Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth

I just saw “Salt of the Earth”. Barely known in this country, it was made during the height of McCarthyism by blacklisted Hollywood writers and producers. Were it to be made today, it would be considered a radical film, and I’m awed that those involved had the courage to make it in 1954. And the vision to speak of feminism and racism in a moving and realistic way.

The following excerpts are from the Internet Movie Database

“Based on an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico, the film deals with the prejudice against the Mexican-American workers, who struck to attain wage parity with Anglo workers in other mines and to be treated with dignity by the bosses. The film is an early treatment of feminism, because the wives of the miners play a pivotal role in the strike, against their husbands wishes. In the end, the greatest victory for the workers and their families is the realization that prejudice and poor treatment are conditions that are not always imposed by outside forces. This film was written, directed and produced by members of the original “Hollywood Ten,” who were blacklisted for refusing to answer Congressional inquiries on First Amendment grounds.”

A user comment
“This is a very political movie (unlike every other movie ever made, I suppose!). It puts even leftist movies to shame. But above all it is gorgeous cinematography, one of the most visually beautiful films I have ever seen, a Mexican Mural come to life. It takes dust and grime and makes something ravishing out of it. On a purely esthetic level it’s a sight to behold, far more effective than “The Grapes of Wrath”, from which it obviously drew inspiration. Regarding content, it is also great, way ahead of its time, giving dignity to women and humanity to every human, including non-professionals, including children, who are all treated in an admirably egalitarian manner in the credits and the roles. Watching this movie you realize how anti-egalitarian most other movies are.”

The female lead, Rosaura Revueltas, was blacklisted because she appeared in the movie.

A star in her native Mexico, Revueltas was branded a Communist and deported from the U.S. after making her one U.S. film, “Salt of the Earth” (1954), a Mexican-American film about striking miners. She continued her acting career in Mexico, and was also a dancer and author. In her later years she was a dance teacher and yoga instructor.

Need I add there was not a peep about Communism in the movie?

The role of the redneck sheriff was played by Will Geer, hard core activist and founder of Pacifica Radio. You may also know him as Grandpa on the Waltons.

Afterwards during the audience comments, a visitor from Denmark remarked he was startled that Americans appeared to not know about the film – as he had seen it many times in Denmark. But then, not only were many of those in the movie blacklisted, the movie itself was blacklisted in America…

Find a copy to rent somewhere. This is worth hunting for.