Body and Soul


Q&A after Screening with
John Sbardellati

Associate Professor of History
University of Warterloo

Sponsored by the Department of History, American Studies, Comparative Literature, Political Science, Leadership Studies, and the Stanley Kaplan Program


Upon its 1947 release, New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther proclaimed that Body and Soul “rolls up a round-by-round triumph on points until it comes through with a climactic knockout that hits the all-time high in throat-catching fight films.” But this classic, prizefighting film noir remains significant not just as entertainment, but as an emblem of Hollywood Left filmmaking at the dawn of the Red Scare. With its cast and crew full of future blacklistees, including director Robert Rossen, screenwriter Abraham Polonsky, and star John Garfield, the film expressed more than just the disillusionment with the American dream so typical of postwar noir films. As film scholar Thom Andersen remarks, though Body and Soul is “set on the margins of American society” it is among the few Hollywood films of its era to “implicate the entire system of capitalism in their criticisms.” Such a critique was not missed by Hollywood’s anti-Communists, nor by the FBI which included Body and Soul in its list of subversive films that justified both its broad-scale investigation of the motion picture industry and the subsequent purge of the Hollywood Reds by the House Un-American Activities Committee. This film screening will be introduced by John Sbardellati, Associate Professor of History at the University of Waterloo, and author of J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies: The FBI and the Origins of Hollywood’s Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2012).v