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Dmytryk, Edward (1908-1999)

Director, Editor, Producer

Main image of Dmytryk, Edward (1908-1999)

Edward Dmytryk was born in British Columbia, Canada on 4 September 1908 and he grew up in California. At fourteen, he began work at Paramount studios, became an editor in 1930 and directed his first film The Hawk in 1935. In 1942 he joined RKO Radio, where notable successes included Farewell My Lovely (US, 1944). Four of his films were made in England, the first being So Well Remembered in 1946.

Dmytryk's career has been overshadowed by his dealings with the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which summoned him in September 1947 to answer questions about communist infiltration in Hollywood. Pleading the Fifth Amendment, he was promptly fired by RKO. Pending appeals, he spent three years in England, where he made Obsession and Give Us This Day (both 1949). On his return to the USA in 1951, he was jailed for six months, but in order to salvage his career, he rescinded his original testimony to the second HUAC hearing. Though his career revived through a four picture deal with Stanley Kramer and films like The Young Lions (US, 1958), Dmytryk was never completely forgiven by his former left wing friends for his volte face.

So Well Remembered starred John Mills as a mill town mayor who recalls how he abandoned a Parliamentary seat in favour of devoting himself to improving social conditions. Dmytryk found the experience exasperating due to what he felt was the intransigence of industry unions, but the film itself has a compassion which is nicely in tune with post-war Britain. Obsession, a psychological thriller made in 1949, is a far darker subject. It centres on the painstaking efforts by a psychiatrist, played by Robert Newton, to murder his wife's lover by imprisoning him in a basement, which he visits daily to fill an acid bath, where in which he plans to dispose of the body. Dmytryk achieves an anxious intensity in the dynamics between Newton and his hapless prisoner in this highly original, very 'English' thriller.

Give Us This Day was Dmytryk's favourite film, and is a curious subject for a British studio. Set in Brooklyn during the Depression, it is a grim tale of poverty and tragedy which befalls an Italian immigrant. Blacklisted in the USA because of the HUAC debacle and rarely shown except for a yearly screening on Italian television, it received tremendous reviews for its realist style and deeply moving story. The End of the Affair (1954) was Dmytryk's final British film. His re-creation of wartime London is finely done, and Deborah Kerr's performance as the tragic Sarah is passionate and sincere.

From 1976 until the late 90s, Edward Dmytryk taught film at the University of Texas at Austin and at the University of Southern California. He also wrote a number of books on film-making.

Dmytryk, Edward, It's a Hell of a Life But Not a Bad Living (1978, New York, Times Books)
Friedman Lester D, 'A Very Narrow Path: The Politics of Edward Dmytryk', Film/Literature Quarterly, Vol. 12 (4), 1984, pp. 214-24
Neilsen, Ray, 'Edward Dmytryk and Crossfire', Classic Images, Nov. 1982, pp. 30-1
'The Films of Edward Dmytryk', Films Illustrated, Dec. 1971, pp. 14-18

Margaret Butler, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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