Guilty By Suspicion (1991)

PG-13 | 105 mins | Drama | 15 March 1991

Director:

Irwin Winkler

Writer:

Irwin Winkler

Producer:

Arnon Milchan

Cinematographer:

Michael Ballhaus

Editor:

Priscilla Nedd

Production Designer:

Leslie Dilley

Production Company:

Fear No Evil Productions
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following prologue: “In 1947 the House Committee on Un-American Activities began an investigation into Communism in Hollywood. Ten men who refused to ‘cooperate’ with the committee were tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison terms after the Supreme Court refused to hear their case. Thereafter, no one called to testify, either in public or in secret, could work unless he satisfied the committee by naming names of others thought to be Communist.”
       The film ends with the following epilogue: “Thousands of lives were shattered and hundreds of careers destroyed by what came to be known as the Hollywood blacklist. People like David and Ruth Merrill faced terms in prison, suffered the loss of friends and possessions, and were denied the right to earn a living. They were forced to live this way for almost 20 years. It was not until 1970 that these men and women were vindicated for standing up—at the greatest personal cost—for their beliefs.”
       The film went into production under its working title, Fear No Evil, but, according to an 18 Apr 1990 DV news item, that title was registered by the Walt Disney Company and could not be cleared. Subsequently, the film was renamed Dark Shadow. However, contemporary sources continued to refer to the picture by the earlier title. On 23 Jul 1990, HR indicated that Fear No Evil had been dropped in favor of Guilt By Association. Six months later, a 28 Jan 1991 Var news item clarified that the picture’s release title would be Guilty By Suspicion, as chosen from the Warner ... More Less

