Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 25, 2015
Protest for the Hollywood Ten

Protest for the Hollywood Ten

November 25, 1947: The Hollywood Ten are systematically blacklisted. In the 1930s and 1940s, Hollywood saw a number of disturbing trends exacerbated by the Great Depression and World War II. A number of strikes brought the producers and unions into greater conflict. The American Communist Party lost a great deal of their membership after political intrigue in Europe escalated. The Russian agreements with Germany led to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) to proclaim a widespread sympathy between Hollywood and Communism. Martin Dies, Jr. was chairman of HUAC in 1940 he was given a list of 42 movie industry people who were Communists, according to John Leech, former Party member. Some big names were mentioned, but Dies would “clear” them if some terms were met.

On July 29, 1946, William Wilkerson, founder of The Hollywood Review, published a column entitled “A Vote for Joe Stalin” and named many Communist sympathizers. He followed with more lists in August and September. As a side note, his son admitted in 2012 on the 65th anniversary of the articles that his father was motivated by revenge against those who thwarted his ambition. In October 1947, the HUAC used the lists Wilkerson published and subpoenaed a number of those on the lists to testify at hearings. The goal was to find if Communist sympathizers had been placing propaganda in US films. The hearings opened with Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan who was at the time the president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Several big names in Hollywood formed a Committee for the First Amendment but the group soon came under attack. Many of those who were investigated had at one time been members of the American Communist Party. Of the 43 witnesses, 19 declared they would not give evidence. There were 11 “unfriendly witnesses” and one of them, foreign born Bertolt Brecht, finally agreed to testify. The other ten refused and cited the First Amendment. When they refused to testify, the HUAC put pressure on the film industry to demonstrate an “anti-subversive” ideology. On November 17, the Screen Actors Guild voted to make officers swear they were not Communists. On November 24, the House of Representatives voted 346 to 17 to approve citations against the Hollywood Ten for contempt.

On this day, a press release, called the Waldorf Statement, announced the ten would be fired or suspended without pay and not reemployed until they were cleared of the contempt charges. The list grew over the next few years and was finally unofficially ended in 1960 when Dalton Trumbo, one of the Ten, was finally credited once again as a screenwriter. A number of those who were blacklisted were still barred from working for years to come.

One of the most dangerous plots ever instigated for the overthrow of this Government has its headquarters in Hollywood … the greatest hotbed of subversive activities in the United States. We’re on the trail of the tarantula now. – John E. Rankin

You fuckers sold me out. – Humphrey Bogart to Danny Kaye at a Committee for the First Amendment meeting

Members of the Association of Motion Picture Producers deplore the action of the 10 Hollywood men who have been cited for contempt by the House of Representatives. We do not desire to prejudge their legal rights, but their actions have been a disservice to their employers and have impaired their usefulness to the industry. – from the Waldorf Statement

To this end we will invite the Hollywood talent guilds to work with us to eliminate any subversives: to protect the innocent; and to safeguard free speech and a free screen wherever threatened. – from the Waldorf Statement

Also on this day: Trapped – In 1952, Agatha Christie’s play, The Mousetrap, was first produced – and it continues live performances to this day.
Striking Hunger – In 1984, Do They Know It’s Christmas was recorded.
Perfect Storm – In 1703, England was ravaged by its worst storm when a hurricane made landfall.
Thankful – In 1926, this Thanksgiving Day spawned several tornadoes.
Plans Gone Awry – In 1120, the White Ship sunk.

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