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[Black Fury] Archive of film-related correspondence by Sacco-Vanzetti/Nuremberg Justice Michael A. Musmanno
A remarkable archive of nearly 41 original letters from noted judge/author/screenwriter Michael A. Musmanno concerning the 1935 Warner Brothers film "Black Fury" starring Paul Muni. The letters are written to his ghostwriter/script doctor/amanuensis Bruce Lockwood. With another five letters from Lockwood to Musmanno.
The film was based on an actual 1929 incident in whichJohn Barkoski, a miner agitating for recognition of theUnited Mine Workers of America, was beaten to death by company police. His killing and the subsequent acquittal of his murderers provoked public indignation and eventually led to the end of Pennsylvania's private anti-labor Coal and Iron Police system.The New York Times called the film "a notable experiment in social drama" masterfully acted by Muni. The film was controversial, with theNational Coal Association attempting to stop production through political pressure and later securing bans of the film in several states, as well as Britain, for "inciting social conflict.".
Michael A. Musmanno [1897-1968] was a Pennsylvania legislator, jurist, and author. In 1927, he joined the defense team for Italian anarchists Nicolo Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, unsuccessfuly seeking a new trial after their controversial murder conviction. He went on to a career as a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the author of dozens of articles and numerous books, including two on the Sacco Vanzetti case. During World War 2, he was appointed military governor of the Sorrentino Peninsula and led the US investigation to determine if Adolf Hitler died at the end of the war. He was then appointed by Harry Truman to the judicial panel for the Nuremberg trials and was the presiding judge for the Einsatzgruppen case, where twenty German officers were convicted for the murder of more than a million Jews, Gypsies and other civilians.
Bruce Lockwood, virtually unknown today, was a Hollywood writer, ghost writer, editor, and script doctor. This archive of correspondence, consists of 30 TLS, 4 ALS, and several other holographic item. Most of the correspondence concerns the screenplay for the film and Musmanno's earlier novelette upon which it was based —"Jan Volkanik".
Musmanno apparently hired Lockwood to consult on the film script and either to co-write or edit a novelization. In parts of this archive, Musmanno supplies necessary background information about the coal strike and locale; other TLS are praise for Lockwood's work and relatively mundane chit-chat. But in a remarkably detailed 8-page letter from Lockwood to Musmanno [retained carbon, unsigned but with holographic corrections], Lockwood accuses Musmanno of stealing his literary work on the project and denying him credit.
"I do not intend to lie in supine silence and let you walk upon me. … I think your Victor Hugo a lousy writer and his 'Les Miserables' one of the world's worst books. And as for your Michael Angelo [sic], if you wish to compliment me at any future time about my talents, please do not mention either Hugo or Michael Angelo [sic], both of who were incompetent propagandists for the Church, spreading filthy superstitions and perpetuating ignorance. …. if you attempt to publish my script without consulting me as to proposed changes, and if the script as submitted to the publisher is not approved by me, then I will denounce you publicly for a ruiner of art, a man who will consider his own interests above the interests of all others, a man who will use the suffering of women, children and miners to get to a new office, a man who will come to a friend and tell a lie to get him to write a book for him, and then go before the public, having mutilated that book and shout that 'I wrote it, look at me. 'Ain't I a genius? Aint't I the savior of the miners? Ain't I the big shot.'"
Mussmano responds several times, denying the accusations and demanding that Lockwood return the draft script and related items he had provided earlier as background. Yet, prior correspondence here makes it quite clear that Lockwood played a significant, yet uncredited, role as co-author:
"I have unbounded faith in you, not only in your ability which amounts to genius, but especially in your genuine desire to be of assistance to me ... I think I have most of my characters talk too much like lawyers instead of coal miners so I wish you would particularly go over all dialogue." … "I am ablaze with joy at your enthusiasm and show of masterful earnestness and purpose."
The archive consists of 30 TLS, 4 ALS, and three retained carbons totaling 49 leaves in all. Also, several handwritten notes and two partial typed letters, unsigned but with holographic annotations, news clippings of the film release. Ex libris the estate of Bruce Lockwood.
Title: [Black Fury] Archive of film-related correspondence by Sacco-Vanzetti/Nuremberg Justice Michael A. Musmanno
Location Published: n.p, n.p.: 1935
Book Condition: Very Good
Categories: Non-Fiction, General, Film, Movies, Television, Theater, Labor, Autographs and Manuscript, Revolution & Social Change
Seller ID: k210726g
Keywords: coal, film, hollywood, labor, movies, screenplays, scripts, social movements, strikes, union, united mine workers