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"Salt of The Earth"
1954 Movie

striking zinc miners from the 1954 film "Salt of The Earth"           

synopsis & history

the movie



2014 Anniversary


"Salt of The Earth" is a 1954 pro-labor movie classic
- the only officially-blacklisted film in American history.

NOTE: Blacklisted members of the cast & crew below are indicated with '[B]'


           A fictional, neo-realist-style tale about oppressed Hispanic-American zinc miners in New Mexico. The men go on strike over demands for the same wages and health benefits and safety rules as Anglo workers; when the picket lines are halted due to the federal Taft-Hartley law, the women persuade the miners to allow the women to picket the mine, which empowers the women to press for equal rights at home.

History of The Film
           Principals Herbert Biberman, Michael Wilson & Paul Jarrico were already on the Hollywood Blacklist (and thus unemployed). Jarrico discovered the strike's existence while on vacation in New Mexico. He enrolled the others in developing the project, and obtained backing from theater owner Simon Lazarus and others, including the real-life International Union of Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers. Production was an uphill battle, with I.A.T.S.E. refusing any help, an airplane hovering over the film location (making noise), even gunshots fired at the movie crew. The narrator & actress Rosaura Revueltas was a Mexican citizen; she was arrested & deported to Mexico before completing her role; although she had a successful career in Europe, she never again worked in the U.S.
           The pro-labor stance and the alleged 'commie' ties of many of the filmmakers caused the film to be the only officially-blacklisted movie in American history. Nine of the editing crew were F.B.I. informants. Theaters refused to book the film, the projectionists union refused to run it, and the film was shown in only twelve movie theaters in the U.S.A.
           "Salt of The Earth" was finally re-released in 1965, reaching audiences on the art-house circuit, and at labor union halls, film schools, and women's centers. The copyright expired in 1982, placing the film into public domain. Geneon (Pioneer) released a digitally-restored DVD in 1999; Harbor released a VHS edition and a multimedia booklet & CD-ROM (still available in late 2010). The film was adapted as a two-act opera that premiered in Madison, Wisconsin in August 2000. The same year saw production of a film-about-the-film, "One of The Hollywood Ten", which still has not been shown in the United States.

NOTE: "Salt of The Earth" was featured at the 2010 Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. The film was also shown in November 2010 at the 1905 Fountain Theatre in Mesilla, New Mexico to a packed house. Though obviously low budget, with technical aspects quite rough, the story and cinematography and editing produce a tremendously moving experience.

"Salt  of  The  Earth"
[I.P.C. March 1954; restored 2003]

Directed by Herbert J. Biberman [B]; script by Michael Wilson [B]; produced by Paul Jarrico [B];
starring Will Geer [B]; with narrator & actress Rosaura Revueltas, miner-actor Juan Chacón,
David Wolfe, Mervin Williams, David Sarvis, Ernesto Velázquez & Henrietta Williams;
music by Sol Kaplan [B]; listed on National Film Registry in 1992

full credits at Internet Movie Database
film entry at Wikipedia
can't view movie online at The Internet Archive due to bogus ISSUES COMPLAINT!
view movie [1:32:16] online at The Internet Archive
much clearer print [1:33:53] online at YouTube

Salt of the Earth promo poster        Salt of the Earth & Hollywood Ten        Salt of the Earth video

Alpha Video b&w DVD [5/2004] for $7.98
A.F.A. Ent. widescreen b&w DVD [2/2009] for $14.95

Pioneer b&w DVD [3/99] out of prodn/used
includes 15-minute documentary "The Hollywood Ten": credits at IMDb

"Salt of The Earth" multimedia booklet & CD-ROM
Harbor Electronic CD-ROM [12/2000] for $29.97

"Salt of The Earth" {only} on VHS
Harbor Electronic Publng b&w VHS [1/2000] for $19.95
M.P.I. b&w VHS [7/87] for $18.50

·            ·

Salt of The Earth Screenplay & Commentary  "Salt of The Earth: Screenplay & Commentary" [1977]
Script by Michael Wilson [B]; commentary by Deborah
Silverton Rosenfelt

Feminist Press at CUNY 9x6 pb [9/77] for $14.95

"One  of  The  Hollywood  Ten"
aka "Punto de Mira (Front View)"
[Spain Nov 2001]
One of the Hollywood Ten / Punto de Mira 2001 movie  Filmed in Spain, with British-Spanish funding; Hollywood writer-director Herbert Biberman refused to cooperate with the H.U.A.C. witchhunt, and was one of the 'Hollywood Ten' sent to prison for contempt of Congress; after Biberman served 5 months, he and several fellow blacklistees decided to make a film dramatizing the recent zinc miners strike in New Mexico, which became "Salt of The Earth" [1954], the only blacklisted movie in U.S. history. Co-produced, written & directed by Karl Francis; starring Jeff Goldblum, Greta Scacchi, Ángela Molina, Christopher Fulford, Antonio Valero, John Sessions, Geraint Wyn Davies, Sean Chapman {as Edward Dmytryk}, Larry Lamb & Peter Bowles
DVD/Blu-ray not available (maybe from Domain Entertainment in 2011?)
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia

