From the late 1940’s to the late 1950’s most Americans were experiencing a huge political oppression called “The Second Red Scare” or “McCarthyism”. World War II had recently ended and there was strong opposition to communism. Thousands of regular citizens pointed fingers at others for being communists or sympathizers in fear that they themselves would be accused. It was no different in Hollywood. By the end of 1947 ten filmmakers, known as “The Hollywood Ten”, were in courts facing jail time because they too had been accused.
The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA), who had nothing to do with Joseph McCarthy, worked for The United States House of Representatives. In 1946 the committee was supposed to investigate the Klu Klux Klan and their violent actions but it’s leading members decided against it. One even said that there was no reason to investigate them since they are an “old American institution.” So instead they investigated the American Communist Party to see if they were doing something “morally illegal’ like spying or sending out subliminal messages to the American public through media.
In 1947 the HCUA summoned forty-three people of the film industry to prove they were not communist. Being a communist was not illegal so nineteen of those forty-three claimed that they would not show proof; they didn’t have to. The committee really didn’t like eleven of the nineteen so they focused on them. Out of the eleven, one of them finally decided to work with the committee. After he did, HCUA were left with the “The Hollywood Ten”.
The Hollywood Ten consisted of screenwriters Ring Lardner Jr., Herbert Biberman (director also), Adrian Scott ( producer also), Alvah Bessie, Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk (director only), John Howard Lawson, Samuel Ornitz, and Albert Maltz. They refused to cooperate with the HCUA. The First Amendment, part of it being freedom of speech and assembly, gave them reason to. These people were communists though. There was plenty of proof from witnesses and documents like communist cards. Though the witness could have been lying and the cards could have been forged. But some defendants, like Lardner, had no problem admitting he was a part of the American Communist Party. On November 24 1947, the ten were accused of being in contempt of congress. They were convicted in federal court a year later. Each one of them were then forced to serve six months to a year in jail.
During and after the trials The Hollywood Ten were blacklisted. This meant that no one in the business would work with them for fear that they would be labeled a communist. Being blacklisted also meant that they lost money because not only were they not being hired, but whatever films they worked on in the past, were most likely banned from showing. Being blacklisted also meant that your family could possibly leave like when actress Anne Shirley left her husband Adrian Scott. All of this just for having a different political belief.
“Anne Shirley and Husband Part. ” New York Times (1923-Current file) 24 Jul 1949,ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2007), ProQuest. Web. 1 Oct. 2011.
Eckstein, Arthur. “The Hollywood Ten in history and memory.” Film History 16.4 (2004): 424-436. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 1 Oct. 2011.
Ryskind, Allan H. “The truth about the Hollywood Ten.” Human Events 54.1 (1998): 11. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 1 Oct. 2011.
Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. “Last 8 of ‘Hollywood 10’ Convicted; 6 Are Sentenced and Jailed at Once :8 MORE FILM MEN ARE FOUND GUILTY Crisis in Liberties Seen. ” New York Times (1923-Current file) 30 Jun 1950,ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2007), ProQuest. Web. 1 Oct. 2011.
The New York Times. “As Trials for Hollywood Writers and Producers continue. ” New York Times (1923-Current file) 23 Jun 1950,ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2007), ProQuest. Web. 1 Oct. 2011.