Sixty years ago, as wicked witch-hunters descended upon the movie industry, Judy Garland took to the microphone for a coast-to-coast radio program called “Hollywood Fights Back!” Instead of singing, the 25-year-old starlet asked Americans:
“Have you been to a movie this week? Are you going to a movie tonight, or maybe tomorrow? Look around the room. Are there any newspapers lying on the floor? Any magazines on your table? Any books on your shelves? It’s always been your right to read or see anything you wanted to. But now it seems to be getting kind of complicated. For the past week, in Washington, the House Committee on Un-American Activities has been investigating the film industry. Now, I have never been a member of any political organization. But I’ve been following this investigation and I don’t like it. There are a lot of stars here to speak to you. We’re show business, yes. But we’re also American citizens. It’s one thing if someone says we’re not good actors; that hurts, but we can take that. It’s something else again to say we’re not good Americans! We resent that!”
Garland railed against the gathering tornado that would strike “Wizard of Oz” lyricist Yip Harburg, and so many other Tinseltown talents, on the star-studded Oct. 26, 1947, broadcast. The following day, the first “unfriendly witness” took the stand to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Hollywood 10 and the Hollywood Blacklist, an epidemic of censorship in the movie industry that set the stage for “McCarthyism,” a term that evokes the fearful and oppressive mood of that bygone era and resonates with our current age of repression under the Bush regime.
Better Red Than Dead
By the time the so-called “Inquisition in Eden” officially began, Hollywood had already been in reactionaries’ sights for a long time. According to “The Marxist and the Movies,” Larry Ceplair’s new biography of screenwriter Paul Jarrico, J. Edgar Hoover led the attack against left-leaning La-La Land, authorizing a “massive investigation of the industry under the code name COMPIC (Communist Infiltration—Motion Picture Industry).” When anti-Semite and racist John Rankin became chairman of HUAC in 1945, the Mississippi congressman claimed he was investigating “one of the most dangerous plots ever instigated for the overthrow of the government. ... The information we get is that [Hollywood] is the greatest hotbed of subversive activities in the United States. We’re on the trail of the tarantula now, and we’re going to follow through.”
It’s true there was a significant left-wing and Communist Party [CP] presence in Hollywood during the 1930s and ‘40s. The 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Depression led Ring Lardner Jr., a onetime Communist who won the Oscar for co-authoring 1942’s “Woman of the Year,” to conclude, “The whole system had broken down and was not going to be fixed. That it needed a change.”
“From the time of the Spanish Civil War, the CP fought fascism abroad and at home,” contended Norma Barzman, who wrote “The Red and the Blacklist: The Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood Expatriate.” The ex-Communist added, “During the Roosevelt years, the CP was responsible for Social Security, unemployment insurance legislation. ... We got the teenage Latinos off for the Sleepy Lagoon murder [in L.A.]. ... We fought racism against the Japanese [and other minorities]. ... “
Hollywood’s Reds were inspired by the Russian Revolution and its use of movies as agitprop, as evidenced by Lenin’s dictum: “For us, the cinema is the most important of the arts.”
Talking pictures also spurred the creation of Hollywood’s Left. Unlike silent films, the talkies needed dialogue writers, so studios recruited playwrights from Broadway, including radicals such as John Howard Lawson and Clifford Odets. They “brought to Hollywood the dissatisfaction of Dramatists Guild enlightenment and union tradition,” Nancy Lynn Schwartz wrote in “The Hollywood Writers Wars.” As a playwright, it troubled Lawson that screenwriters had fewer rights and didn’t receive appropriate credits.
The Hollywood Left brought the war for social and economic justice home to the movie colony. Lester Cole called writers “the niggers of the studio system,” grousing that “1 percent of what American movie-goers pay for their entertainment is allocated to ... screenplays.” Donald Ogden Stewart, whose screen credits included the Hepburn pics “Holiday” and “The Philadelphia Story,” ranked screenwriters’ status “below the heads of publicity but above the hairdressers.” According to Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner’s “Radical Hollywood,” while 10 percent of screenwriters made more than $10,000 annually, 50 percent-plus earned under $4,000 and 30 percent made less than $2,000 per year. Junior writers earned $35 weekly.
“We organized the guilds and unions—they have all these benefits we fought for—and went out on strike for the medical, pensions and what young people today take for granted,” noted Barzman, whose husband Ben co-wrote 1944’s “Meet the People,” starring Lucille Ball.
