Skip to comments.The Truth about the "Hollywood Ten"
Posted on 04/18/2005 10:47:45 AM PDT by Liz
In 1947, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) began a series of official inquiries into the penetration of the Hollywood film industry by the American Communist Party (CPUSA).
Major public hearings were held in 1947 and 1951, with smaller hearings throughout the mid-1950s. In the course of these inquiries, dozens of friendly Hollywood witnesses denounced hundreds of people as secret members of the Communist Party, while dozens of unfriendly witnesses refused to discuss their politics with the Committee. Those who were either publicly or privately denounced as members of the CPUSA found it almost impossible to get employment in the motion-picture industry for at least for a decade.
The most famous victims of the resulting blacklist were the original group of unfriendly witnesses, known as the Unfriendly Ten or Hollywood Ten. These individualsmostly screenwriters refused to give political information about themselves before HUAC in October 1947.1
The blacklist functioned in part officially, as demonstrated by a joint public announcement of the motion picture firms in November 1947 that henceforth no studio would knowingly employ any member of the Communist Party, or the members of any other group which advocated the overthrow of the United States government by revolution.
The blacklist also operated unofficially, through instruments such as the irresponsible red-baiting newsletter Red Channels, which named whole swaths of people as subversives. This, for example, ruined the career of the left-wing but non-Communist actress Marsha Hunt. 2
The blacklist also often functioned in secret: jobs just dried up. As a result, fixers emerged to get people unofficially pardoned by anti-Communist organizations and film industry managers, therefore making them employable again. One famous fixer was the fiercely anti-Communist actor Ward Bond. 3
Fronts arose as well in the form of people offering scripts ghost-written by blacklisted screenwriters in exchange for official credit for the script and often a cut of the payment. One famous example of such a front was Philip Yordan, himself a quite famous screenwriter. 4
Some film careers were totally destroyed as a result of the blacklist system. For instance, Mickey Knox, the next John Garfield, was a rising star of the late 1940s, turning in a star performance in the great gangster film White Heat (1949). If you have never heard of Mickey Knox, well, that is the point. Many other careers suffered severe setbacks, such as that of actor Howard Da Silva. 5
Actors and directors suffered more severely than screenwriters because they could not act or direct under assumed names, whereas screenwriters could use the front system, which allowed the most talented of them to continue to write. The CPUSA, however, had made its largest inroads in Hollywood among screenwriters, and many screenwriters careers suffered greatly or ended.
It is generally not a good idea to attack professional writers because they tend to write, and to write well, to get in the last word. This has certainly been the case with the blacklist. None of the HUAC committee or staff (which originally included Congressman Richard M. Nixon) has written memorably on the events of 1947 and 1951, let alone on the later, smaller investigations.
A few of those who appeared as friendly witnesses before HUAC, such as directors Edward Dmytryk and Elia Kazan, and actor Sterling Hayden. have written important memoirs, often defending their conduct and sometimes expressing self-doubt. 6
But such figures are far outnumbered by the self-justifying and bitter memoirs of those who were denounced: Norma Barzman; Walter Bernstein; Alvah Bessie; Herbert Biberman; Conrad Bromberg; Lester Cole; Lillian Hellman; Howard Koch; Ring Lardner, Jr. (and now his daughter Kate); Donald Ogden Stewart; Dalton Trumbo; and Ella Winter. 7
The publication of these works, and more fundamentally the cultural shift in Hollywood to domination by a bien peasant Left that started around 1960 and accelerated in the 1970s, has led to the lionization of the Unfriendly Ten as American rebels and martyred non-conformists.
Meanwhile, the anger within the current filmmaking elite at those who originally named names in the 1940s and 1950s has been unremitting. A now unalterable view of what occurred is held by people who have little knowledge of what it actually meant in the 1940s to be a Communist; that is, a Stalinist. Two examples demonstrate the current political situation.
Long read---rest at link.
It's been over 50 years. Time to do it again.
Freaking Communist traitors lost their jobs. Wah, wah, wah.
They should've lost their LIVES just like the other traitors, the Rosenbergs.
Problem is, 90% of the movies released nowadays don't seem to have an original screenplay.
I beleive the HUAC and later Sen. McCarthy as accomplished public servants.
INteresting article. Thanks.
Excellent article. Didn't know Gene Kelly's wife was a commie. Guess that's why he was such a left-winger.
Wait, where was Joe McCarthy's name? I mean, I know he was a Senator and thus not a member of the HOUSE committee, and his "witchhunt" was several years later, but his name wasn't in there at ALL! I mean, we all KNOW he just invented the "Red Scare" for politial power, right?!
I'll second that motion. Let's have at the liberal beasts.
"Didn't know Gene Kelly's wife was a commie"
I saw her on a special on Gene Kelly. She was his first wife and said that Kelly picked and chose his causes and considered himself a "liberal" democrat.
