Lee Grant and the Spirit of Defiance

While researching one section of the book, I came across this extremely insightful video interview with actress Lee Grant. The mother of Soap‘s Elaine, Dinah Manoff, she was also the star of one of the first unofficial Witt Thomas Harris (it’s complicated) series, Fay.

For those with more than a passing interest in Soap, Fay is legendary because:

1) It was the first series created by Susan Harris

2) It’s never been released on video, therefore few have seen it

3) It fell victim to 1975’s insane “Family Viewing Policy” fiasco, prompting Grant to literally flip off the network on Johnny Carson’s show shortly after finding out Fay had been canceled. (Dinah says she still remembers this moment.)

As delightful an image as this last item is, it paints a very two-dimensional portrait of Grant as simply an actress who was miffed at losing her job. What many forget is just how terribly Hollywood treated her for 12 years starting around 1950 when she was blacklisted for no other reason than speaking at a memorial for a fellow actor and stating — quite correctly it seems — that constant hounding by HUAC had led to his demise. When she appeared before the committee, she refused to name names, and paid the price for it.

Thankfully, the Archive of American Television‘s 3-hour interview with Grant allows the actress to give us the backstory we need to understand not only her last straw moment on Carson, but also how prone Hollywood has been throughout its history to knuckle under to whatever the prevailing mood has been at a given time. For those who want to truly understand the backlash Soap suffered from the right and the left, this oral history about the red scare is crucial.

The archive also includes streaming interviews with members of Soap’s cast and crew including:

 

 

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7 comments on “Lee Grant and the Spirit of Defiance

  1. Wow! That show must have been outrageous to cause that much of an uproar. I’ll bet it was crazier than “Soap”!

  2. Hey Aaron – sorry I’ve been out of touch for so long! Can’t wait for the book & hoping you will an event at Book Soup. Anyway, you should ask Sal about this,
    he has interesting info – hope all is great, Amelia C.

    • Hi Amelia — thanks for writing. Why doesn’t it surprise me that Sal knows something about this — intelligent fellow. Would love to do something at Book Soup. BTW, started reading “Buster” — really good!

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