Cy Endfield (1914–1995) was a filmmaker who was also fascinated by the worlds of close-up magic, science, and invention. After directing several distinctive low-budget films in Hollywood, he was blacklisted in 1951 and fled to Britain rather than “name names” before HUAC, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Un-American Activities Committee. The Pennsylvania-born Endfield made films that exhibit an outsider’s eye for his adopted country, including the working-class “trucking” drama Hell Drivers and the cult film Zulu—a war epic as politically nuanced as it is spectacular. Along the way he encountered Orson Welles, collaborated with pioneering animator Ray Harryhausen, published a book of his card magic, and co-invented an early word processor that anticipated today’s technology.
The Many Lives of Cy Endfield is the first book on this fascinating figure. The fruit of years of archival research and personal interviews by Brian Neve, it documents Endfield’s many identities: among them second-generation immigrant, Jew, Communist, and exile. Neve paints detailed scenes not only of the political and personal dramas of the blacklist era, but also of the attempts by Hollywood directors in the postwar 1940s and early 1950s to address social and political controversies of the day. Out of these efforts came two crime melodramas (what would become known as film noir) on inequalities of class and race: The Underworld Story and The Sound of Fury (also known as Try and Get Me!). Neve reveals the complex production and reception histories of Endfield’s films, which the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum saw as reflective of “an uncommon intelligence so radically critical of the world we live in that it’s dangerous.”
The Many Lives of Cy Endfield is at once a revealing biography of an independent, protean figure, an insight into film industry struggles, and a sensitive and informed study of an underappreciated body of work.
Best Five Books of the Year list, Iranian 24 Monthly, London UK
“Make[s] a case for [Endfield’s] distinctive voice while tracing the way struggle, opposition, and thwarted ambition both defined his life and became the powerful themes of his best work.”—Cineaste