Salt of the Earth
While I researched Will Geer’s pre-blacklist work for the short paper assignment, I came across his role in Salt of the Earth. I was excited to watch this film in class, considering my research about Geer. I thought the Blacklistee creators Herbert Biberman’s, Michael Wilson’s, and Paul Jarrico’s decision to cast a few professional actors (including Geer and Mexican actress Rosaura Revuelta) and include mainly the local people more authentically captures the spirit of the real-life strike the film is based on. By having the community in the movie and throughout the review process, the film weaves in more Mexican American traditions and cultural patterns to more accurately present Latino heritage (Rosenfelt). Especially interesting to me is how the making of this film negotiates women’s and Latino workers’ rights.
Juan Chacon plays Ramon, a mine worker who has progressive ideas and applies them to his professional life. However, he struggles with realizing those same ideals within his family. Balthaser writes, “For Ramon, asserting sexual transgression is a way of containing the threat against his traditional role as patriarch within the home” (361). However, as the film evolves, the dynamics between Ramon and Esperanza (played by Revueltas) changes. Salt of the Earth grapples with gender equality and role reversal as the women begin to participate in the auxiliary meetings and take over the strike on the picket line while the men take on a more supporting role.
Revueltas played her character with strength and dignity. However, immigration officials arrested and deported her to Mexico, claiming she entered the United States illegally during the production of the film (Oliver). Despite not having strong evidence to support the claim, the filmmakers used stand-ins or body doubles and finished the film in Mexico to accommodate Revueltas. Not only did her association with blacklistees impact her acting career in the United States, she no longer could act in Mexico. It’s saddening how powerful stigma by association can damage people’s lives and careers.