Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Tender Comrades

Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist

Alison Morley
William B. Winburn
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 800
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Tender Comrades
    Book Description:

    More than sixty years ago, McCarthyism silenced Hollywood. In the pages ofTender Comrades, those who were suppressed, whose lives and careers were ruined, finally have their say. A unique collection of profiles in cinematic courage, this extraordinary oral history brings to light the voices of thirty-six blacklist survivors (including two members of the Hollywood Ten), seminal directors of film noir and other genres, starring actresses and memorable supporting players, top screenwriters, and many less known to the public, who are rescued from obscurity by the stories they offer here that, beyond politics, open a rich window into moviemaking during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8262-1
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction: Meet the People
    (pp. xiii-xxiii)
    Patrick McGilligan and Paul Buhle

    This book provides a unique opportunity to meet a representative group of the Hollywood figures named as subversives in the congressional hearings that took place from 1947 through the 1950s in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Only a percentage of the people called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)—only a percentage of those represented in this book—were actually given the thankless opportunity to appear in public and “defend themselves.” All adopted the non-collaborative stance that set them apart from the “friendly witnesses.” All were blacklisted.

    Hundreds of people—famous and obscure—were cited in...

  5. Norma Barzman (and Ben Barzman)
    (pp. 1-28)
    Norma Barzman, Ben Barzman and Larry Ceplair

    It was very foggy in our minds, what we would do in California. I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter and be near my cousin Henry [Myers];* that was clear. I would try to find a screenwriting school, if there was such a thing, and get a job on a newspaper. The very first night, Henry took me to a Russian movie,Chapayev. I had seen few Russian movies, so this was exciting to me. In addition, Henry introduced me to the progressive community of Hollywood, who regularly attended foreign-film showings. I met everyone who would later be named...

  6. Leonardo Bercovici
    (pp. 29-42)
    Leonardo Bercovici and Paul Buhle

    Tell me about your background.

    I was born in New York City in 1908. We were very poor in my early years. My father must have come over to America in 1904 or 1905. He was a profoundly educated man, self-educated, a Romanian Jew. My mother and father quarreled in five languages! For a time my father worked in steel mills and as a salesman, selling various articles. During the First World War he became a Spanish translator for Texaco. After that he moved into being editor of theApparel Producer. Later he became the labor editor ofWomen's Wear...

  7. Walter Bernstein
    (pp. 43-54)
    Walter Bernstein and Paul Buhle

    Do you have a general approach to understanding the motivations of the friendly witnesses, aside from the feeling that they all did it for their careers?

    I think it’s a mistake to try psychologizing. They are all different, and each has a distinct makeup. You could talk about Budd Schulberg’s relationship with his autocratic father [Paramount executive B. P. Schulberg], for instance. Or about how [director] Robert Rossen, for egotistical reasons, was initially indignant not to be named as one of the Hollywood Ten. One’s own reflections become highly personal, whether it’s Rossen, whom I worked for, or Schulberg, whom...

  8. John (Jack) Berry
    (pp. 55-89)
    John Berry and Patrick McGilligan

    All the film reference books say you were born in New York City.

    They’re all right.


    I was born in the Bronx, on Hoe Avenue, and then we did the classic thing that immigrant Jewish families did: our first move was from the Lower East Side to upper Manhattan; then the big move was back down to lower Manhattan. That was the trajectory of many of those families.

    Were your parents born in America?

    My real name is Jack Sold, or Szold. My mother was a Rumanian. My father, who for a long time claimed to be a Hungarian...

  9. Alvah Bessie
    (pp. 90-111)
    Alvah Bessie, Patrick McGilligan and Ken Mate

    Can you tell us a little bit about your class and family background?

    I was born into a middle-class Jewish family in New York City in 1904, which was an awful long time ago. My father was an admirer of Cecil Rhodes, the great imperialist after whom he named me. My middle name is Cecil, which I’ve never used since I became aware of who Cecil Rhodes was and of his role in Africa. My father had been sent to law school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but he never practiced law. He got a job with the American Tobacco Company...

