The Dead File

Written by Kevin O'Morrison
Review by Steve Lewis

The author is a noted playwright and actor, so his behind-the-scenes look at the acting business as it was in the early 1950s (movies, dramatic radio, live television in its infancy) is authentic and absolutely, positively, must-reading for any fan of the era.

As a bonus, O’Morrison’s fictional account of the life and struggling career of Des McCrossan is also strongly intermeshed with some of the blackest days of the entertainment industry. The time of the Blacklist, that is, designed to save the country from Communists and their sympathizers — and, even worse, the Dead File. By paying the appropriate fees, some of the sinners on the former could recant and rather easily remove the blots from their record. The Dead File was worse — this was a list of names of actors who were just not allowed to work. Unknown to them, their names were often there only for matters of petty jealousies and personal revenge. Careers were built by wrecking the lives of others.

The author, it is claimed, discovered the existence of the Dead File by accident. So, this is fiction, perhaps, or perhaps not. In those dark days, it could have been. And this could have been a great novel, even with the flaws that invariably come from small presses: poor editing and small typos. But the rhythm is wrong — dramatic turns come with no forewarning — and the finale falls surprisingly flat. Worth reading, that’s a given, but alas, not the classic it might have been.