Arnaud d’Usseau, a playwright and screenwriter whose political convictions forced him out of the country during the House and Senate’s anti-communist inquisition of the early 1950s, died Monday of complications of stomach cancer surgery in New York City.
Bernard Gordon, a longtime friend and colleague, said the author of such widely praised Broadway stage productions as “Tomorrow the World” and “Deep Are the Roots” was 73.
A native of Los Angeles, who had lived in New York for the last several years where he taught writing at New York University and the School of Visual Arts, d’Usseau came from a theatrical family. His father was a producer and scenarist and his mother an actress.
He began writing professionally in the 1930s, and his RKO films included such secondary features as “One Crowded Night,” “Lady Scarface,” “Repent at Leisure,” “Just Off Broadway,” “The Man Who Wouldn’t Die” and “Who Is Hope Schuyler?”
In 1944, Ring Lardner Jr., who was to become one of the so-called “Hollywood 10"--the writers and directors who defied congressional investigators and went to prison for their stance--adapted d’Usseau’s play “Tomorrow the World” for the screen.
The play and film launched the career of Skip Homeier as a 12-year-old German boy adopted by an American couple and their struggle to overcome his Nazi partisanship.
D’Usseau’s play was considered among the most literate of the wartime propaganda works.
In 1945, he returned to Broadway with his writing partner, James Gow, with “Deep Are the Roots,” which raised the then-scandalous theme of miscegenation while pleading for racial tolerance.
D’Usseau’s other Broadway plays included “Ladies of the Corridor,” written with Dorothy Parker, and “The Legend of Sarah,” again with Gow in 1950.
Two years later, d’Usseau’s name surfaced in connection with subpoenas being issued by House Un-American Activities Committee investigators probing alleged Communist infiltration of the film industry. Then in 1953, he was brought before the Senate Investigations subcommittee headed by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
The exchanges between d’Usseau and McCarthy grew so fiery that the Wisconsin Republican threatened to forcibly remove him from the Washington hearing chamber.
D’Usseau had refused to answer any of McCarthy’s questions, saying he would gladly debate the merits of communism and capitalism on neutral ground but not “where you have everything stacked.”
After his blacklisting, d’Usseau wrote for films under various pseudonyms, Gordon said. His last play, “Bledsoe,” is now in production for a planned Broadway opening.
Survivors include d’Usseau’s wife, Marie, a son, a daughter and three brothers.