Hollywood’s Reds Go to War
Before America entered World War II, Hollywood Communists and independent leftists—such as Lawson and Charlie Chaplin, respectively, in “Blockade” and “The Great Dictator”—struggled to sound the alarm about fascism. Two events turned these lone wolves crying out in the wilderness into mainstream town criers. The Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 sidelined the Soviet Union—and CPUSA—from the antifascist cause, until the Nazis invaded the USSR on June 22, 1941. Then, on Dec. 7, 1941, Imperial Japan struck Pearl Harbor.
Hollywood’s Reds rejoined the crusade against fascism with gusto. The pent-up antifascist ardor of individual members was now unleashed against an external enemy. Instead of being “premature antifascists,” Communists were now on the side of official U.S. foreign policy and the studios, fighting to save the world from totalitarianism.
As Howard Zinn pointed out, “It became easier to have antifascist films after the U.S. was in the war.” In “Radical Hollywood,” Buhle and Wagner declared, “The Party out-patrioted everyone else in Hollywood, from films to sales of war bonds and, above all, in mobilizing public support for the servicemen. ... So, in a real sense, the left’s Hollywood moment had come. The politically shaded films on international themes that had been impossible to make as late as 1938-39 became barely possible in 1940, and sometimes wildly popular as well as widely admired by 1941-42.”
Alec Baldwin, narrator of 1996’s “Blacklist: Hollywood on Trial” documentary, commented: “Hollywood produced hundreds of patriotic war films. ... Left-wing writers were in demand. They could express the ideals the soldiers were fighting for.” Ready for their close-ups, many WWII pictures were co-created by Hollywood Reds and independent leftists, including: “Sahara,” “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” “Pride of the Marines,” “Watch on the Rhine,” “Back to Bataan” and “Casablanca.”
The Cold War
As WWII ended, Lardner experienced “a growing good feeling.” As he put it, “An Allied victory ... had been won by the two great powers ... one democratic, one Communist, who ... work[ed] together for shared ideals,” he said. But in “I’d Hate Myself in the Morning,” the left-leaning screenwriter noted, “Almost no one had anticipated how quickly the tide would turn to rightist reaction. ...” Hollywood was particularly hard-hit by postwar backlash. “One of the first acts of the Republicans who took control of Congress in 1946 (for the first time in 20 years) was to convert a temporary [HUAC], which had been investigating fascist sympathizers during the war, into a permanent [committee] concentrating on the ... left,” Lardner said.
When the Cold War between the USSR and U.S. heated up, HUAC congressmen charged that there was “subversive influence in motion pictures,” and that Communists had infiltrated the motion picture industry. The Reds-under-the-beds inquisitors, arguably, had a point. Lawson, first president of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), became a card-carrying Communist, as did moviedom’s highest paid screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo. Lardner (who’d received one of the largest fees ever paid to a 1940s screenwriter) wrote in his autobiography that the party had 200 members in the creative community. Barzman, author of “The End of Romance,” estimated that 400 directors, writers and actors belonged to the CPUSA. In “The Marxist and the Movies,” Larry Ceplair quotes a 1943 FBI report claiming there were 347 members of the party’s Hollywood section. In “The Final Victim of the Blacklist, John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten,” author Gerald Horne quotes California party leader William Schneiderman as stating that the CP had 5,000 to 6,000 members in California.
Schneiderman’s “confession” was made during October 1944 hearings in L.A., convened by the California Legislature’s own Committee on Un-American Activities, presided over by Sen. Jack Tenney. CP screenwriters Lawson, Maltz and Waldo Salt were interrogated; all denied party membership. Lawson was also asked about his father’s changing of the family’s Jewish surname, interracial dancing and marriage.
In 1944, Hollywood conservatives formed the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPAPAI), whose members included John Wayne, Ward Bond and Adolphe Menjou. The MPAPAI was a right-wing counterpart to progressive organizations such as the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, the Hollywood Democratic Committee, and the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions. After WWII, the U.S.-USSR alliance collapsed. An outbreak of strikes shook the motion picture industry from 1945-1946, defeating the left-leaning Conference of Studio Unions. For the first time since 1928, the Republicans took over Congress in 1946. According to Neal Gabler’s “An Empire of Their Own,” the MPAPAI invited HUAC to Tinseltown to investigate the Red menace in movies. The stage was set for the “Inquisition in Eden.”
