until they fell under a
dark cloud of sus

picion as members of the original H
ollywood Ten. Summoned before the House

Un-American Activities Committee
investigating Communist ties to th

Want to learn the history of e movie in
dustry in 1947, they refused to testif

y. The studios, cav

ing in to the p

olitical heat from Washington, promptly blac

klisted the trio, banishing th

em from Tinseltown.

Faced with

an uncertain future, the thr

ee decided, in the words of Jar
rico, to "commi
Socorro, New Mexico 87801

t a crime to fit the punishment." They packed their bags for New Mexico to collaborate on Salt of the Earth, a rabble-rousing depiction of a bitter and prolonged strike at a zinc mine near Silver City. Racism provoked the ugly conflict. Among other grievances, the participating Mexican-American miners walked out to protest substandard wages markedly lower than those paid to Anglos at surrounding mines. Biberman, Jarrico and Wilson jumped right into the fray, casting Juan Chacon, president of the local union, as their firebrand leading man. Salt of the Earth was, in fact, a powder keg ready to explode. Besides its radical pro-labor sympathies and muckraking exposure of bigotry, the film embraced feminist notions years before that became fashionable. When a judge forbade the striking

miners from manning picket lines, their wives defiantly took up the gauntlet and held the scab workers at bay. Real and threatened violence dogged the production. A union hall went up in smoke, the target of arson. The U.S. government deported Mexican actress Rosaura Revueltas, cast opposite Chacon in the female lead as Esperanza (or "Hope"). No less of an adversary than Howard Hughes leaned on film labs and recording studios to withhold vital technical support. Against these great odds, the filmmakers struggled to complete Salt of the Earth and finally deliver

ed their heretical volley early in 1954. As expected, the feature fizzled, surfacing only briefly in a handful of major cities. But prestigious awards garnered in Europe enabled Salt of the Earth to survive its controversial debut. Eventually, the Library of Congress placed the work on the National Film Registry reserv

River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. It's impossible to chart a straight path from Salt of the Earth to Easy Rider (1969), but the two films aren't completely at odds. Hopper and Fonda's rebels also challenged the status quo, rejecting, in Hopper's words, "the good old American way." But while Salt of the Earth met with stony indifference, Easy Rider inspired stoned allegiance on the part of a new

generation that closely identified with its long-haired, drug-taking antiheroes. As inarticulate as they could be, Captain America and Billy epitomized the alienated tenor of the times. They dropped out, turned on, did their own thing, and ultimately, crashed and burned. In many ways, their ugly fate mirrored the drift of the nation. Flower power and the Summer of Love already had withered away by the time Easy Rider reached theaters. The youthful idealism of the '60s had splintered and turned sour under the shocking impact of Altamont, the Tate-Bianca murders and similarly dark incidents. When Fonda's Captain America declares, "we blew it," he

's addressing the failed promises of the counterculture as well as expressing his disenchantment with "The System." New Mexico, in the film, retains a Utopian aura as perhaps the only safe haven from the impending, apocalyptic storm. At the time, the state harbored some 30 hippie

communes, leading poet Robert Creeley to describe it

as "the goyim's Israel." The reserved Captain America waxes poetically himself when he and Billy visit a commune near Taos, skinny dipping with a couple of the free-spirited residents and observing a spring planting. "This is nothing

but sand, man. They ain't gonna make it, man," Billy says, forecasting doom for the freak farmers. "The

y're going to make iNew Mexico Techt," Captain America answer