by Jack Nilan            EMail :

The Front (1976)

Movie Grade A

McCarthyism Connection Grade A

McCarthyism Connection
A man with no real political convictions is hired to front a group of blacklisted writers during the McCarthy period of the 1950s.

comedy / drama


Jack   A
Roger Ebert   ** ½
IMDB    7.3

   The movie starts out with film clips of the early 50's to set the tone. The clips included Senator Joe McCarthy's wedding, bombing raids on Korea and a family entering a backyard air raid shelter.

   Woody Allen plays Howard Prince, a cashier who is a bookie on the side. He is a loser who borrows from his brother and has trouble paying off winners.

   He isn't a bad guy though and when a friend, who is blacklisted, comes and asks him to act as a "front" for his scripts, Howard readily agrees. He soon picks up a couple of other "clients" on whom he makes a 10% commission. As usual, money corrupts, and Howard turns into a jerk.

   The movie has some funny moments. Howard talks to a girlfriend who thinks he is a great writer.

What do you think of sports?
I like swimming.
Swimming isn't a sport. Swimming is what you do so you won't drown.

This kind of comic relief serves as an effective backdrop to the tragedies that were happening to the blacklisted writers and the people around them.

   One thing that I found very interesting in The Front is that the writers admit that they are Communists. This is much different than the movies in the 1950's and 1960's where the accused had been Communist sympathizers in the past. This movie, made in the 1970's, is saying it wasn't right to persecute the writers even if they were Communists.

   The movie leads to some HUAC type fellows giving Howard a hard time. They say things like "To be a spy on the side of freedom is an honor" and implies that true patriots are willing to spy on their friends. The very important issue of what is best for the country vs. individual freedom is explored very well by this movie.

   The ending of the movie shows that even an amoral character like Howard can see through the evils being perpetrated by the HUAC like groups. One of the most effective parts is the end credits where many of the actors, including Zero Mostel, are listed as being blacklisted in the early 1950's.