Congress’ House Un-American Activities Committee geared up for the final solution to the Hollywood Reds problem. The committee included arch-segregationists and anti-Semites; Gabler notes, “Robert Stripling, HUAC’s new counsel, was a Southern white supremacist who had previously assisted ... a former publicist for the [pro-nazi German] Bund.” On Feb. 6, 1947 Gerhart Eisler testified before the committee. A prominent German communist exile, Gerhart’s brother, Hans, composed music for Hollywood pictures, such as 1943’s anti-Nazi “Hangmen Also Die,” directed by Fritz Lang and written by Bertolt Brecht.
In March 1947, former U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Eric Johnston, then the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) president, appeared before HUAC. In May, the committee received a special appropriation of $75,000. HUAC installed itself in L.A.‘s Biltmore Hotel, and on May 8-9, 1947, it interviewed 14 friendly witnesses, including Robert Taylor, who’d starred in “Song of Russia,” co-written by CP members Paul Jarrico and Richard Collins. Lela Rogers was miffed by the Bolshie dialogue Trumbo put in her daughter Ginger’s mouth in “Tender Comrades”: “Share and share alike—that’s democracy.” Anti-communist actor Adolphe Menjou and mogul Jack Warner cooperated with HUAC; J. Edgar Hoover also appeared.
Hollywood Fights Back
In response to the HUAC’s actions, Hollywood liberals and lefties began organizing. A mass rally at Gilmore Stadium in May 1947 featured Progressive Party presidential candidate Henry Wallace and Katharine Hepburn, who delivered a speech written by Trumbo: “Silence the artist, and you silence the most articulate voice the people have. Destroy culture and you destroy one of the strongest sources of inspiration from which a people can draw strength to fight for a better life.”
Meanwhile, on Sept. 24, 1947, the committee grilled Hanns Eisler. On Sept. 27, HUAC subpoenaed 24 “friendly” (some had previously testified during HUAC’s closed sessions in L.A.) and 19 “unfriendly” witnesses (mostly Jewish), summoning them to Washington.
In Tinseltown, John Huston, then vice president of the Directors Guild, met with director William Wyler and screenwriter Philip Dunne (neither of whom were part of the “Unfriendly 19”) to create a group called the Committee for the First Amendment. CFA organized Hollywood’s liberals and left to resist HUAC, and lyricist Ira Gershwin hosted a star-studded anti-witch-hunt party that included Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Burt Lancaster, Danny Kaye, Billy Wilder and others. Their position was that the impending inquisition had nothing to do with communism per se but was about civil liberties, especially free speech. Some 500 people signed an anti-HUAC petition.
A phone hookup at Wyler’s home allowed unfriendly witnesses already in Washington, such as Adrian Scott, to inform the West Coast CFA about what was happening in the capital. According to Lawrence Grobel’s “The Hustons,” Bacall said, “It was a cry for help. They wanted a group of us to come to Washington to give them moral support. ... There was no talk of communism—communism had nothing to do with it. It had to do with the Hitlerian tactics being employed” by HUAC.
CFA organized a flight of the stars aboard Howard Hughes’ plane to fly to D.C.. Garfield, Sterling Hayden, Marsha Hunt, Jane Wyatt, Paul Henreid, June Havoc, Larry Adler and Evelyn Keyes joined Gershwin, Bogart, Bacall, Kelly, Kaye, and their spokesmen, Huston and Dunne, on the trip to Washington.
On Oct. 26, a day before the Hollywood 10 began testifying, the anti-HUAC celebrities aired the first of a two-part national broadcast called “Hollywood Fights Back!,” co-written by Norman Corwin and Robert Presnell Jr., and featuring Garland, Kelly, Bacall, “Bogie,” Robinson, Lancaster, Henreid, John Beal and William Holden.
Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?
The hearings in the Caucus Room of the Old House Office Building was a congressional media circus worthy of a Hollywood production. Rep. J. Parnell Thomas chaired the committee that included Congressman Richard Nixon. Preparing the scene for the drama to unfold, beginning Oct. 20, 1947, the cooperative witnesses were the first to take the stand. The “friendly witnesses” were allowed to read prepared statements, starting with three producers: Jack Warner, Louis B. Mayer (ex-chairman of the Republican Party’s California State Committee) and Sam Wood.