  10. Allen Boretz
    (pp. 112-127)
    Allen Boretz, Patrick McGilligan and Ken Mate

    My name is Allen Boretz. I was born August 31, 1900. The first contact I had with Hollywood was in either 1934 or 1935. At that time I was rather a hot boy on Broadway. I had three plays sold, all of them scheduled for production. One of them wasRoom Service, which has since become a classic; another was calledSchool Teacher, which got wonderfully reviewed in Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the theater where Eugene O’Neill used to have his work shown; and the third was a play calledAs the Twig, which was under option, and the director of...

  11. John Bright
    (pp. 128-154)
    John Bright, Patrick McGilligan and Ken Mate

    My name is John Bright, and I was born New Year’s Day 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland—a few years before Ronald Reagan was a blessed event in another part of the country.

    How did you become radicalized?

    I gravitated toward a political point of view because of my earliest contacts with the anarchist movement. Not the movement per se, but the Hobo College on West Madison Street in Chicago, where I moved when I was young. The teachers were Emma Goldman and Ben Reitman,* and [Big] Bill Haywood, who organized the IWW [Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies], was...

  12. Jean Rouverol Butler (and Hugo Butler)
    (pp. 155-176)
    Jean Rouverol Butler, Hugo Butler, Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner

    Let’s talk about your family background a bit.

    Women from Utah had voted for quite a while and my mother, Aurania Ellerbeck, was a Republican feminist. She had been a change-of-life baby, the youngest of twenty-two children, only eight of whom were born to her mother. My grandfather was an apostate Mormon. After two years of trying to figure out a name for her, someone noticed that a Cunard liner named theAuraniahad docked in San Pedro, and they all thought, “What a nice name!” My mother went to Radcliffe to study playwriting, and while she was there in...

  13. Jeff Corey
    (pp. 177-198)
    Jeff Corey and Patrick McGilligan

    You don’t advertise; you don’t publicize. Yet you’re quite well-known among the acting community, not only as one of the best teachers but as an actor of distinction.

    There’s a category which is a solace to some actors: “actor’s actor.” People, particularly as you get older, pay homage to you when they work on a set with you. Even Peter O’Toole, when I did a day’s work onCreator, bowed from the waist and said, “I am awed.” I remember when I met Richard Burton on an adventure movie—I forget the name of it—and he reeled off all...

  14. Jules Dassin
    (pp. 199-224)
    Jules Dassin and Patrick McGilligan

    When were you radicalized?

    I guess from the time I was about six. You know, you grow up in Harlem, where there’s trouble getting fed and keeping families warm, and you live very close to Fifth Avenue, which is elegant. You fret, you get ideas, seeing a lot of poverty around you, and it’s a very natural process. Then, as you grow older, you read things and you see deeper, and this went on into the 1930s, when there was a big movement in America. I was particularly influenced by the writers and playwrights of the time. There was a...

  15. Edward Eliscu
    (pp. 225-249)
    Edward Eliscu, Patrick McGilligan and David Eliscu

    What are the roots of your love of show business?

    I’m sorry if we’re starting with the assumption that I have a great love for show business. I’d rather characterize my lifetime experience as someone deeply and incorrigibly attracted to the theater.

    I had a triple ambition: to be an actor, a writer, and a director. My absolute devotion to the theater, including the serious part, began when I was very young. Remembering my mother, I would say that she should have been an actress. She had all the equipment and temperament to be one. She and I used to...

  16. Anne Froelick (Anne Froelick Taylor)
    (pp. 250-259)
    Anne Froelick, Anne Froelick Taylor, Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner

    When were you born?

    I was born in December 1913 in Massachusetts. I grew up, actually, in Princeton, New Jersey. As a child, I don’t remember my own father. When I was only three, my mother remarried. My stepfather, Louis D. Froelick, some years later adopted my sister, Peggy, and me. He was the founder and editor ofAsiamagazine.* He had gone out to Peking right after he graduated from Princeton, and there he got very involved with China.

    So this was a prosperous Protestant family.

    Yes, and I went to a wonderful school, Miss Fine’s, in Princeton. It...

  17. Bernard Gordon
    (pp. 260-278)
    Bernard Gordon and Patrick McGilligan

    Tell me about your first meeting with Philip Yordan and how much you knew about him beforehand.