The film begins with the following prologue: “In 1947 the House Committee on Un-American Activities began an investigation into Communism in Hollywood. Ten men who refused to ‘cooperate’ with the committee were tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison terms after the Supreme Court refused to hear their case. Thereafter, no one called to testify, either in public or in secret, could work unless he satisfied the committee by naming names of others thought to be Communist.”
       The film ends with the following epilogue: “Thousands of lives were shattered and hundreds of careers destroyed by what came to be known as the Hollywood blacklist. People like David and Ruth Merrill faced terms in prison, suffered the loss of friends and possessions, and were denied the right to earn a living. They were forced to live this way for almost 20 years. It was not until 1970 that these men and women were vindicated for standing up—at the greatest personal cost—for their beliefs.”
       The film went into production under its working title, Fear No Evil, but, according to an 18 Apr 1990 DV news item, that title was registered by the Walt Disney Company and could not be cleared. Subsequently, the film was renamed Dark Shadow. However, contemporary sources continued to refer to the picture by the earlier title. On 23 Jul 1990, HR indicated that Fear No Evil had been dropped in favor of Guilt By Association. Six months later, a 28 Jan 1991 Var news item clarified that the picture’s release title would be Guilty By Suspicion, as chosen from the Warner Bros. catalog of “previously announced but never used” titles.
       Various contemporary sources, including the 10 Mar 1991 LAT and the 21 Mar 1991 Chicago Reader, recounted the project’s origins. Sometime in 1985, producer Irwin Winkler met with directors Bertrand Tavernier and John Berry to discuss making a film about a blacklisted Hollywood director. Berry, an American director who had moved to France when he was blacklisted in the early 1950s, became the inspiration for the character of “David Merrill.” Intending to act as producer, Winkler asked Abraham Polonsky, who had also been blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1950s, to write a script, with Tavernier slated to direct. However, as the screenplay developed, Tavernier bowed out of the project, and on 13 Oct 1989, LAHExam announced that Winkler would direct Fear No Evil for Warner Bros. According to LAT, Winkler was not entirely satisfied with Polonsky’s script and rewrote it, apparently intending to share screenwriting credit. When Polonsky learned of the changes, he was “furious” and asked not to be credited as writer. Winkler thus assumed sole credit for the screenplay. The picture marked his debut as a director.
       First to be cast was Robert DeNiro, whose participation was announced by LAHExam in fall 1989. Four months later, a 10 Feb 1990 Screen International news item reported that Annette Bening would co-star, and that actors John Lithgow and Sissy Spacek were “discussing major roles” with filmmakers. However, they are not listed among the cast in subsequent news briefs or production charts. An 18 Apr 1990 DV news brief reported that formerly blacklisted actor Jack Gilford had joined the cast. However, Gilford died of stomach cancer prior to the completion of production. The 16 May 1990 Var indicated that music industry executive Frank DiLeo had been cast in Winkler’s film, but he is not listed in credits.
       Principal photography began on 30 Mar 1990 at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, filmmakers used the following locations to create their 1950s Hollywood: the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard; the interior of the Windsor Restaurant (which doubled for the celebrated Hollywood Brown Derby); Greystone Mansion; the Henry Fonda Theatre; the St. James Club on the Sunset Strip; Los Angeles City Hall; and the Pasadena Elks Club. “David Merrill’s” house, fictitiously located on Mulholland Drive, had once been Frank Sinatra’s “bachelor pad.” DV noted that the Paul Kohner Agency building served as the setting for a scene between “David Merrill” and his agent “Bert Alan.” Because so much of the film involves individuals who work at Twentieth Century-Fox, filmmakers asked to shoot in the Fox commissary and on the back lot, but according to LAT, Fox lawyers refused the request. Irwin Winkler appealed to Fox’s chief executive officer, Barry Diller, who read the script and agreed to let the director shoot the necessary scenes. Warner Bros. Ranch (the former Columbia Pictures ranch), located in Burbank, CA, served as the setting for the in-production “Western” that “David Merrill” is brought in to direct. Principal photography on the $13 million picture concluded on 8 Jun 1990 in Los Angeles. The following day, a second-unit car crash was filmed in San Pedro, CA, as noted by an 11 Jun 1990 DV article.
       A 23 Jul 1990 HR news brief indicated that composer Bill Conti had “just been signed” to score the picture. However, James Newton Howard is credited with composing the film's music.
       Although the three lead characters—“David Merrill,” “Ruth Merrill,” and “Bunny Baxter”—are composites of people who were blacklisted, or affected by blacklisting, in 1950s Hollywood, a 21 Mar 1991 Chicago Reader article claimed that other characters in the movie are direct references to specific individuals, even though their names are not used. “Martin Scorsese plays a character clearly meant to suggest [director] Joseph Losey.” Additionally, “a Broadway stage director named Abe Barron is clearly based on Abe Burrows; the character of Dorothy Nolan, played by Patricia Wettig, is derived from Dorothy Comingore, [who played “Susan Alexander” in Citizen Kane (1941, see entry)]; [and] Nolan’s husband Larry, played by Chris Cooper, [is a composite] of Comingore’s husband, [screenwriter] Richard Collins, and actor Larry Parks.” LAT noted that Congressional investigator Ray Karlin “is based on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s counsel, Roy Cohn.”
       Guilty By Suspicion premiered 12 Mar 1991 at the Bruin Theatre in Westwood, three days prior to its theatrical release. Although reviewers generally admired the film for its subject matter, some faulted the picture’s lumbering narrative and “workmanlike” execution. The 15 Mar 1991 LAT review summarized what other critics noted: “In the ethics department, it’s commendable. In the drama department, it’s bland.”