Warner told HUAC: “Ideological termites have burrowed into many American industries, organizations and societies. Wherever they may be, I say let us dig them out and get rid of them. My brothers and I will be happy to subscribe generously to a pest-removal fund. We are willing to establish such a fund to ship to Russia the people who don’t like our American system of government and prefer the Communistic system to ours.”
Russian émigré Ayn Rand attacked “Song of Russia,” complaining that the Soviet peasants smiled too much. Red-baiter Adolphe Menjou testified on Oct. 21 that he believed the Communist Party should be “outlawed.” Friendly witnesses Walt Disney, Robert Taylor, Robert Montgomery, George Murphy, Gary Cooper and Ronald Reagan also testified. While HUAC asked unfriendly witnesses about left-wing affiliations, the committee didn’t ask “Coop” about his membership in the 1930s right-wing paramilitary group Hollywood Hussars.
In 1947, Reagan was not only Screen Actors Guild president, but according to Victor Navasky, “FBI informant ‘T-10,’ ” who “enforced the blacklist.” In “Naming Names,” Navasky writes that under special agent Reagan’s SAG presidency, the guild “banned Communists and noncooperative witnesses from membership.”
The Unfriendly or Hollywood 19 were: Richard Collins, Howard Koch, Gordon Kahn, Robert Rossen, Waldo Salt, Lewis Milestone, Irving Pichel, Larry Parks, Bertolt Brecht, John Howard Lawson, Dalton Trumbo, Albert Maltz, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornitz, Herbert Biberman, Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott, Ring Lardner and Lester Cole. Despite their subpoenas, the first eight weren’t called to testify during the 1947 hearings. Brecht, a German immigrant who’d written plays such as “Galileo” (about inquisitions and recanting), appeared Oct. 30 and denied Communist Party membership. Although Thomas praised Brecht as a “good example” for other witnesses, the playwright made monkeys out of HUAC. Immediately after the hearings, Brecht fled America, eventually relocating to East Germany.
The remaining “unfriendlies”—Lawson, Trumbo, Maltz, Bessie, Ornitz, Biberman, Dmytryk, Scott, Lardner and Cole—became the Hollywood 10. They insisted that, as Philip Dunne put it, “any official inquiry into political beliefs and affiliations was unconstitutional.” After collaborators had poisoned the atmosphere and tainted their reputations, the 10 were called to testify.
On Oct. 27, Lawson— the “Grand Pooh-Bah of the Communist movement,” according to screenwriter Martin Berkeley—was the first to testify. Lawson protested the fact that he, unlike the cooperative testifiers, was not permitted to read a prepared statement, and in a combative interchange, he tried to do so.
While Lawson attempted to speak, HUAC Chairman Thomas banged his gavel 16 times, reportedly breaking it. The Hollywood 10’s legal strategy was to stand on First Amendment rights in refusing to answer questions regarding political affiliation, which might not only incriminate them but could lead to being questioned about others. Lawson was asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” He responded, “It is unfortunate and tragic that I have to teach this committee the basic principles of American—” but the gavel-pounding chairman drowned out the witness, declaring, “That is not the question,” and ordered officers to drag Lawson away.
The animosity of that initial exchange colored the remainder of the hearings and its aftermath. When Thomas asked Lardner about party membership, he quipped: “I could answer ... but if I did, I would hate myself in the morning.” Thomas ordered the feisty Lardner to “leave the witness chair” and had an attendant officer “take the witness away.”
Albert Maltz dubbed investigator Stripling “Mr. Quisling,” referring to Norwegian leader Vidkun Quisling, who had collaborated with the Nazis. While police held him, Trumbo shouted, “This is the beginning of the American concentration camp!”
Part two of the “Hollywood Fights Back!” radio program was nationally broadcast Nov. 2, with Danny Kaye, Dorothy McGuire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Peter Lorre, Richard Conte, Richard Rodgers, Rita Hayworth, Jane Wyatt and John Huston. But their effort was in vain.
