Screenwriter Norma Barzman, who got her start during the Golden Age of Hollywood and was blacklisted with her husband during the McCarthy era, died Sunday in Beverly Hills, her son Paolo confirmed. She was 103.
Barzman and her husband, fellow screenwriter Ben Barzman, moved to Europe as did many other Hollywood progressives who came under McCarthy’s scrutiny. The couple and their seven children lived in London, Paris and Mougins, France between 1949 and 1976. Ben Barzman died in 1989.
Norma Barzman was also active in getting credits restored for blacklisted writers whose films were released with a “front” name, such as her film “The Locket.” In 1999, her writing credit was restored on the 1953 film “Luxury Girls,” which had carried the name of the front Ennio Flaiano.
Barzman spoke out in protest when Elia Kazan, who was a witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, was given an honorary Oscar in 1998, and was instrumental in helping to organize an exhibit on the Hollywood Blacklist at the Academy in 2001.
She authored “The Red and the Blacklist: The Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood Expatriate,” which was released in 2003 and documents her experience as a blacklisted writer.
She recounted her experiences in the L.A. Times in 2014. “But even in Europe, the U.S government kept these exiles at close range,” Susan King wrote. “After obtaining her FBI files, Norma Barzman ‘discovered they followed us in Paris. We moved around a lot, and they knew every telephone number and every address. They knew everything we did from 1949 to 1954 until we bought our house in Paris.’ And to complicate matters, the U.S. Embassy took away her passport in 1951 for seven years.”
Barzman also wrote the story “What Nancy Wanted,” which Sheridan Gibney adapted into the script for the 1946 psychological thriller “The Locket.” She was given a co-writing credit years later. The film stars Laraine Day as Nancy, a woman who is about to be married when another man visits her fiancé, claiming to be her former husband and alleging that she is mentally disturbed. The film is known for its use of flashbacks.
Among her other credits were the script for the 1946 Warner Bros. romantic comedy “Never Say Goodbye,” starring Errol Flynn and Eleanor Parker as a divorced couple whose daughter tries to bring them back together.
Barzman wrote the 1953 French-Italian comedy film “Finishing School” and later penned the Italian television series “Il triangolo rosso,” which ran from 1967-1969. She made on screen appearances as an actress in “Theatre 70” (1970) and “Pajama Party” (2000).
Barzman was born on Sept. 15, 1920 in New York City. She was briefly married to mathematician Claude Shannon; they lived together in Princeton, N.J. before divorcing. She then relocated to Los Angeles alongside her mother and took classes at The School for Writers, which had leftist members.
Barzman is survived by seven children, including her son Paolo Barzman, who is a film and television director-writer.