightened desire delivered with surprise and without a sense of caution. He battled heavyweight producers and even a tough-as-nails Lillian Hellman, as well as a star actor when he was challenged. Smyth's thorough research and affection for Zinnemann's cinema history masters it all. "

- Alvin Sargent, Academy Award-winning writer of Julia (1977) and Ordinary People (1980)

"Deftly blending archival research and astute readings of Zinnemann’s films—a staggering output that included High Noon, From Here to Eternity, and Julia—Smyth probes the inner workings of a progressive and fiercely independent director whose films and filmmaking were case studies in resistance. "

- Thomas Schatz, author of The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era

"A stunning study of a complex but rather neglected director. Utilizing the brilliant combination of archival research and film analysis which marks her previous books, J. E. Smyth convincingly demonstrates that Zinnemann injected serious ideas about history, antifascism, memory, and nationalism into works which moved beyond the confines of traditional genres. Showing that he was a great historian of women on screen, Smyth argues that his unique blend of commitment and distance make him a filmmaker who speaks directly to our times. "

- Robert A. Rosenstone, author of History on Film/Film on History