The Hollywood 10 were cited for contempt of Congress Nov. 24, 1947. Meanwhile, the MPAA held a secretive financiers’ and producers’ pow-wow in Manhattan called the “Waldorf Conference.” On Nov. 25, 1947, MPAA President Johnston announced:
“Members of the Association of Motion Picture Producers deplore the action of the 10 Hollywood men who have been cited for contempt. We do not desire to prejudge their legal rights, but their actions have been a disservice to their employers and have impaired their usefulness to the industry. We will forthwith discharge or suspend without compensation those in our employ and we will not re-employ any of the 10 until such time as he is acquitted or has purged himself of contempt and declares under oath that he is not a Communist. On the broader issues of alleged subversive and disloyal elements in Hollywood, our members are likewise prepared to take positive action. We will not knowingly employ a Communist or a member of any party ... which advocates the overthrow of the government. ...”
The opposition back in Tinseltown began crumbling. Many were dismayed by the militancy of Lawson and others, as well as by their legal strategy. Bogart publicly recanted. Leftists were voted out of leadership positions in the talent guilds. The Hollywood Blacklist was in full swing.
Fade to Blacklist
In early 1948, the Hollywood 10 were tried for contempt of Congress. Fate intervened; two liberal Supreme Court justices had died since 1947 and were replaced by conservatives. The defendants were found guilty, fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to up to one year behind bars. By 1950, the 10 lost their appeals—in April the Supreme Court decided not to hear their case.
In 1951, HUAC launched new witch-hunting hearings; more witnesses were called, and the uncooperative ones were blacklisted by the movie industry. Among the 300-plus talents denied employment in Hollywood was “Oz” lyricist Yip Harburg, who had won an Oscar for co-writing “Over the Rainbow,” the song that put Judy Garland on the movie map.
Collaborators such as Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg, who named names, were generally allowed to continue making movies. Since the First Amendment defense had failed to keep the 10 out of jail, dissidents changed their legal strategy. As screenwriter Robert Lees—blacklisted in 1951 for refusing to name names—recounted: “After the 10 were imprisoned, and the anti-Communist McCarran and Smith Acts were passed, the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination became the defense. The government couldn’t jail and fine you for contempt of Congress, but the punishment came from the studios, who fired you.” Pleading the Fifth also protected witnesses from naming others.
Actor Larry Parks testified March 21,1951: “I don’t think this is American justice to make me ... crawl through the mud. ... This is what I beg you not to do.” Pressured to inform, Parks insisted: “I am no longer fighting for myself, because I tell you frankly that I am probably the most completely ruined man that you have ever seen. I am fighting for a principle. ... I don’t think that it is in the spirit of real Americanism.” Despite his confessions and informing, Parks was blacklisted.
Not everybody informed or crawled. During her May 21, 1952 HUAC session, Lillian Hellman’s letter stated: “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions. ... ”
Actor Lionel Stander often played tough guys. During his May 6, 1953 HUAC hearing, Stander pretended that he was going to cooperate, but mocked the witch-hunters instead: “I know of some subversive activities in the entertainment industry and elsewhere in the country,” he said. “I know of a group of fanatics who are desperately trying to undermine the Constitution of the United States by depriving artists and others of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness without due process of law.”
Paul Robeson appeared before HUAC June 12, 1956. When asked the $64 question, the actor and singer responded: “What do you mean by the Communist Party? ... Do you mean a party of people who have sacrificed for my people, and for all Americans and workers, that they can live in dignity? Do you mean that party?”
How did the Hollywood blacklist work in practice? “Commies” were denounced as Stalinist agents helping Moscow spread world domination and subverting movies. Those subpoenaed or otherwise named had to denounce not only their left-wing ties but name others who’d had progressive links. Those who recanted purged themselves and were considered generally “rehabilitated” and could return to work.
Besides HUAC, there was another way to smear members of the entertainment industry. “Red Channels, the Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television,” was a paperback brochure published in 1950 by former FBI agents. “Red Channels” listed the names of suspected Communist Party members and the organizations they allegedly supported. “It was one way of vetting people,” explained Nat Segaloff, who co-wrote “The Waldorf Conference.”
In describing HUAC’s mission, Chairman Thomas declared that his committee “has the responsibility of exposing and spotlighting subversive elements wherever they may exist. It is only to be expected that such elements would strive desperately to gain entry to the motion picture industry [which] offers such a tremendous weapon for education and propaganda.”
Was this conservative charge true? One person’s “subversion” is another’s “freedom fighting.” Although it’s rarely noted, Hollywood’s Golden Age also coincided with its “Crimson Era,” when Left Coast Reds and independent leftists had their greatest influence on the industry.
