Review by Booklist Review
She wouldn't name names then, but she does now. Blacklisted along with her husband, Ben, during McCarthy's Hollywood witch hunts, Barzman has written an explicit memoir of their HUAC-inposed European exile that reads like a "who's who" of the entertainment community during its most controversial and creatively challenging decades. Thwarted by her specific situation and by society in general, Barzman would find inconsistent success in her attempts to forge an independent career, serving instead as her husband's muse, collaborator, and, frequently, adversary. As such, she was destined to sit at both the periphery and center of a core of defiant artists who defined a cultural revolution. From this unique and unorthodox vantage point, Barzman writes a tantalizing exposeof political, philosophical, and personal upheaval as only an insider can. Whether recounting titillating behind-the-scenes exploits of entertainment icons or reflecting on the daunting struggles of expatriate Americans whose movements and motives were constantly scrutinized, Barzman brings a brooding, yet legitimate, perspective to a complex and confusing era in American history. --Carol Haggas
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Barzman arrived in Hollywood from Radcliffe in 1941, a good-looking 21-year-old who wanted to be a writer or director, not an actress. She met Ben Barzman at a party for Hollywood "progressives"; before long, they were in the Communist Party together. Ben stayed focused on his career of script writing. Norma, especially after they married, made do with anything, mainly writing for Hearst's Examiner. By 1944, they knew they were both under surveillance; by 1949, they realized they had to leave the country or face HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) and jail for refusing to inform. They settled in Paris, their base for nearly 20 years. Even though Ben subscribed to leftist ideals about equality, his wife's career made him uncomfortable, so from 1955 on, Norma made babies, had affairs and researched movie ideas for Ben. From her stories-dealing with the likes of Picasso, Sophia Loren, Peter Sellers, Anthony Quinn and Ingrid Bergman-it seems the life of a Cold War expatriate was more attractive than anything America was offering. Still, blacklisted men like Ben and his sometime collaborator Joseph Losey "hugged their bitterness," while the women just adapted. Visiting the Soviet Union and watching the Communist betrayal of May 1968 in France were profoundly disillusioning, but Norma found new hope stateside in the '70s amid women's liberation and the push to restore the reputations of the blacklisted Hollywood artists. Her unique, absorbing and richly detailed memoir is a contribution to both, restoring women to the history of this period and documenting the bravery with which some people stood by their ideals. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Screenwriter and novelist Barzman here offers her memoirs of the Hollywood blacklist era, with details of her up-and-down career and marriage to acclaimed screenwriter Ben Barzman. As recounted in an early chapter titled "Girl Gets Job," William Randolph Hearst gave her a byline in the Los Angeles Herald, and she eventually gained entrance into his castle estate in San Simeon, CA, and met Marion Davies. Of the newspaper world, she says, "To be the only female in that smoky, jokey sea of macho required the courage of Richard Lion-Heart, the diplomacy of Anthony Eden, the poise of Sarah Bernhardt, and a strong stomach." Pregnancy cut her career short, and the blacklist forced the Barzmans to uproot themselves and live in Europe throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Over the years, their milieu included Picasso, Sophia Loren, Charleton Heston, and John Wayne. In 1999, Barzman organized a protest against honorary Oscar recipient Elia Kazan for his involvement with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Presenting herself primarily as a victim of circumstance, the author was more an observer than a player, and, as a result, her reminiscences are not very powerful. Still, her book will interest Hollywood blacklist buffs. (Photographs and index not seen.)-Barbara Kundanis, Batavia P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Politics, paranoia, and preening stars: a sometimes funny, sometimes rueful memoir of filmmakers in exile during the McCarthy inquisition. Barzman, a columnist for the late Los Angeles Herald Examiner and screenwriter, opens her account on a sweet note of revenge: her successful organization of a protest at the 1999 Oscar ceremonies against lifetime-achievement honoree Elia Kazan, who had infamously named names before the House Un-American Activities Committee half a century earlier. Only a third of the audience applauded Kazan, she reports (by way of eyewitness and pal Sophia Loren); Charlton Heston and his clique clapped, though the television cameras made it seem as if the protestors were fewer in number. Barzman had reason to be annoyed at Kazan; it was through his testimony and that of a few other turncoats that her husband, the celebrated screenwriter and playwright (and onetime Communist) Ben Barzman, earned a spot on the blacklist and had to remove himself and his family to Europe in order to find work. Not that exile was all bad: Barzman's crowd included the likes of Loren and Pablo Picasso (and even Heston, whose vehicle El Cid Barzman scripted, without credit). Still, it had its cost: Ben Barzman grew increasingly depressed at being away from the Hollywood scene, and Norma took out her frustrations in a marriage-damaging affair or two. Honest and self-critical, Barzman has a nicely sharp tongue, and she gets in wounding digs at a number of targets, not least of them John Wayne ("a feudal lord surrounded by a permanent retinue of a dozen technicians, makeup, wardrobe, and lighting pals who went wherever he went") and Richard Nixon--whom, she suggests, wasn't above taking a payoff to keep a suspected pinko off the Hollywood dishonor roll. Dishy, and substantial, contribution to film history, and to studies of the unfortunate McCarthy era. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.