Marc Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock, a quintessential piece of 1930s Communist agitprop, was presented through May by John Houseman and The Acting Company at the American Place Theater in New York. It was neat and tightly paced, musically well performed, and clearly communicative. Despite its virtues, however, the event was an artistic failure, and even as an ideological enterprise it occasioned none of the political fervor Blitzstein must have hoped to inspire, only the smirks and snickers of an obviously knowing audience. The production’s importance lay elsewhere—in the realm of cultural politics, where Blitzstein himself has won such a considerable reputation.

Something in the nature of a myth now attaches to Marc Blitzstein as both creator and man. An assiduous propagator of that myth has been Blitzstein’s close friend and associate, Leonard Bernstein. A tribute from Bernstein is published in...


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