Excerpts from biography by Lorraine LoBianco, Turner Classic Movies
Robert Rossen's career as a writer and director in Hollywood resulted in some of the strongest and most indelible performances by an actor - John Garfield in BODY AND SOUL (1947), Broderick Crawford in ALL THE KING’S MEN (1949) and Paul Newman in THE HUSTLER (1961). Rossen's life in some ways mirrored these characters. Like them he fought his way up from the bottom and like all of these characters he became corrupted by an unethical system. He was born in New York City on March 16th, 1908, into a poor Russian-Jewish family on the Lower East Side. Early in his career he was a professional boxer … but gave it up to become a writer. Like many writers and artists in New York in the 1930s, he joined the Communist Party … Rossen focused on writing and directing off-Broadway plays … THE BODY BEAUTIFUL … got him the attention of Warner Brothers and they signed him to a writer's contract … In 1947, now at Columbia Pictures, he directed his first film … JOHNNY O'CLOCK ...The House Un-American Activities Committee … was trying to root out Communists … on January 25th 1951 he was called before the HUAC … refused to name names and was blacklisted. … After two years, he cut a deal … named fifty-seven people who were members of the Communist party … the studios lifted their blacklist and Rossen was allowed to work again … His last great film was THE HUSTLER … It won two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Cinematography (black and white) … his diabetes and his alcoholism were taking a toll on his health. Rossen would direct only one other film, Lilith (1964), before his death in Hollywood, on February 18, 1966.