Life after the list
By Michael Roberts
"The productiveness of the director-actor relationship depends on the degree to which the actor trusts the director. Unless the actor feels he can safely risk everything he has to give without making himself ridiculous he won't try. He'll play safe until he knows the director will not let him make a fool of himself." ~ Joseph Losey
More than any other major American figure in film it's Joseph Losey who was most affected by the disgraceful blacklist that existed in Hollywood in the early 1950's. Losey was building a steady career with interesting films like The Big Night and The Prowler before he was named by a friendly witness and subpoenaed to testify before HUAC, Losey relocated to England instead and rebuilt his career there. Losey started with The Sleeping Tiger, a noir-ish film he had to credit under a pseudonym due to concerns from Alexis Smith about being associated with him, and featuring key future collaborator Dirk Bogarde, who would star in several of Losey's 1960's masterpieces.
After rising to a position where he could reclaim his name, the director's strongest era was a string of intense films in the 1960's, often made with iconoclastic British playwright Harold Pinter. The Servant, Accident and The Go-Between are all superb examples of literate and intelligent filmmaking and represent the pinnacle of Losey's achievements. His American, outsider eye was able to reveal things in the British psyche in the same way Billy Wilder's outsider status enabled him to reveal another America to itself. The Britain Losey saw was a challenging and frustrating one, and given his leftist political leanings, not surprisingly class is at the centre of many of his best works, in particular the trenchant and eviscerating study of war in the superb King and Country in 1964. Losey became something of an art-house darling in the latter part of his career and one wonders how he would have fared had he been able to remain in America with his aesthetic such as it was? He always retained the wish to return to America to make films, sadly it never happened.
For fans only: