Abraham Polonsky, 88, a once-blacklisted, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and director known for his bleak critiques of the American success story, was found dead Oct. 26 at his Beverly Hills, Calif., home after a heart attack.
Mr. Polonsky's best-known film, the noirish John Garfield vehicle "Force of Evil" (1948), features the crooked-lawyer hero (Garfield) redeeming himself by hunting down the thugs who killed his gambler brother. He then gives himself up to the police.
The film earned Mr. Polonsky his second Oscar nomination, a year after receiving a nomination for "Body and Soul," a boxing story featuring fighter Garfield caught between his family and gangsters.
Mr. Polonsky, an avowed Communist sympathizer at the time, could not find work under his own name from 1951 to 1969. He had refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which was investigating Communist leanings in the film industry.
Largely because of that blackball, his film output was small--only nine films as writer, four of which he directed. He wrote the drama "Odds Against Tomorrow" (1959) under the pseudonym John O. Killens, and in 1996, the Writers Guild of America re-credited Mr. Polonsky with the script.
"I always write about the same things," Polonsky once said in an interview. "How people seek to fulfill themselves and what society suppresses in them through convention and force."
Mr. Polonsky was born in New York City. He graduated from City College of New York and Columbia University's law school.
He wrote for radio and had several published novels. During World War II, he volunteered for the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA, where he helped break German codes.
After the war, he co-wrote scripts at Paramount Studios. His first solo success was "Body and Soul," which film historian and essayist Andrew Sarris called in an interview yesterday "defiant, poetic and philosophical."
Sarris said "Force of Evil," however, was a stronger indictment of capitalism.
"It's a very poetic script, an unusually eloquent script, very much concerned with themes of corruption, betrayal, capitalism."
When he couldn't work in Hollywood, Mr. Polonsky directed and wrote for television, including contributions to the CBS television series "You Are There."
The first film he wrote and directed after the blacklist was "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here" (1970), a drama with Robert Redford that denounces the treatment of Native Americans. During his career, he also wrote the screenplay of "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" (1951), about a ruthless fashion designer, and "Madigan" (1968), a police drama with Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda. His last screenplay credit was the 1982 drama "Monsignor," about intrigue among the clergy.
According to a story in the Los Angeles Times last year, Mr. Polonsky asked that his name be removed from the credits of the 1991 film "Guilty by Suspicion," which was based on his script about a blacklisted director.
Mr. Polonsky became adamant about the disassociation when the movie's director, Irwin Winkler, reportedly watered down the film so the blacklisted director was portrayed as an "unsuspecting liberal" rather than an outright Communist sympathizer.
Mr. Polonsky's first wife, Sylvia, died in 1993.
Survivors include his second wife, Iris; a son; and two grandchildren.