Oral Histories

Interview of Edward Lewis

Film and television producer. Known for breaking the post-World War II Hollywood blacklist with the production of Spartacus.
Hollywood Blacklist: Edward Lewis
Hollywood Blacklist
Social Movements
Film and Television
Communist Party
Biographical Note:
Film and television producer. Known for breaking the post-World War II Hollywood blacklist with the production of Spartacus.
Ceplair, Larry
Lewis, Edward
Persons Present:
Lewis and Ceplair.
Place Conducted:
Lewis’s home in West Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Larry Ceplair, Interviewer, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., Economics, UCLA; Ph.D., History, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Coauthor, The Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community, 1930-1960.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Lewis was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and make corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
4.25 hrs.
Interviewee Retained Copyright
Series Statement:
Interviews in this series preserve the recollections of selected individuals in Los Angeles who were affected by the Hollywood blacklist during the Joseph R. McCarthy-J. Edgar Hoover era.
Father's family background—Solomon Lewis and Sons Company—Bankruptcy of company because of Grandfather's move to Israel—Attending Bucknell University—Attending University of Maryland Dental College—Working at woodworking factory—Bidding for defense contracts—Drafted into bombardier school in Denver, Colorado—Usefulness of being color blind in the Army—Meeting a man from Los Angeles in the Army—Ability to make his own way—Living in a Malibu beach house—Applying for loans to build houses--Meeting future wife, Millie—Rewriting a Balzac play—Getting a Chemical Bank loan to make the failed movie The Loveable Cheat—Writing for Walter Mirisch—Working on Lizzie with Kirk Douglas—TV work—Producing Faye Emerson Show in New York—Incidents while working on Schlitz Playhouse—Staying with Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini in Rome— Being swindled in London by a fraud Laurence Olivier— The competition between Spartacus and The Gladiators—Acting as a front for Spartacus—Getting Olivier, Laughton, and Ustinov to commit to the movie—Relationship with Bryna Productions—Dalton Trumbo and beating the blacklist—Stanley Kubrick—Problems encountered while making Spartacus—Working on Brave Cowboy—Discussing Sundown at Crazy Horse as a bad movie—Working on The List of Adrian Messenger—Making Cuckoo's Nest into a movie—Working on Broadway producing plays—Shooting Seven Days in May—How he started working with John Frankenheimer—Working with Frankenheimer on Grand Prix—Forming Frankenheimer-Lewis Productions—Obstacles while filming Grand Prix.
Discussion of negative connotations of "hustle"—Anecdote about Seven Days in May—Not getting Laurence Olivier for Seconds—Blacklisted actors—Dancing with the Princess of Monaco—Poetry of Ernest Cardenal—Interviewing with the boss of Paramount—How banks control the business—Meeting with César Chávez—Bidding for the sanatorium in Keane, California—César's wife's experience with the sanatorium as a child—Attempting to film documentary of César—Donation of tapes to Casa Libre—Setting up fundraiser at Hollywood Bowl for the Poor People's Campaign—Marlon Brando's passionate speech at fundraiser—Working on The Fixer—Filming in Budapest, Hungary—John Frankenheimer and his luxuries—Family trip to Kiev—Taking the hydrofoil to Sochi—Frankenheimer's push for a nude scene in The Gypsy Moths—LACMA exhibition featuring works from Lewis's collection—The development of Millie and Lewis's art collection—Trip to Kabul, Afghanistan to make arrangements for filming—Moving the shoot to Spain—The Bushkazi and the King of Afghanistan—Colins Higgins as a houseguest—Millie's involvement in finding the script for Harold and Maude—Making Harold and Maude into a musical—John Frankenheimer in Paris and their involvement with the top chefs—Working on Executive Action without Frankenheimer—Working with Burt Lancaster—The sensitivity of the press to the movie's portrayal of the Kennedys.
Funders from Chicago and Cleveland—Finding backers for Harold and Maude musical—Family members—Idea to do a co-production with Soviet Union—Proposing Blue Bird for the co-production—Meeting with Sovin Film heads in Moscow—Tour of Mosfilm Studios—The unexpected switch to the less experienced Lenfilm Studios—The disasters while working with Lenfilm studios—Securing funding from 20th Century Fox—Signing as completion guarantors—The many requests of Elizabeth Taylor while on set for Blue Bird—Working on The Brothers—Failure of the picture—Working on Ishi¬—Not working for a political agenda, but taste and personal interest— Writing Heads You Lose with Millie— Making The Execution of Charles Horman into the movie Missing—Getting permission from the Horman family—Choosing Konstantinos Costa-Gavras as director—Donald Stewart steals the credit at the Academy Awards—Clearance problems with Brothers—Working on The Good Life musical—Working on making The Thorn Birds into a movie with Robert Redford—Relationship with Warner Brothers President Frank Wells— Turning Thorn Birds into a TV series—Working with son-in-law on Hanna K, The River, and Crackers—Getting the rights to the Italian movie Big Deal on Madonna Street—The awards for The River—Quitting producing—Working with Millie on Witness to War—Working with Millie on adapting The Lower Depths into Spring Street—Writing the musical Ring-a-Ring-of-Roses— Writing the book Masquerade and Lewis's connection to Vietnam stories— Lewis's writing process—Turning down LSD at UCLA—Oh, Say Can You See play and Lewis's early involvement with issues such as waterboarding.
Johnny Got His Gun and a letter from Dalton Trumbo—Projects in development that were never made—Projects developed with Robert Cortes—Coproductions with Russia, Hungary, and China—Gratitude for Millie’s work.