A group of people holding signs

Description automatically generated
A demonstration to free the Hollywood Ten along with members of the Ten and their supporters. [Source: indiewire.com]

Let’s Hope History Does Not Repeat

This month marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the Hollywood Blacklist. On October 27, 1947, screenwriter John Howard Lawson, the first member of what came to be known as the “Hollywood Ten,” testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC).

John Howard Lawson (1894 – 1977) – The Hollywood Reporter
John Howard Lawson [Source: hollywoodreporter.com]

The contentious, testy testimony before a gavel-banging congressman in Washington launched the Hollywood Blacklist, in which members of the motion picture industry who refused to “cooperate” with HUAC by informing on themselves and others about their leftist politics were forbidden from working in the movies until roughly 1960.

This was when the Hollywood Ten’s Dalton Trumbo received screen credits under his real name (instead of a pseudonym) for writing Spartacus (1960) and Exodus (1960).

Dalton Trumbo - Wikipedia
Dalton Trumbo [Source: wikipedia.org]

The Hollywood Ten served prison time and were fined for refusing to answer questions such as “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” and for declining to rat out others.

This conservative cancel culture, enforced by the movie studios and the U.S. government with the aid of the FBI, prevented about 300 talents from being able to earn a living in the cinema—because of their politics and beliefs.

[Source: Photo courtesy of Ed Rampell]

The inquisition in Tinseltown in turn paved the way for the larger repressive Red Scare of McCarthyism during the 1950s, which decimated the American left and fostered the rightward shift in American politics away from the New Deal.

A couple of men holding signs

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Reds-under-the-beds zealotry of the Blacklist period. [Source: oscars.org]

Commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the Hollywood Blacklist kick off on October 13, 2022, as Turner Classic Movies launched a film series with the premiere of the excellent short, High Noon on the Waterfront. This compelling 14-minute documentary co-written/co-directed by David C. Roberts and Billy Shebar shows how two artists ensnared in the Blacklist metaphorically expressed their stands regarding the motion picture purge through their films.

[Source: cinemasentries.com]

Elia Kazan, the quintessential informer who collaborated with HUAC and “named names” of other suspected radicals, directed On the Waterfront (1954), a movie that justified informing.

[Source: wikipedia.org]

Carl Foreman, who was blacklisted and eventually moved overseas in order to be able to continue making movies, wrote the allegorical Western High Noon (1952), with the frontier town of Hadleyville—where Gary Cooper is forsaken by the townsfolk and must take a stand against evil by himself—symbolizing Hollywood during the Blacklist.

A picture containing text, book

Description automatically generated
[Source: wikipedia.org]

Using the actual written words of the talents, Kazan is voiced by John Turturro, while Ed Norton speaks Foreman’s lines. The short creatively intercuts between scenes of High Noon and On the Waterfront. Here is the TCM schedule:

Thursday, October 13  
Special Theme: 75th Anniversary of The Hollywood Blacklist – Night 1
8:00 PM High Noon on the Waterfront (2022)
8:30 PM High Noon (1952)
10:00 PM High Noon on the Waterfront (2022)
10:30 PM On the Waterfront (1954)
12:30 PM High Noon on the Waterfront (2022)
   
Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity
   
1:00 AM Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity (2015)
3:00 AM Carnegie Hall (1947)
   
Thursday, October 20  
Special Theme: 75th Anniversary of The Hollywood Blacklist – Night 2
   
8:00 PM Salt of the Earth (1954) (Herbert Biberman, Paul Jerrico, Will Geer, Rosaura Revueltas, Michael Wilson)
10:00 PM A King in New York (1957) (Charlie Chaplin)
12:00 AM The Brave One (1956) (Dalton Trumbo)
2:00 AM Time Without Pity (1957) (Joseph Losey)
   
Thursday, October 27  
Special Theme: 75th Anniversary of The Hollywood Blacklist – Night 3
Looking Back  
8:00 PM The Way We Were (1973)
10:15 PM The Front (1976)
12:00 AM The Majestic (2001)
   
* All times Eastern Daylight Time

On October 21 a movie about the production of the Orson Welles-directed 1936 play that came to be known as Voodoo Macbeth opens. In it, Texas Congressman Martin Dies, who co-started what came to be HUAC, is depicted as race-baiting and red-baiting Voodoo Macbeth’s all-Black cast and its crew. About 11 years later, the congressional committee Dies set into motion turned from the stage and set its sights on the screen. The film Voodoo Macbeth is being theatrically released October 21. For more information, see voodoomacbethfim.com.

L.A.’s new Academy Museum, dedicated to film culture and history, is also reportedly planning a Blacklist series in Spring 2023. Oona Chaplin—whose grandfather Charlie directed and starred in 1957’s anti-HUAC A King in New York—is presenting a BBC podcast on the Blacklist in 2023.

Members of the Hollywood community who formed the Committee for the First Amendment flew from L.A. to Washington during the 1947 HUAC hearings to support and defend the Hollywood Ten. At the bottom of the airstair is actress Marsha Hunt, a civil libertarian who was blacklisted even though she was never a Communist Party member. Marsha died in September 2022 at age 104 and is chronicled in the documentary TCM is airing, Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity, on October 13. [Source: Photo courtesy of Ed Rampell]

As book banning, media blacklisting and school board prohibitions on teaching history accelerate, and as a new cold war with Russia is being launched, it is important for Americans to remember when the First Amendment was forgotten in Hollywood.

Stay tuned—and down with censorship!


CovertAction Magazine is made possible by subscriptionsorders and donations from readers like you.

Blow the Whistle on U.S. Imperialism

 

 

Click the whistle and donate

 

When you donate to CovertAction Magazine, you are supporting investigative journalism. Your contributions go directly to supporting the development, production, editing, and dissemination of the Magazine.

CovertAction Magazine does not receive corporate or government sponsorship. Yet, we hold a steadfast commitment to providing compensation for writers, editorial and technical support. Your support helps facilitate this compensation as well as increase the caliber of this work.

Please make a donation by clicking on the donate logo above and enter the amount and your credit or debit card information.

CovertAction Institute, Inc. (CAI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and your gift is tax-deductible for federal income purposes. CAI’s tax-exempt ID number is 87-2461683.

We sincerely thank you for your support.


Disclaimer: The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s). CovertAction Institute, Inc. (CAI), including its Board of Directors (BD), Editorial Board (EB), Advisory Board (AB), staff, volunteers and its projects (including CovertAction Magazine) are not responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. This article also does not necessarily represent the views the BD, the EB, the AB, staff, volunteers, or any members of its projects.

Differing viewpoints: CAM publishes articles with differing viewpoints in an effort to nurture vibrant debate and thoughtful critical analysis. Feel free to comment on the articles in the comment section and/or send your letters to the Editors, which we will publish in the Letters column.

Copyrighted Material: This web site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. As a not-for-profit charitable organization incorporated in the State of New York, we are making such material available in an effort to advance the understanding of humanity’s problems and hopefully to help find solutions for those problems. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. You can read more about ‘fair use’ and US Copyright Law at the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School.

Republishing: CovertAction Magazine (CAM) grants permission to cross-post CAM articles on not-for-profit community internet sites as long as the source is acknowledged together with a hyperlink to the original CovertAction Magazine article. Also, kindly let us know at info@CovertActionMagazine.com. For publication of CAM articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: info@CovertActionMagazine.com.

By using this site, you agree to these terms above.


About the Author

3 COMMENTS

Leave a Reply