Herbert J. Biberman – Storied Storyteller

Ah, the movies. It’s fun to watch them, whether in the cinema, at home, or in exile in Czechoslovakia because it’s illegal to show your film in your country of birth. Oh, I may have told you too much too soon! Let’s go back to the start, the start of one Herbert Biberman to be exact.

This looks good. I might just watch it in Spanish, because Jeff Goldblum in Spanish just sounds like a great idea.

This looks good. I might just watch it in Spanish, because Jeff Goldblum in Spanish just sounds like a great idea.

We fade in on Herbert J. Biberman’s life in scenic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1900. After his Penn and Yale education he decided begin Act Two of his life by entering his family’s textile business before eventually winding up in Hollywood in the late 20’s.

His star began to rise and Biberman directed a few films, including the well titled Meet Nero Wolfe, before mostly becoming known as a screenwriter of films like When Tomorrow Comes, New Orleans, and Together Again.

Unfortunately, other things eventually made Biberman more famous than his movies. When the House Unamerican Activities Committee started calling people in to question them about their ties to communist activities, Biberman was among them. He refused to answer questions at the inquiry and eventually became one of the Hollywood 10 among great names like Dalton Trumbo, Albert Maltz, Ring Lardner Jr., and Edward Dmytryk, who said “I ain’t sayin’ nuthin'” to the committee’s questioning and ended up blacklisted for various periods.



Biberman himself was blacklisted for more than a decade, as was his wife, the actress Gale Sondergaard, who unfortunately chose not to opt for the double-barreled Songergaard-Biberman upon their marriage.

But Herbert Biberman wasn’t someone you could just shut down though, in spite of exceptional douchebaggery from folks in Hollywood and the government. He decided to make another film in 1954 called Salt of the Earth without the help of the studio system, but the product faced some big challenges.

The star of the film, a Mexican actor, was arrested and deported before she could finish shooting her role. The hawkish Walter Pigeon,  head of the Actors’ Guild at the time, told the FBI of the film’s making and managed to get Biberman and the filmmakers shut out of every production house and sound studio in the country.

Somehow, the film did get finished and shown exactly once in New York City before never being seen in America again until eleven years later – well after the end of the blacklist.

On the plus side, it did become a big hit in Czechoslovakia, so that was some comfort, and Congress later named it in to the National Film Registry on the grounds that it was deemed a culturally significant film. A happy ending then.

To finish with the cheesy film language I started this article with before abandoning it halfway through, the curtains were pulled on Biberman’s life in 1971 when he died of cancer. He left behind a number of good films, a great name and a story to remember. He was even played by Jeff Goldblum in a movie about his life, which to me is about the highest honor imaginable.

About Arto

Co-founder of the Funny Names Blog, Hawaiian shirt enthusiast, and holder of a funny name himself with too many vowels for any sensible person. Currently residing in San Diego, California, scouring through obscure documents on a hunt for more funny names. www.funnynamesblog.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Herbert J. Biberman – Storied Storyteller

  1. Liz says:

    Nice, Arto! I almost would have thought amb had written this (movie post and all), save that you used the word “douchebaggery.” Love it. Agreed that Goldblum is a fine actor and even better in Spanish. Pulled lots of funny names out of this one. Hurrah! (not a woo hoo as it’s Monday, so more of a low-key “hurrah” day) Still working on that igloo martini…

  2. Dave says:

    As soon as I saw this post, I knew that it was an Arto name. I have on the backburner a funny names theory about Arto’s name choices. Some of the criteria: obscure people from the 1800’s or early-mid 1900’s; behind-the-scenes folks like inventors, theorists, authors, film directors, etc.; TONS AND TONS OF B’s in their last names!

    Arto, you almost killed me (in a good way) with the phrase “The hawkish Walter Pigeon”! Don’t kill me!! I don’t think Amb would appreciate dead Dave as much as she appreciates alive Dave!

    • amb says:

      Bahaha. I’m afraid to ask about the theory you’d come up with about my name choices …

      … and listen, alive Dave, I’ll appreciate you even more when you come visit.

      • Dave says:

        I know, alive Amb! I’m in debt up to my eyeballs right now! (Applying to med school ain’t cheap, and I really need to start picking up some new tutoring students) You’re my hero Amber. You make me smile in dark, dark times. And light happy times.

        • Dave says:

          Rob, who’s in town for another 5 hours, grabbed my computer and finished that comment for me without my knowledge. But it’s not untrue, so we’ll keep it there 🙂 Isn’t it funny how all it takes for Rob to stop being a boyish banterer and say really sweet things is for him to be logged into my account?

          • amb says:

            LOL! All it takes is an ulterior motive, you mean. Anytime Rob has the opportunity to tease me about you, he’ll take it. Sometimes I think he’s more invested in this “blogationship” than we are.

            (Thanks for leaving that in, btw. Good for my ego 😉 )

          • Dave says:

            Haha, he’s a weird dude! But more invested in this blogationship than we are?!? Au contraire! My guess is you’re using that comment to try to play me like a fiddle and stoke my competitive fires. We shall see 🙂 🙂 😉 😉

          • amb says:

            And PS:

            Dear Rob,

            How come you never visit me at my blog? Especially when I leave such pretty comments for you? Dude. You’re giving me a complex, here.

            Love, amb

        • amb says:

          I know. I’m just teasing you, dollface. It’ll happen when it’s supposed to 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s