    I knew a lot about him from my good friend Irving Lerner. Irving had been working for Yordan for years, and he brought me in to help straighten outStuds Loniganby writing the narration and helping to recut the film. I have a history of taking long, discursive novels and making scripts out of them. Yordan came over from Spain, and I met him in the projection room. He said, “Give me an example of one line you might write,” and I...

  18. Faith Hubley (and John Hubley)
    (pp. 279-304)
    Faith Hubley, John Hubley and Patrick McGilligan

    Your official biography says that you were born in New York City and studied theater before coming to Hollywood.

    I worked as a stage manager, and I studied with the New Theatre League at the New School. I studied the Stanislavsky Method for years—acting and directing—under Brett Warren and Lem Ward (in New York), and later with Lee J. Cobb, J. Edward Bromberg, Morris Carnovsky, and Phoebe Brand in Los Angeles. These were the old Group Theatre people—which brought me full circle, because seeing the Group Theatre, while I was still in high school, is how I...

  19. Marsha Hunt
    (pp. 305-324)
    Marsha Hunt and Glenn Lovell

    Are you nervous about treading the boards again?

    I don’t think I have the good sense to be nervous. I don’t seem to get nervous. I’m always so happy when I’m in a play. I get revved up, but I don’t think it’s nervousness. I wasn’t nervous on my first screen test when I was seventeen. Maybe I mentioned that I don’t have good sense. Even earthquakes don’t seem to panic me.

    After what you’ve been through, I can understand why it might take a lot to rattle you.

    The blacklist was an unhappy chapter in my life. When I...

  20. Paul Jarrico
    (pp. 325-350)
    Paul Jarrico and Patrick McGilligan

    Tell me a little about your background.

    I was born in Los Angeles in 1915, the only son of immigrant Jews from Russia. I grew up as Israel Shapiro, but in 1937, when I got my first job as a screenwriter, I changed my name to Paul Jarrico.

    How did you decide to become a writer?

    I’d been a writer of sorts from an early age. I was a high-school journalist, then a college journalist, and I began to write short stories in college, even began a novel.

    Why did you turn to screenwriting?

    It was unpremeditated, a matter of...

  21. Mickey Knox
    (pp. 351-388)
    Mickey Knox and Patrick McGilligan

    Where did the politics come from, for you?

    My mother and father. My mother was a revolutionary in Russia, as a very young girl. Her mother, my grandmother, warned her, grabbed her, took her out of Russia, and brought her to America. My father is another question—he was a Marxist but very anti-Stalinist. My father and my mother were never married. They both came from Odessa. My mother got married to my stepfather when I was five.

    Where did your interest in show business come from?

    I wanted to be an actor—I don’t know why—from the age...

  22. Millard Lampell
    (pp. 389-403)
    Millard Lampell and Paul Buhle

    Did you start writing articles, short stories, and radio scripts before or after your time with the Almanac Singers?

    I was a storyteller from an early age. I grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. My parents both worked all day, and I liked to make up stories for the other kids. But I had never thought of being a writer until I went to the University of West Virginia on a football scholarship, got injured playing football, and had my scholarship cut off by the college. Then I began ghosting master’s theses for pay. The students did the research, and...

  23. Ring Lardner Jr.
    (pp. 404-414)
    Ring Lardner Jr. and Patrick McGilligan

    How logical was the grouping of the Hollywood Nineteen? What did these people have in common?

    From the week the subpoenas arrived, in September 1947, speculation began about how the recipients who came to be known as “the unfriendly nineteen” were chosen. I felt then, and still feel now, that it was in part a rather haphazard process. It is true the list included some of the best-known Hollywood radicals: John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, and Herbert Biberman. And there were another eight of us who were, along with others equally eligible but not summoned, on the second...

  24. Robert Lees
    (pp. 415-440)
    Robert Lees, Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner

    Let’s begin by talking about your family background.

    My family was middle-class, Jewish, successful. My father changed his name from Leszynsky to Lees. Many of my relatives turned out liberal, but most were very much Republicans, Jewish Republicans, until Roosevelt came in. Then some switched. My mother was very bright; her side was the Badts, German Jews, the ones most determined to get education. That side of the family was, however, quite conservative politically.

    Our neighborhood in San Francisco was Presidio Avenue, right near the Presidio and very beautiful. Most of my friends were Jewish. I graduated from Lowell High...

