Samuel Ornitz

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The son of a prosperous New York dry-goods merchant, Samuel Ornitz could have followed the lead of his two older brothers by entering the business world. Instead, Ornitz turned his back on the capitalist system, making his first "progressive" public speech at the age of 12. Gravitating to writing, he achieved success with his 1923 novel Haunch, Paunch and Jowl, a witty memoir of Jewish immigrant life. In Hollywood from 1929, Ornitz's screen credits were generally confined to pleasant but unremarkable programmers for such studios as RKO and Republic. His chief claim to fame in Tinseltown was as an early organizer and board member of the Screen Actors Guild. He was also one of the most outspoken of Hollywood's left-wing community, alienating many of his more cautiously liberal friends by doggedly insisting that there was no anti-Semitism in Stalin's Russia (he later backed off on this assertion when confronted by the cold hard facts). Ornitz hadn't had a screen credit in two years when, in 1947, he was ordered to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Refusing to answer the HUAC's questions about his involvement in the Communist Party, Ornitz ended up as one of the famed "Hollywood Ten," in the company of such screenwriters as Ring Lardner Jr., Albert Maltz, and Dalton Trumbo. He served a year in prison for contempt of court, during which time he published his last truly important novel, Bride of the Sabbath. Upon his release, Samuel Ornitz was finished in Hollywood, but continued writing novels until his death at age 66.



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