Of course, he didn't keep the moment to himself...but he did treat it quite differently when he first brought it to people's attention back in 2018.
Here's the new version of the slow-moving epiphany, as rendered in his publisher's letter for the latest NC e-zine:
On September 24, 2016, I had an epiphany. I had just walked onstage at the Redford Theatre, hosting the first edition of NOIR CITY: DETROIT, and was about to offer my usual backstory to the next movie on the schedule, The Prowler--the first restoration achieved by the Film Noir Foundation. As I related the tale of Dalton Trumbo, Joseph Losey, and the political paranoia that infused the production of The Prowler, a voice in my head said, “Doesn’t everybody know this already? Haven’t you said it enough by now?”
It was the first time I’d ever felt that when discussing anything related to noir. I came offstage a little rattled. Had I crossed some threshold?
That wasn’t the epiphany, however. No, that came when a young man approached me in the lobby after the screening. He was agitated. “That stuff you mentioned before the film . . . about a ‘witch hunt’ and artists going to jail--I have no idea what you were talking about. Are you saying that happened in this country?”
That was my epiphany. The understanding that I’d never stop telling the same stories—because there are always new listeners. History doesn’t move in a straight line. It’s a wheel that rolls, repeating the same triumphs and tragedies with each “revolution,” yet moving inexorably forward. History has no reverse gear, as much as some people pray for it.
That November there was an election, and the four years that followed proved the adage “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Now, as epiphanies go, that ain't bad. But there are two problems with it. First and foremost, that epiphany (and the election of His Orangeness) did not propel Eddie into acting with any sort of conviction regarding what in the rest of this publisher's letter is a clarion call to "telling the same stories." The idea floated to him to use an open time slot in the NC 15 festival to showcase "social outcry" noirs from the 1947-51 period was initially ignored, and then rejected with gratuitous insults in an email exchange.
Pressure continued to be applied, of course, and eventually Eddie rolled a few of the films out into the mix of his grand "A-B" design for NC 16 and 17. The focal point of those festivals was not a cultural history lesson, but a melange of noir "comfort food" tropes that proved popular with the reeling lefties in SF, who apparently aligned with the idea that the "eat your vegetables" form of film programming was not for the corporatist crowd at the Castro, but more for the scruffy bohemians at the Roxie, where Elliot Lavine's DARK SIDE OF THE DREAM followed on the heels of NC 16 with a visceral tour of exceptional American excess.
The "epiphany" referred to above did not manifest itself save for a couple of belated screenings of FORCE OF EVIL, and several forays into this territory on the "Noir Alley" show. For all the professed reverence for Abe Polonsky, it was shocking to discover that Lavine's 2018 screening of BODY AND SOUL was the first time the film had been screened since 1999: it had (and still has) never been screened in the NC SF lineup.
That realization, and further research indicating that only five John Garfield films have been screened at NC SF (POSTMAN twice; HE RAN ALL THE WAY twice; THE BREAKING POINT twice; NOBODY LIVES FOREVER once; and FORCE OF EVIL just once, "all the way" back in 2005) prompted a strong suggestion in 2018 that the next NC devote part of its screening schedule to a serious Garfield retrospective.
No epiphany along those line was forthcoming, of course, and after a second year of "A-B" fiddle-dee-dee in 2019, Eddie threw in with the idea to re-contest the international noir area, with NC SF 2020 including seven films in its 24-film lineup previously screened by MCP from 2015-19 in either SF or LA (full list: PALE FLOWER, SALON MEXICO and BLACK HAIR in SF 2015; ASHES & DIAMONDS in SF 2016; RAZZIA SUR LA CHNOUF in LA 2017; PANIQUE in LA 2019; ANY NUMBER CAN WIN in LA and SF in 2019).
But now, oddly--and conveniently appearing a few weeks after the 2020 election, in an issue with only one article focused on "social outcry" noir (an uncharacteristically anodyne Ben Terrall "book vs. film" look at CROSSFIRE) we have Eddie's "epiphany."
And that brings up the second problem with it. As you'll see, it was a good bit different in tone and temper in 2018, when Eddie's first reference to this 2016 moment on stage was first utilized, where he was responding to those who'd spent a good part of 2017 questioning his commitment to the "left-handed side of noir" via a gross exaggeration of his on-stage discussions of the Blacklist. It turns out that this "epiphany" was a good bit more peevish in nature at that time, as this excerpt from his NC 16 program intro reveals:
In the fall of 2016, I was presenting a screening of The Prowler (1951) at the three-day NOIR CITY festival in Detroit. It’s a personal favorite of mine, not only because it’s daring, forceful and bracingly critical of the corruption of “authority”--it’s got a hell of a backstory, and it was the first movie the Film Noir Foundation restored. I told the audience that backstory, relating how writer Dalton Trumbo had to work in secret, and director Joseph Losey not only lost his career in Hollywood as a result of his political beliefs but his identity as an American. And I suddenly wondered--during my hundredth telling, at least--if this historical background wasn’t merely arcane that had lost all resonance for contemporary viewers.
You see, one of the great ironies about the noir revival is that films once considered so dangerous and subversive their makers were imprisoned and blacklisted--are loved today mostly as comfort food, reminders of a “simpler”--and certainly more stylish--America.
During intermission of that Detroit show, a young man approached me in the lobby, mid-twenties, brimming with intensity. “I had absolutely no idea about what you were saying up there,” he admitted, incredulous. “It’s astounding. People went to jail in this country for making movies? How did that happen? How was that even possible? Where do I learn about this?” Okay--somebody cared.
Of course, we can hope that Eddie has actually seen the light this time, that this lone voice and the events of the past four years have brought him to a moment of more principled insurgency. Surely--as we've argued here on several occasions--the increased visibility of TCM can only assist in providing greater latitude to pursue more focused programming along these lines. As we suggested in 2018, a comprehensive Garfield retrospective is long overdue at NC--and a '21 festival that is quite possibly going to be virtual might be the best way to present such a program, since there is less at stake in terms of venue costs and fewer prospects for cultural backlash than would be the case if such an approach were pursued on "Noir Alley."
It's likely that we will get an announcement in the next 2-3 weeks about a virtual NC SF, once the principals have assessed the outcome of the virtual NC DC international show. We will find out--again--if Eddie is ready to put his money where his mouth is about noir's relationship to its historical times when the schedule is revealed. If Garfield is missing again, the heart and soul of "social outcry" noir will also be MIA.