The Hollywood Ten
On a large scale involving many Americans there was a political scare mostly known as “McCarthyism” in the 1940’s to the 1950’s. This movement was influenced by Communism’s emergence as a recognized political force, originating back to 1920’s, known as “The Red Scare”. Opposition to communism was evident soon after the end of World War II. Communism was the main concern and people started to point out others who most likely weren’t communists, as communists. Most also did this to either end a political figure’s stance in society or end someone’s career in pure jealousy, but most of all pointing out the so-called communists, to make it known that they themselves were against communism. This lead to the Hollywood ten; screenwriter Alvah Bessie, screenwriter and director Herbert Biberman, screenwriter Lester Cole, director Edward Dmytryk, screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter John Howard Lawson, screenwriter Albert Maltz, screenwriter Samuel Ornitz, producer and screenwriter Adrian Scott, and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals being denied work due to their political beliefs or associations, real or suspected.
Under then chairman Martin Dies, Jr., the House Committee on Un-American Activities released a story in 1938 claiming that communism was evident in Hollywood. In 1940 Dies took testimony from a former Communist Party member, John L. Leech, who named forty-two movie industry employees as Communists. After Leech repeated his charges in what was supposed to be a confidential report to the Los Angeles grand jury, many of the names were reported in the press, including many well-known Hollywood figures. Dies sweared to pardon all those who cooperated by meeting with him in “executive sessions”. Dies “pardoned” everyone except actor Lionel Stander, who was fired by the movie studio, Republic Pictures, where he was contracted to work in the near future, showing the power of the blacklist, and that nobody wanted to be associated with anyone on the blacklist, or sometimes even previously on the blacklist.
In 1947, many people working in the Hollywood film industry were forced to appear before the HCUA, which led to intentions to investigate whether Communists s had been involving their party’s influence in U.S. films. Ronald Reagan, president of the Screen Actors Guild, even testified that the communism being evident in the American film industry was a serious threat that should not be taken lightly. Forty-three people were put on a witness list, a total of nineteen said they would not give evidence, eleven of those nineteen were summoned before the Committee for the First Amendment. Out of the eleven “unfriendly witnesses”, Bertolt Brecht answered the committee’s questions. The other ten refused, citing their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. The crucial question they refused to answer is now generally rendered as “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Being apart of the communist party was not illegal. In fact, each been a member, either currently during the trials, or prematurely. These ten were formally accused of contempt of Congress, and then later served 5 months- 1 year in jail.
Even after serving their sentences were finished the blacklist that originated from these first trials kept “The Hollywood Ten”, as well as many others involved in the film industry to never find work again. Not only were they unable to find work, but they were unable to receive profits form the movies they worked on because of the ban on the “communist influenced” films. This was a very tragic happening for those involved and they will never get any kind of redemption, but we as a nation learn from things like this. We can see that we can’t judge people by skeptical accusations or their political beliefs. Just because political party gets a bad name, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of whom who are suspected or are involved with that party should be punished. The industry has come very far from the idea of blacklisting and surely the United States would not have a trial like this in today’s Society. We live in a just world where we can express beliefs and political views without a “witch hunt”, we can express through creative arts like films and be informed or entertained by things we never imagined possible or just plainly ever knew was out there in a world of endless possibilities.
“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.
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.