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Hollywood's Blacklists

Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History

Reynold Humphries
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Hollywood's Blacklists
    Book Description:

    Reynold Humphries provide a history of the political and cultural factors underpinning the why and the how of the various investigations of alleged Communist infiltration of Hollywood.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3052-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. The Background
    (pp. 1-6)

    On the morning of 27 October 1947 screenwriter John Howard Lawson appeared before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in Washington to answer questions in the context of its inquiries into Communism in the Motion Picture Industry. The Committee’s Chairman was Republican Congressman J. Parnell Thomas, its Chief Investigator Robert Stripling, a southern Democrat. Lawson asked to be allowed to read a statement. Thomas examined it and refused: it was not pertinent to the Hearings. Stripling then commenced the interrogation of Lawson. After establishing his identity, he asked: ‘Are you now or have you ever been a member of...

  5. I Drawing up the Battle Lines

    • Introduction
      (pp. 9-26)

      The Democrat Roosevelt was elected to theWhite House in 1932 to combat the disastrous effects of the Depression: widespread unemployment as a result of the Stock Exchange Crash of 1929. His electorate comprised both ordinary Americans looking desperately for someone able to return their country to its pristine prosperity and businessmen who, fearing a socialist solution, turned to a moderate ready to save capitalism from itself, while ushering in an age of welfare destined to alleviate the worst suffering (Fraser and Gerstle 1989). The name given to Roosevelt’s initiatives was ‘the New Deal’ and it was embraced by the majority...

    • 1 Hollywood and the Union Question
      (pp. 27-39)

      The question of unions in general and Hollywood unions in particular is a vast and complex matter which we shall find recurring throughout these pages. It was the creation of a union that sowed the seeds of the antagonisms, conflicts and trench warfare that characterised the relations not only between studios and employees in Hollywood but also between unions. These relations were to lead by a tortuous route to the Hearings and the consequent blacklist. The protracted and bitter campaigns waged to form an independent writers’ union and the nature of the attempts to sabotage any such union will be...

    • 2 The War Years, 1939–1945
      (pp. 40-61)

      When the US declared war on Japan on 8 December 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nazi Germany had overrun Europe and been at war with Britain since September 1939. The controversy that raged in America between partisans and adversaries of the country’s participation in the war effort was rendered more complex by the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi–Soviet Pact and attitudes within America to Nazi Germany. If Americans were united from 1941 to 1945, films made in the period 1938–40 showed that anti-Fascism brought together film-makers of very different political opinions. Before discussing certain war films,...

    • 3 Hollywood Strikes, the Right Strikes Back
      (pp. 62-74)

      The title of this chapter refers to the prolonged and violent strikes that shook Warner Brothers in 1945 and 1946 and the consequent right-wing backlash within the industry (and beyond). We have seen that HUAC had investigated Communism in Hollywood as early as 1940 and the union struggles throughout the 1930s had left indelible traces within the ranks of those opposed to unionisation within the fi lm industry. If the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA) was the explicitly right-wing manifestation of anti-Communism in Hollywood, its creation in early 1944 was not a purely local phenomenon...

  6. II From the Hot War to the Cold War

    • 4 The Hearings of 1947
      (pp. 77-104)

      The implications of the events which took place in Washington in October 1947 and which were to usher in a period of fear, betrayal and a concerted attack on civil liberties cannot be fully grasped without a brief discussion of the activities of HUAC during the period 1938–44 when presided over by Martin Dies, a conservative Democrat from Texas.

      Dies is notorious for his denunciation of Hollywood in 1938 as a den of ‘premature anti-fascists’, meaning that he was not opposed to Fascist regimes until they waged war on the US. Future blacklistee, writer Paul Jarrico, was proud of...

    • 5 None Shall Escape: The Hearings of 1951–1953
      (pp. 105-127)

      There was little cause for optimism in Hollywood in 1948, yet the events that came to pass within three years must have exceeded the worst fears. In 1949 the Soviet Union exploded its first atom bomb and the Communists seized power in China. In February 1950 Senator McCarthy claimed the State Department was harbouring 205 Communists and four months later the Korean War erupted when the Communist North invaded the pro-American South.¹ When the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death in 1951, the judge stated in court that he held them personally responsible for the American deaths in Korea.² He received...

    • 6 The Anti-Communist Crusade on the Screen
      (pp. 128-143)

      Of all the friendly witnesses, two in particular have taken on a special symbolic status because of the circumstances and the repercussions of their testimonies: director Edward Dmytryk of the Ten and writer-director Elia Kazan. Kazan’s case is of interest because of the film he made two years after his testimony, On the Waterfront (1954), and his ‘Life Achievement’ Academy Award in 1999. This latter event encountered an opposition in the form of public demonstrations on the part of former blacklistees who were not ready to forget the implications of Kazan’s testimony.¹ As blacklisted writer Walter Bernstein put it, ‘it...

    • 7 Life (and Death) on the Blacklist
      (pp. 144-158)

      In December 1950, just weeks before HUAC’s return to Hollywood, there opened a film that was one of the Left’s most remarkable and prescient criticisms of the way American society was going – and one of the last: The Sound of Fury, written by Jo Pagano and directed by Cyril Endfield whose previous film The Underworld Story was an extended allegory on witch hunting.¹ The left-wing themes of class, intolerance and the need for a scapegoat central to The Underworld Story are taken to their logical conclusion in the later film where two men – arrested for killing the wealthy man they...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 159-163)

    In 1972 there appeared a film which failed lamentably at the box office in the US precisely because it told the truth about the past and the present of that country: Billy Wilder’s Avanti! I can think of no film that sums up so cogently the climate of the early 1970s and so brilliantly links that climate to the period under discussion in this book. In the film Jack Lemmon rushes to Italy to recover the body of his father, killed in an accident. He discovers that a young woman (Juliet Mills) is also there to recover the body of...

  8. Archival Sources
    (pp. 164-165)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 166-174)
  10. Index
    (pp. 175-184)