Salt of the Earth (1954)

08 Jan

94m; US

Directed by Herbert Biberman

Cast: Juan Chacón, Rosaura Revueltas and Will Geer

Synopsis: Salt of the Earth is based on a 1950 strike by zinc miners in Silver City, New Mexico. Against a backdrop of social injustice, a riveting family drama is played out by the characters of Ramon and Esperanza Quintero, a Mexican-American miner and his wife. In the course of the strike, Ramon and Esperanza find their roles reversed: an injunction against the male strikers moves the women to take over the picket line, leaving the men to domestic duties. The women evolve from men’s subordinates into their allies and equals.

NYT: Movies don’t get much more Labor Day-appropriate than a film backed by the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. But “Salt of the Earth” was perceived as a dangerous object in 1954, when the principal members of its creative team — the director Herbert J. Biberman, the producer Paul Jarrico and the screenwriter Michael Wilson, working independently of Hollywood — were subject to the blacklist. (The Congress of Industrial Organizations had separately expelled the union from its ranks.) This chronicle of a New Mexico miners’ strike, dramatized from real events and now a favorite of film programmers, looks ahead of its time in its foregrounding of Mexican-American characters; its emphasis on racial and especially gender equality; and its powerful depiction of unity against strikebreaking tactics. BEN KENIGSBERG





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