Unmade Movies: Arthur Miller

Part of the Unmade Movies series which has so far produced two of Pinter’s screenplays, this episode features Miller’s previously unproduced The Hook. Inspired by true story of the mysterious disappearance of a young dockworker, Pete Panto who challenged his corrupt union bosses. The Hook focuses on the 1950s Brooklyn docks and the impoverished workers.

The protagonist, feisty Italian longshoreman, Marty Ferrera (Elliot Cowan) takes a stand against the corrupt system of the docks following being denied work. Underneath the union tensions is the family life of Marty. With his daughter, Irene’s (Hollie Burgess), birthday and her care for her father, the play is multi-layered and evokes strong senses of sympathy.  Plunged into the bleak world of the longshoremen, attempting to find work and trying to make ends meet, it is the determination and the drive of Marty which makes it a compelling listen.

Miller developed the script in 1951 and took it to Columbia Studios, however the script was ultimately dropped when Miller was asked to make the corrupt union bosses communist. There was also a fear that the screenplay might stir up unrest at the dockyards. Four years later however, Miller produced A View from the Bridge; essentially a reworking of The Hook, which was lost only to be rediscovered this year.

The play was performed for the first time in celebration of the one hundred year anniversary of Miller’s birth, staged Northampton and Liverpool. The BBC Radio 4 adaption is directed by Adrian Noble and produced by Laurence Bowen. David Suchet’s narration is effective in drawing together the threads of the narrative. The scene in which the workers band together, shouting and heckling is incredibly evocative. The production makes excellent use of sound effects, the layering gives the listener a complete picture of the scene. The interludes of music throughout the piece also help to give it a striking atmosphere, which resonates throughout. Indeed the whole production of this newly discovered script is quite superb.

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