Salt of the Earth (1954)

Salt of the Earth Or, what you get when a bunch of blacklisted Hollywood communists (director Herbert Biberman was one of the original Hollywood Ten) decide they may as well live up to their subversive reputations away from the major studios; the subject matter (a miners’ strike in New Mexico) would likely never have been touched by a major Hollywood studio, and if it had been it certainly wouldn’t have been done in this manner. Production seems to have been difficult (harrassed by the FBI, lead actress deported, denounced by industry commentators, film had to be stored and edited in secret), and reception was chilly at best (basically nowhere in the US would show it for over a decade). The finished product has some rough edges, particularly in the acting department (almost all the performers were non-actors), and it’s neither subtle nor nuanced, but it’s pretty interesting for all that; more than an attack on bad labour practices, the film is equally an attack on racism and sexism. Maybe its conviction that Mexican workers should have the same rights as white ones and, worse, that women should have the same rights as men were its most truly radical ideas for the period…

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