Related  Non-Fiction

Salt of the Earth / Story of a Film  "Salt of The Earth: The Story of A Film" [1987]
by Herbert Biberman [B]

Harbor Electronic 9x6 pb [50th Anniv Edition 5/2003] for $21.21
New York Zoetrope hardcover [original 9/87] out of print/used
Suppression of Salt of the Earth  "The Suppression of Salt of The Earth: How Hollywood, Big Labor
& Politicians Blacklisted A Movie In Cold War America" [1999]
by James J. Lorence

Univ NM Press 9x6 pb [12/99] for $23.95
Univ NM Press 9¼x6½ hardcover [9/99] out of print/used


[blacklistee] producer Paul Jarrico [1915-97]: IMDb listingWikipedia

[blacklistee] director Herbert J. Biberman [1900-71]: IMDb listingWikipedia

[blacklistee] writer Michael Wilson [1914-78]: IMDb listingWikipedia

[blacklistee] actor Will Geer [1902-78]: IMDb listingWikipedia

actress Rosaura Revueltas [1910=96]: IMDb listing [1950-77]Wikipedia

union president Juan Chacón [??-??]: IMDb listing • no entry at Wikipedia

[blacklistee] composer Sol Kaplan [1919-90]: IMDb listingWikipedia

2014 Sixtieth Anniversary
Albuquerque Journal
Monday 10 March 2014
Op-Ed Section [page A-7]
{signup required}

Salt of the Earth’ was one of a kind
      by John J. Hunt, Rio Rancho [NM] resident

       We all know that Hollywood has made a number of films in New Mexico. But one film that gained the kind of notoriety that chambers of commerce don’t appreciate, was “Salt of the Earth”, an independent film produced by Paul Jarrico and directed by Herbert Biberman, released on March 14, 1954 – 60 years ago this week.
       The film was shot in Bayard and Silver City and the script depicts an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine in Grant County in 1950. Many miners were recruited to play themselves in the film.
       Biberman was one of the “Hollywood 10,” along with Dalton Trumbo and John Howard Lawson, and other filmmakers who had been accused of being “pinkos” and included on a “blacklist” – thus denied work in the industry.
       The 94-minute monochrome film is simple yet unrelenting in pursuit of the issues. A group of miners in Zinc Town, N.M. – both Anglos and Hispanos – go on strike for improved safety conditions – something miners still fight for – and for an end to the prejudice against Mexican American workers who demand wage parity with Anglos.
       The company, with the aid of the local police and the courts, tries to break the strike.
       When issued an injunction to end the strike, it looks like they’re finished; but ignoring their husband’s wishes, the wives and children take up the strike and the men are forced to change places and perform domestic duties. Eventually the company gives in, proposing higher wages and benefits.
       The men, however, are forced to confront not only their position with the bosses, but to re-evaluate their family relationships.
       The message of women’s liberation comes across loud and clear, especially because of the strong portrayal of the leading man’s wife, by the great Mexican actor, Rosaura Revueltas. (Our government deported her to Mexico before the film was finished.) The strike is won because of solidarity, which was the old communist mantra; the women’s lib message was also a tenet of radical thinking going back 50 years, it was just ahead of 1960s popular culture.
       I don’t know what affect this film had on unions or mining culture, or on New Mexico, and who knows how many people saw it, seeing as the government and the industry did everything they could to derail its distribution.
       But what’s still impressive after all these years, is that “Salt of the Earth” is a film about workers. A review on the Canadian Broadcasting System sums up with few exceptions American cinema: “‘Salt of the Earth’ is an American movie about workers, which fact alone makes it unusual. The idea that workers are people and have conflicts and problems worthy of attention, has never impressed the American film industry . . .”
       Forget about Arnold and the Lone Ranger and his sidekick. At a time when 50 million Americans live in poverty, at a time when working families are suffering, unions are declining and workers’ wages are stagnant, one wonders where the Bibermans and Trumbos of today are hiding out.

L i n k s
full credits at Internet Movie Database
view online at The Internet Archive
article from Feb 2002 "American History Magazine" {online at HistoryNet}

view movie online at The Internet Archive { ISSUES COMPLAINT! }
view movie [1:32:16] online at The Internet Archive

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