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: “Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation name and logo are registered trademarks and service marks of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and are protected under the laws of the United States and other countries and are used with permission; Daily Variety and Variety used by permission of Variety, Inc.; The New York Times, copyright © 1989 by the New York Times Company, reprinted by permission; film footage from ‘Gentleman Prefer Blondes’ courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; clip from ‘The Boy with Green Hair’ provided by Turner Entertainment Co.; Texaco Star Theater footage courtesy of the National Broadcasting Company, Inc.; NBC News footage provided by NBC News Video Archives, a division of National Broadcasting Company, Inc.; completion guaranty provided by The Completion Bond Company, Inc.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Chicago Reader
21 Mar 1991.
---
Daily Variety
11 Apr 1990.
---
Daily Variety
18 Apr 1990.
---
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1990
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Mar 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 1991
p. 9, 28.
LAHExam
13 Oct 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Mar 1991
Calendar, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
15 Mar 1991
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
16 Apr 1991
Section F, p. 1, 6.
New York
1 Apr 1991
pp. 58-59.
New York Times
10 Mar 1991.
---
New York Times
15 Mar 1991
Section C, p. 12.
Screen International
13 Jan 1990.
---
Screen International
10 Feb 1990.
---
Variety
9 May 1990.
---
Variety
16 May 1990.
---
Variety
28 Jan 1991.
---
Variety
11 Mar 1991
p. 62.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. presents
an Arnon Milchan production
an Irwin Winkler film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Scenic artist
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Selected men's ward by
Men's cost supv
Women's costumer
Ward asst
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus ed
Rec eng
Mus supv
SOUND
Prod mixer
Boom op
Cableman
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Supv ADR ed
Sd ed
ADR ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des by
MAKEUP
Key makeup
Asst makeup
Hairstylist
Hair asst
Mr. DeNiro's makeup/Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Prod secy
Asst prod secy
Prod accountant
Prod assoc
Asst to exec prod
Asst to Mr. DeNiro
Unit pub
Addl casting by
Extras casting
Craft service
Caterer
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Research
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timing
Col by
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Straighten Up And Fly Right," written by Nat King Cole and Irving Mills, performed by Nat King Cole, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Bye, Bye Baby" [and] "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend," written by Jule Styne and Leo Robin, performed by Marilyn Monroe
"They Can't Take That Away From Me," written by George and Ira Gershwin, performed by Billie Holiday, courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
"Straighten Up And Fly Right," written by Nat King Cole and Irving Mills, performed by Nat King Cole, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Bye, Bye Baby" [and] "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend," written by Jule Styne and Leo Robin, performed by Marilyn Monroe
"They Can't Take That Away From Me," written by George and Ira Gershwin, performed by Billie Holiday, courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
"I'm Just A Lucky So And So," written by Duke Ellington and Mack David, performed by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, courtesy of Blue Note Records (Roulette), a division of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"It Never Entered My Mind," written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, performed by George Shearing, courtesy of Concord Jazz, Inc.
"Jeepers Creepers," written by Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren, performed by Louis Armstrong
"Easy Come, Easy Go," written by John Green and Edward Heyman, performed by Dianne Reeves, courtesy of EMI
"When The Saints Go Marching In," parody lyrics by Larry Schanker, Brad Hall and Paul Barrosse.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Dark Shadow
Fear No Evil
Guilt By Association
Release Date:
15 March 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 15 March 1991
New York opening: week of 15 March 1991
Production Date:
30 March--9 June 1990
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
21 June 1991
Copyright Number:
PA526650
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
105
Length(in reels):
6
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30792
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In September 1951, in Los Angeles, California, Larry Nolan, a Hollywood screenwriter, is questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, whose investigators insist that directors, writers, and other creative artists are spreading communist ideas throughout the film and television industry. Later that day, Robert “Bunny” Baxter, a screenwriter, meets his friend, director David Merrill, at Union Station. Returning from a two-month vacation in France, David anticipates discussing potential new projects with Darryl Zanuck, the head of Twentieth Century-Fox. Bunny jokes that David is Zanuck’s “golden boy.” A short while later, they arrive at David’s house, where friends from the film industry welcome the director home by asking if he has time to hear their latest ideas. David laughs off the requests until he runs into fellow director, Joe Lesser, whose new film he is interested in seeing. On the patio, Larry Nolan argues with his wife, actress Dorothy Nolan. After he leaves, she gets drunk and causes a scene, prompting David Merrill to drive her home. There, he finds Larry burning books on the lawn. Dorothy accuses her husband of providing names to the House Committee, and David asks for an explanation, but Larry walks away. The next morning, David visits his young son, Paulie, and wife, Ruth, from whom he is separated. Ruth invites him to Paulie’s school play, but David thinks he may be busy with studio business. Later, on the Fox lot, Darryl Zanuck advises David to call an attorney. David would rather talk about preparations for his upcoming film, but Zanuck dismisses him. Bewildered, David goes to The Brown Derby, a Hollywood restaurant, to meet his agent, Bert Alan, but Bert cannot shed light ... +


