Herbert J. Biberman (March 4, 1900 June 30, 1971), was an American screenwriter and film director. He may be best known for having been one of the Hollywood Ten as well as directing Salt of the Earth, a 1954 film about a zinc miners' strike in Grant County, New Mexico.
He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Joseph and Eva Biberman. Biberman's pre-blacklist career included writing such films as King of Chinatown, When Tomorrow Comes, Action in Arabia, The Master Race, and New Orleans, as well as directing such films as One Way Ticket, Meet Nero Wolfe, and The Master Race. He married actress Gale Sondergaard in 1930; the marriage endured until Biberman's death. Herbert Biberman died from bone cancer in 1971 in New York City.
Brother of American artist, Edward Biberman.
The Hollywood Ten in November 1947 waiting to be fingerprinted in the U.S. Marshal's office after being cited for contempt of Congress. Front row (from left): Herbert Biberman, attorneys Martin Popper and Robert W. Kenny, Albert Maltz, Lester Cole. Middle row: Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornitz. Back row: Ring Lardner Jr., Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott.In 1947, the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities began investigating the film industry, and Biberman became one of ten Hollywood writers and directors cited for contempt of Congress when they refused to answer questions about their Communist Party USA affiliation.
Biberman and his fellow Ten went to jail over their contempt convictions, Biberman for six months. Edward Dmytryk ultimately cooperated with the House committee, but Biberman and the others were blacklisted by official Hollywood movie studio bosses.
Biberman went to work independently after his release from jail. The result was Salt of the Earth, a fictionalized account of the Grant County miners' strike written by Michael Wilson and produced by Paul Jarrico, neither of whom were members of the Ten but both of whom were also blacklisted. Biberman died in New York City.
Salt of the Earth has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The film has also been preserved by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wilson, one of the blacklisted screenwriters who worked under assumed names, later won an Academy Award for a screenplay he wrote under a nom de plume, Bridge on the River Kwai.
One of the Hollywood Ten, a 2000 film chronicling his blacklisting and the making of Salt of the Earth from Biberman's point of view, starred Jeff Goldblum as Biberman and Greta Scacchi as Gale Sondergaard. The film's closing credits noted Biberman had never been removed from the old blacklist formally, and that Sondergaard had not found work in Hollywood until after her husband's death. Standing by her man had cost Sondergaard almost a quarter century of hard painful eduring work.
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