  25. Alfred Lewis Levitt (and Helen Slote Levitt)
    (pp. 441-469)
    Alfred Lewis Levitt, Helen Slote Levitt and Larry Ceplair

    When did you decide to become a writer?

    All my life I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I remember even writing poetry and stories as a child. When I got to high school I wrote for publications, and in college [at the New York University campus in the Bronx] I did a lot of writing, too.

    I started writing about sports because then I got free tickets to everything. [Laughs.] I became sports editor of the college newspaper, theHeights News, and Helen and I went to all the games.

    As a result, two things happened. I...

  26. Karen Morley
    (pp. 470-480)
    Karen Morley, Patrick McGilligan and Ken Mate

    Writers and directors sometimes must cope with reactionary content in their scripts by exercising tricks of their craft, which is something that actors and actresses are not always able to do. What did you do when presented with characterizations that were either clichéd or degrading?

    Well, I played lots of clichés. But about the only thing an actor can do, unfortunately, is to refuse a part—simply to turn it down—unless you are one of those people who have a great deal of influence in the studio. But ordinary actors under contract didn’t have that kind of influence.


  27. Abraham Polonsky
    (pp. 481-494)
    Abraham Polonsky, Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner

    When and why did you join the Communist Party?

    I joined the Party very late, after I got out of college, around 1935 or 1936, at the time of the Spanish Civil War. It was kind of funny, because I wasn’t “joining” in the usual sense—I was already meeting with some of these people, mostly other instructors at City College, who were all members of the Anti-Fascist League. I myself taught English literature at City College from 1935 until the war started.

    I came from a family of Socialists. Philosophically, I was always a materialist and a leftist. And...

  28. Maurice Rapf
    (pp. 495-539)
    Maurice Rapf and Patrick McGilligan

    Can you start by telling me a little bit about your father and the circumstances into which you were born in Hollywood?

    Sure, but I was born in New York. My father was a vaudeville agent, actually, who also wrote acts. He had his office in the Palace Theater building, which was on Broadway and Forty-sixth Street, I think. We moved to California when I was seven years old, in 1921. It was on my birthday; that’s why I remember it.

    Before that, my father had led sort of a dual life. I really didn’t know him too well in...

  29. Betsy Blair Reisz
    (pp. 540-555)
    Betsy Blair Reisz and Patrick McGilligan

    Why did you go to Hollywood?

    I have to begin my story earlier. I grew up in Cliffside, New Jersey, right on the river, next to the George Washington Bridge. It was a completely normal small-town life. I went to dancing school, and I was good at dancing, so I entered an amateur show at the Fort Lee movie theater and won. I joined up with a kind of troupe of amateurs who toured around New Jersey. Although my mother was very enthusiastic about my dancing, she was also a schoolteacher, and I went to the school where she taught,...

  30. Martin Ritt
    (pp. 556-570)
    Martin Ritt and Patrick McGilligan

    How did growing up in the thirties affect your view of making movies?

    Well, obviously it affected me a great deal. There was a great liberal surge in the country, emotionally and politically, and I was part of it. All the gifted people and all the excitement I knew around the theater were part of that sector of our intellectual thought. I was lucky enough to be working with an off-Broadway group, the Theatre of Action. I met Elia Kazan there. I was lucky enough to be around the Group Theatre, which was probably the single greatest group of theater...

  31. Marguerite Roberts (and John Sanford)
    (pp. 571-584)
    Marguerite Roberts, John Sanford and Tina Daniell

    Were you born in Colorado?

    Roberts: I was born in Nebraska, but I lived in Colorado. I came from Greeley to El Centro and from El Centro to Los Angeles. We were young, and we wanted to get away. I originally came to get work, with Mr. [Leonard] Roberts,* on theImperial Valley Press, and he worked for a packing plant.

    Sanford: Then they split, and she came to Los Angeles.

    When you came to L.A., were you still interested in doing work on a newspaper?

    Roberts: I was always interested, but I couldn’t get a job on a newspaper....

  32. Joan LaCour Scott (and Adrian Scott)
    (pp. 585-606)
    Joan LaCour Scott, Adrian Scott and Paul Buhle

    Let’s begin with your showbiz family.

    My mother left home and school at thirteen to go onto the stage. She once told me that when she was on a vaudeville train and the school inspectors would come through looking for minors, she would dress up in high heels and makeup to look older. She traveled all over the country, including California, then came back East, where she was from.