In September 1951, in Los Angeles, California, Larry Nolan, a Hollywood screenwriter, is questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, whose investigators insist that directors, writers, and other creative artists are spreading communist ideas throughout the film and television industry. Later that day, Robert “Bunny” Baxter, a screenwriter, meets his friend, director David Merrill, at Union Station. Returning from a two-month vacation in France, David anticipates discussing potential new projects with Darryl Zanuck, the head of Twentieth Century-Fox. Bunny jokes that David is Zanuck’s “golden boy.” A short while later, they arrive at David’s house, where friends from the film industry welcome the director home by asking if he has time to hear their latest ideas. David laughs off the requests until he runs into fellow director, Joe Lesser, whose new film he is interested in seeing. On the patio, Larry Nolan argues with his wife, actress Dorothy Nolan. After he leaves, she gets drunk and causes a scene, prompting David Merrill to drive her home. There, he finds Larry burning books on the lawn. Dorothy accuses her husband of providing names to the House Committee, and David asks for an explanation, but Larry walks away. The next morning, David visits his young son, Paulie, and wife, Ruth, from whom he is separated. Ruth invites him to Paulie’s school play, but David thinks he may be busy with studio business. Later, on the Fox lot, Darryl Zanuck advises David to call an attorney. David would rather talk about preparations for his upcoming film, but Zanuck dismisses him. Bewildered, David goes to The Brown Derby, a Hollywood restaurant, to meet his agent, Bert Alan, but Bert cannot shed light on Zanuck’s request. Later, David meets attorney Felix Graff and learns that he has been named as a communist sympathizer. In order to placate the Fox studio head, David must clear his name. The director admits to having attended a few Communist Party meetings over a decade ago, but claims to have no serious interest in the political movement. Felix introduces Ray Karlin, a Congressional investigator, who reads a list of names and asks David to testify that the individuals are members of the Communist Party. On hearing Bunny Baxter’s name, David becomes defensive, prompting Ray to warn him to testify or else lose his ability to work in Hollywood. When the director storms out of the office, Felix follows and tries to convince him to cooperate, but David drives away, furious. Later, he goes to Paulie’s school to watch the boy perform in Peter Pan. Afterward, he congratulates his son, but Ruth senses that her husband is upset. He tells her what happened, but he plans to consult Zanuck in the morning, certain that the studio head will clear his name. The next day, David finds Bunny on a soundstage at Fox and advises his friend to prepare for a similar interrogation. Later, the director learns that Zanuck has refused to fund his upcoming film, and he is expected to repay the studio’s $50,000 advance. When he returns home, Ruth tells him they must return to the studio to help their friend, Dorothy Nolan, who refuses to leave her trailer. The distraught actress explains that her husband named her as a communist and declared her an unfit mother, causing FBI agents to take custody of her child. David confronts Larry Nolan in the commissary, but Larry refuses to be shamed by the director. Late that night, Joe Lesser invites David to the RKO studio screening room. There, he asks his friend to finish his film. Although the producer, Leonard Marks, is shocked, Joe, a self-affirmed communist, says he has no choice but to flee the country. However, when David returns to RKO a few days later, the guard turns him away. In the days that follow, David calls all of his industry contacts, but no one will talk to him. When his house is repossessed, he moves his belongings to Ruth’s house before traveling to New York City. There, he seeks work on Broadway, but no one will hire him. Although David finds a job in a camera shop, FBI agents following him unnerve the shop owner. When Ruth agrees to let her husband move in with her and Paulie, David returns to Los Angeles. One night, the Merrills meet Dorothy Nolan for dinner. The actress talks enthusiastically about re-starting her career, but suddenly becomes agitated and says she must leave. David and Ruth follow her to the parking lot and watch, aghast, as she intentionally backs her car over a cliff. After the funeral, David receives a call from his agent, who has found a western in need of a replacement director. David is ecstatic about returning to work. However, after only a day or two filming, the producer replaces him. At wit’s end, David goes to see Felix Graff. When he returns home, he finds Bunny Baxter on the front step. The screenwriter asks David’s permission to name him as a member of the Communist Party. Ruth, sobbing and insulted, demands that Bunny leave. Later, after vowing to support each other, Ruth and David and make love. The next day, David visits Darryl Zanuck at Fox. The studio head offers him a film project on condition he appear before the House Committee of Un-American Activities. In February 1952, Ruth accompanies David to Washington, D.C., where he is sworn in for questioning. However, when probed for specific names, David hesitates. Felix advises his client to give the Congressmen what they want. When David declares he will not make false accusations, Felix recuses himself. The Committee chairman threatens to charge David with contempt of Congress, before allowing Committee members to continue antagonizing the director. Unable to defend himself, David is dismissed from the hearing room. As Ruth and David leave, they watch as Bunny Baxter takes the stand. When he pleads his First Amendment rights, they smile in relief. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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