Edward Dmytryk

Edward Dmytryk
Los Angeles Times

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Edward Dmytryk
Film: North side of the 6200 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Director
Born Sept. 4, 1908 in Grand Forks, British Columbia, Canada
Died July 1, 1999 in Encino, Calif.

Edward Dmytryk made his mark in the 1940s with noirish thrillers such as "Murder, My Sweet" but saw his work eclipsed by his decision to name names before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

When he died in 1999, Dmytryk was one of the last surviving members of the so-called Hollywood 10 and the only one of their number to break ranks and testify about Communist influence in the film industry. After his testimony in 1951, while other filmmakers who had refused to testify suffered under the blacklist, Dmytryk made some of the top movies of the 1950s and worked with such stars as Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Humphrey Bogart. But some critics said his work had become soulless and bloated—as if, they said, he'd sold out his talent when he betrayed his friends.

His career was in high gear in 1947 when the Communist scare jolted Hollywood. Highly regarded for sinewy thrillers in which he made striking and innovative use of shadows and light, he had just released the atmospheric "Crossfire," the first serious movie treatment of anti-Semitism. He'd made the well-regarded "Cornered" in 1945 and before that "Murder, My Sweet," one of the seminal films noir, which revived the career of crooner Dick Powell, who played tough-guy private eye Philip Marlow.

Nineteen filmmakers were subpoenaed by HUAC to testify in 1947. The Hollywood 10 made a pact to refuse to testify on constitutional grounds of freedom of speech. Their careers shattered, they sought work elsewhere or under pseudonyms. Dmytryk moved to England, where he made films. But when his visa expired in 1951 he returned to the United States and was arrested. After serving six months in prison, he agreed to testify.

He always contended that he had grown disenchanted with the Communist Party well before then—he later said he left the party in 1945—and hence he was suffering for a cause he no longer believed in. His efforts to defend his testimony didn't keep him from becoming—like Elia Kazan, another director who testified—a pariah among Hollywood liberals.

After he testified, Dmytryk's career slowly took off again. First he did small-budget movies for Stanley Kramer, but he went on to make big-budget, less personal movies that were unlike anything he'd made before.

Despite the criticisms directed at his later work, the second half of his career boasts some praiseworthy achievements. Bogart delivered an intense performance in "The Caine Mutiny" as a ship's disintegrating commander. And "Mirage," despite the flatness of the compositions, plays tricks with narrative and shows off the influence of Dmytryk's early experience as an editor. It also featured one of Walter Matthau's first big roles.

After "Bluebeard" in 1972, Dmytryk found it impossible to get backing to make more movies. He turned to a life of teaching and writing, but even then he continued to harbor hopes of one day putting together the financing to make more films.

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Points of interest

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1947 Best Director Crossfire Nomination

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