    We were born in New Jersey in 1921. My last name was LaCour, from my father. When my mother came to town in a vaudeville show, he saw her, and they...

  33. Lionel Stander
    (pp. 607-625)
    Lionel Stander, Patrick McGillgan and Ken Mate

    When were you first radicalized?

    I was making a comedy short at Warner Brothers’ Avenue M studios in Coney Island, and the studio usually supplied a car to take me home. But this day I had a date, and you could get home quicker by subway, so I took the subway. I lived in the Village and got off at Fourteenth Street and Union Square. As I walked through the park, I suddenly heard a loud noise and saw thousands of people running with signs and mounted policemen hitting people over the head. One cop went for me. I ducked...

  34. Bess Taffel
    (pp. 626-641)
    Bess Taffel and Patrick McGilligan

    How did you get involved in motion pictures?

    I had been in the Yiddish theater as a child, I acted in two plays at USC, and I always gravitated toward theater. I started working for the Hollywood Theater Alliance, helping out and going to meetings, and I ended up being executive secretary of the office. That’s when I first started to meet a lot of people in the film industry, and most of my subsequent relationships radiated out from the Hollywood Theater Alliance.

    You joined at the time the Alliance was producingMeet the People?

    Yes. It was a wonderful...

  35. Frank Tarloff
    (pp. 642-656)
    Frank Tarloff and Paul Buhle

    Tell me about your family background.

    My parents came from a small town in Poland. When I was twelve we visited the town, and I met my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We were all poor. My father had been in the needle trades until he became ill. He had no political inclinations, except maybe he and my mother were Polish nationalists. They were also Yiddish speakers and readers, and we gotDer Tag* at home. Though they were barely educated, they did learn English, and—to me this is a miracle—they were part of a generation whose children ended...

  36. Bernard Vorhaus
    (pp. 657-681)
    Bernard Vorhaus and John Baxter

    According to the information I have, you were born on Christmas Day 1904 in New York City, and your father was a doctor.


    Which is, presumably, why you went into law.

    It’s why I avoided law. Father had wanted me to go into the firm, and we agreed that if I could get my degree at Harvard in three years instead of four, I could have a year to try to get into the film business.

    You got interested in the film business while visiting Fort Lee , New Jersey, with your sister.

    I caught the film bug very...

  37. John Weber
    (pp. 682-697)
    John Weber and Paul Buhle

    Let’s begin with your childhood.

    I was born in 1910 on East One Hundred and Twentieth Street, in Harlem, then a mixed Jewish and Italian neighborhood. My mother and father both came from the Ukraine. While they were both from religious families, they were not religious in the U.S. My mother called herself a “freethinker.”

    They were not touched very deeply by radicalism. My father was what they called an “operator,” a person who used a sewing machine in a needle-trades shop in the days when they carried the machines on their backs from job to job. He was also...

  38. John Wexley
    (pp. 698-721)
    John Wexley, Patrick McGilligan and Ken Mate

    Tell us where you were born and when you first came to Hollywood as a writer.

    I was born in Manhattan, on West 109th Street, not far from Central Park, and I first arrived in Hollywood as a writer on July 4, 1930.

    What brought you to Hollywood?

    When I was eighteen or nineteen, I was already an actor in the Neighborhood Playhouse, which was down on the Lower East Side of New York. Many people came out of the Neighborhood Playhouse, including James Cagney. I didn’t know him then; I came later. I was in a serious play there,...

  39. Julian Zimet (aka Julian Halevy)
    (pp. 722-748)
    Julian Zimet and Julian Halevy

    I arrived in Mexico City in a yellow Ford convertible on October 12, 1951, having driven from New York and made leisurely stops to visit friends in Washington, Nashville, and Louisiana, The anti-Communist crusade was gathering momentum in the United States, and I was anxious to avoid being summoned to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee and risk going to prison, along with the Hollywood Ten. Of the Ten—who had already served prison sentences for “contempt of Congress,” punishment for refusing to name the people with whom they had been associated in political activity—several had moved to...

  40. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 749-752)
  41. About the Contributors
    (pp. 753-754)
  42. Index
    (pp. 755-776)