Oscar Politics: Signoret, Simone–Room at the Top

McCarthyism damaged the reputation of foreign artists as well. Maurice Chevalier, who was popular in the United States in the 1930s, was refused reentry in 1951, for having signed a Communist-inspired decision, “the Stockholm Appeal,” which called for the banning of all nuclear weapons.

French actress Simone Signoret also encountered difficulties in getting offers from Hollywood, despite numerous promises made. As she recalled in her memoirs: “Each time there had been a vague offer of my participation in an American production made in France, negotiations had rapidly broken off.” In the late 1950s, despite assurance from American directors that times had changed, Signoret held onto her belief that “McCarthy was not dead, even if the citizens of this country thought they had buried him.” Several films fell through for what she describes as “Washingtonian reasons.”

When Signoret was offered the lead in Room at the Top, her feeling was “if I was going to lose Alice, I wanted to know immediately.” Signoret feared that, if Americans were involved, “there was no point in beginning to negotiate.” But it was a British production, and Signoret not only got the part, but also won the Best Actress for it.

If you would like to know more about this issue, please read my book, All bout Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards(NY: Continuum International, paperback 2003).