For the next 15 years, Polonsky would write for television and film under an alias; among the movies he pseudonymously doctored was the late film noir Odds Against Tomorrow.He has also published three novels, including 1951's The World Above, which was recently reprinted by the University of Illinois Press as part of its series "The Radical Novel Reconsidered."
Polonsky emerged from the underground in 1968 with a screenplay credit for Madigan, then went west again to direct Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, a politically charged film about Native American rights starring Robert Redford and Robert Blake. In 1971, he directed his last film, Romance of a Horsethief; ill health prevented him from making more movies. In retrospect, he says now that he regrets having made the attempt at all.
"I supported Mao and Stalin and made a lot of mistakes, but the stupidest thing I ever did was go to work for the movies," he declares. "When I received the Los Angeles Critics Career Achievement Award, I had to make a speech. I said that toward the end of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, Swann looks in the mirror and says, 'I spent the best years of my life making love to a woman who wasn't my style.' That's the way I feel about the motion-picture business. I spent the best years of my life working for people I hated. I'm an artist. I believe film is a great art form. The movie business regards film as fish that exists only to be sold.
"I've come to the conclusion that America doesn't work. Early on I thought it could work, and that's why I bothered criticizing it, but it's only gotten worse. All you have to do is look at the stock market to see that we're in the final stages of global finance capitalism. Billion-dollar corporations getting together with other billion-dollar corporations -- Karl Marx predicted it all, and we'll soon have a crash. Then it will begin again, the endless cycle in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer."
When I point out that Communism and Marxism haven't panned out too well either, Polonsky agrees.
"They worked terribly!" he laughs. "So what should we do? We can all drop dead. Or we can join a gym, learn to swim and eat farina."