Much that characterized Hollywood in the 1950s can be described as paradoxical and ambiguous due to anti-communist hysteria and the blacklist. How accurate is this statement in relation to two films of the 1950s?.
A lot has been made of the suggested subtexts present in High Noon and On the Waterfront, that they reflect the experiences of Carl Foreman (the writer of High Noon) and Elia Kazan with the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Foreman has openly assented to this and Kazan has admitted that there are parallels. However, while this can give us insight of the personal opinions of these men, I do not think that the significance of these subtexts can be played down enough. My reasons are that they are in no way "attached- to the films. That is, not evident without knowledge other than that of the films themselves; that they add nothing to the films, as a work of art and that the assumption of the subtexts is very ambiguous. By this, that point, I mean that we cannot give authorial intention any more power over our understanding of the film than that of any other interpretation. We would be just as well to say that High Noon is really about the Nazi persecution of the Jews, or even about the Allied attack of the Nazis, because as I have said, this kind of meaning is not produced by the film but is superimposed over it. The films are interchangeable in this aspect because they are both about people doing what they believe is right-it just happens that the idea of what is right differed between Foreman and Kazan. A better way of commenting on the socio-political climate of the fifties in Hollywood, as reflected in these films, is to take meaning from the films rather than receive a meaning from someone who claims authority over them and depreciates the role of the viewer. We must look at what the films really say about America rather than what someone tells us they are meant to say because these can be quite different things.