Credit goes to Ann Coulter for her perspecive on Joe McCarthy, and how he was right all along as supported by the Venona papers released in the early '90s.
BTW, even talk show hosts still don't know McCarthy had nothing to do with Hollywood. Glenn Beck had a rant on McCarthy a while back, showing he had no idea who he really was and what he really accomplished.
Hollyweirdos act like entertainers but they are subversive change agents.
Hollyweirdos thought back then---and continue to think now---that the rest of us just fell off a turnip truck and can't possibly be aware of leftist proselytizing via their movies, TV and music output.
Münzenberg was and is not a famous name, though this mans power had given him a potent grip on the workings of fame. Since his radical youth in 1917, Willi Münzenberg had been a largely covert but major actor in the politics of the twentieth century. As a founding organizer of the Communist International and a leader in the structure of MarxistLeninist power outside Russia, Münzenberg had played an especially influential part in the conspiracies, the maneuvers, the propaganda, the secret policies and actions that had led to this very spot. . .
Münzenbergs true role in the world was a closely guarded secret, though in keeping with his particular talent, it was concealed in conspicuousness. His talent was for propaganda, albeit of a special kind. For Willi Münzenberg was the first grand master of two quite new kinds of secret-service work, essential to this century, and to the Soviets: the covertly controlled propaganda front, and the secretly manipulated fellow traveler. His goal was to create for the right-thinking non-Communist West the dominating political prejudice of the era: the belief that any opinion that happened to serve the foreign policy of the Soviet Union was derived from the most essential elements of human decency. He wanted to instill the feeling, like a truth of nature, that seriously to criticize or challenge Soviet policy was the unfailing mark of a bad, bigoted, and probably stupid person, while support was equally infallible proof of a forward-looking mind committed to all that was best for humanity and marked by an uplifting refinement of sensibility.
To create his networks of fronts and fellow travelers Münzenberg used every resource of propaganda, from highbrow cultural opinion to funny hats and balloons. He organized the media: newspapers, film, radio, books, magazines, the theater. Every kind of opinion maker was involved: writers, artists, actors, commentators, priests, ministers, professors, business leaders, scientists, psychologists, anyone at all whose opinion the public was likely to respect.
The evidence is strong that two of Münzenbergs principal lieutenants, Louis Gibarti and Otto Katz, were not only Münzenberg-men, and so agents of the Comintern, but (probably without Willi knowing for sure) agents of the NKVD as well. Gibarti and Katz: an extraordinary team. They did know something about trenchcoats, and careful tracking of their artful dodging through the first half of the twentieth century will turn up surprise after surprise. Gibarti was an elegant but slightly seedy Hungarian, affable, multilingual, and outspoken. He looked, said Babette, like an opera cavalier. Gibarti ranks as a founding father of the modern mingling of propaganda with espionage and covert action. Though his modus operandi made him seem like a legalin contrast to illegalComintern agent, Gibartis perfectly legal organizations were pioneers in the art of doing secret-service business in the open. It was Gibarti, for example, who in 1934 guided a young recruit named Kim Philby through a perfectly legal front in Paris and on to Vienna, where Philby took up his first real job as a secret agent.
In America, one might add to the list the name of Ella Winter, who began her career in politics being introduced by Felix Frankfurter to Lincoln Steffens in the midst of the Versailles Conference.
After Steffenss death, Winter proceeded to another marriage that was exceptionally useful from the apparats point of view. This one put her in a leading position managing the networks of Stalinist fellow travelers in Hollywood, a long-standing special concern of the apparatus, with much attention from Gibarti, Katz, and many others. Winter met and married a very successful Hollywood screenwriter, Donald Ogden Stewart-a companion to Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos; a runner with the bulls at Pamplona in the company of the circle immortalized in The Sun Also Rises. Stalinism and Hemingway aside, Stewart was an attractive but malleable guilt-ridden lightweight. And at his side, Ella Winter was ideally placed for an active life among networks of Stalinist opinion in the film colony.
Ella Winter worked closely with Münzenbergs men, especially those who were active in Hollywood. She knew Otto Katz well, and Gibarti referred to Ella Winter as one of the most trusted party agents for the West Coast. Gibarti had every reason to know.
This is one of those things that isn't what it appears on the surface, like the 3/5 compromise in the Constitution-
If you look at the origins of the HUAC, at its inception it had the approval of the CPUSA because they thought it would be a tool for taking on the right- their position changed quickly when the spotlight moved leftward.
Right--they act as if he set up HUAC, despite the fact that A) it was the HOUSE Un-American Activities Committee, not the SENATE (and he was a sentor) and B) He didn't really start his anti-Commie campaign until 1950...
Are the Münzenbergs men still alive?
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