“We were idealists ... who wrote humanist films about real people with real problems ... progressive films way ahead of their time—feminist, anti-racist—mostly well-made little ‘B’ films, such as Robert Rossen’s “Marked Woman” , starring Bette Davis [and Humphrey Bogart], and John Howard Lawson’s “Smash-Up” , starring Susan Hayward. They did not try to get in any Communist propaganda,” insisted Barzman.
Alvah Bessie’s son Dan stressed, “The CP line was identical with the line of lots of democratic Americans. Lots of people besides Communists were opposed to racism, wanted to portray blacks in a fair and democratic way.” Antifascism reflected CP policies, “but was also part of Roosevelt New Deal politics ... of the whole thrust of democratic sensibilities ... part of which included the CP line, Dan Bessie said, adding that at the time there were also “people who injected stuff of a similar nature into films who weren’t Communists.”
Sidney Buchman, the screenwriter of 1939’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” starring Jimmy Stewart as an idealistic senator fighting corruption, was a card-carrying Communist. Yes, Hollywood Reds and independent leftists tried to work their progressive politics into films, but movies and moviegoers are better off because of the conscience and consciousness they injected into mass entertainment. I’m glad movies like “Mr. Smith” were made—aren’t you?
Moviedom suffered when many of its most committed creative people were banished, causing a leveling of artistic expression. A repressive culture of conformity swept 1950s’ America. Costa-Gavras, director of the Oscar-winning “Z,” said: “For the cinema and democracy, this was one of the darkest periods of the American story. There is not any doubt.”
But the blacklist couldn’t last forever. Screenwriters used pseudonyms and fronts to sell scripts; Trumbo even won an Oscar under a pen name. In 1958, independent producer Stanley Kramer hired two blacklisted screenwriters, Ned Young and Harold Jacob Smith, to write “The Defiant Ones.” The title sequence rolled their credits under their faces, as they briefly appeared onscreen. In 1960, Otto Preminger and Kirk Douglas allowed Trumbo to receive screen credit for “Exodus” and “Spartacus.” Eventually, the blacklist dissolved and a handful of blacklisted artists made comebacks.
Commemorating the Hollywood 10 and the Blacklist
According to Costa-Gavras, the Hollywood Blacklist is “a period we should visit, and try to see what happened, and why that happened to understand it, so it won’t be repeated.” The upcoming 60th anniversary of the Hollywood 10 “needs to be marked,” insists Lawson biographer Gerald Horne.
In January 2007 blacklist survivors and their relatives, a member of the original Committee for the First Amendment and supporters met to discuss appropriate ways to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Hollywood 10 and Blacklist. They formed a sort of exploratory group, the Committee for the First Amendment ‘47/ ‘07, and considered proposals for righting wrongs and raising awareness, including: congressional apologies from the House of Representatives for the House Un-American Activities Committee and from the Senate for Sen. Joe McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; a star for the Hollywood 10 and blacklistees on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame; and a special Oscar for the Hollywood 10 and blacklistees.
Addressing and redressing these grievances is not merely an exercise in ancient history. The Committee for the First Amendment ‘47/ ‘07 seeks to raise consciousness about the legacy of the Hollywood 10 and the Blacklist, and their relevance vis-à-vis repression in our own age: the Patriot Act, extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo, torture, habeas corpus, mass detentions, preventive war, warrantless wiretapping and other forms of surreptitious surveillance, as well as other “homeland security” measures.
On Oct. 26, the exact 60th anniversary of the Committee for the First Amendment’s first “Hollywood Fights Back!” broadcast, contemporary talents, along with blacklist survivors and their relatives, will reenact the original 1947 radio program. The performers scheduled to participate include: former SAG President Ed Asner, Norma Barzman, Larry Gelbart, Isabelle Gunning (ACLU/SC president), Marsha Hunt, Camryn Manheim, Ramona Ripston, Christopher Trumbo, James Whitmore and Becca Wilson. The event, presented by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, will take place at L.A.‘s Skirball Center. For information, call (213) 977-9500, ext. 227.
Los Angeles-based film historian Ed Rampell (named after Edward R. Murrow) wrote “Progressive Hollywood: A People’s Film History of the United States” (The Disinformation Co., 2005).
Stars on the march: Silver-screen luminaries Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart lead the way during a protest against HUAC during the height of the Hollywood Blacklist controversy.