HOLLYWOOD IGNORES REAL "BLACKLIST" VICTIMS
In Congressional testimony in 1947, veteran director Sam Ford talked about the workings of an insidious Hollywood blacklist. "For instance, a man gets a key position in the studio and has charge of the writers. When you, as a director or producer, are ready for a writer you ask for a list....Well, if he is following the party line, his pets are on top or the other people aren't on at all. Then, if that man isn't employed for about two months they go to the head of the studio and say, 'Nobody wants this man.' The head is perfectly honest about it and says, 'Nobody wants to use him, so let him go.'"
The "party line" to which Ford referred was that of the Communist Party, USA, whose blacklist ruined the careers of an uncountable number of movie personages beginning in the 1930s surely one of the great untold stories of the film industry. Even an up-and-coming actor named Ronald Reagan saw his career side-tracked into television because he dared fight the Communists as head of the Screen Actors Guild and through testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities [HUAC] in 1947.
Yet Hollywood and the media ignored this communist-inspired blacklisting this autumn to repeat hoary, discredited yarns during a 50th anniversary celebration of what an ABC Radio newscast called "one of Hollywood's darkest moments," the plight of the so-called Hollywood Ten. The centerpiece for the anniversary was the decision by four major film unions to give credits to the blackballed ten who continued to work, under assumed names, during their exile from the industry. The Ten served prison terms for contempt of Congress for refusing to answer the question, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" They claimed the First Amendment gave them the right to refuse to answer. Their convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court.
Hollywood regularly butchers historical accuracy in its zeal for box-office dollars; look no further than Oliver Stone's hyper-mendacious films Nixon and JFK. But seldom has the film industry told a greater collective lie in lauding ten former Communists as left-wing martyrs who were persecuted for their devotion to civil rights and labor. That these "martyrs," all in fact Communists, stood behind Stalin during such perfidies as his pact with Nazi Germany, his anti-Semitism and his bloody purges of the 1930s, was of no consequence to a procession of young actors fools all, no other word suffices who lavished praise on the honorees. We hereby start our own blacklist, which we'll call the Hollywood Four Kevin Spacey, James Woods, Billy Crystal or John Lithgow, chief speakers at the wretched ceremony.
When's A Red A Red?
One of the honorees, writer Paul Jarrico, in a 1989 interview [reprinted in Written By in Oct. 1997] addressed "the main charge against us, that we subverted the screen." Apologists for Jarrico and other Reds argue that their communist politics never tainted their work. Jarrico said, "We sure tried to. We smuggled our ideology into all sorts of movies." Jarrico said that the Hollywood Communists "were in fact an integral part of the left wing of the Democratic Party."
Jarrico was killed on Oct. 28, 1997, in an auto accident on his way home from the ceremony. The New York Times ran an obituary under a three-column headline which noted that he had been among those to whom film guilds "offered apologies for their organizations' complicity in what amounted to a witch hunt." The obituary omitted a salient fact about Jarrico's "blacklisting." He was a member of the Communist Party until 1958, two years after Nikita Khrushchev's famed speech that finally convinced many thick-headed Reds that Stalin was a murderous monster. The omission of this fact is an example of the reluctance of The Times to identify known members of the CPUSA in obituaries.
PBS also ignored Jarrico's party membership in a segment, "Seeing Red," on the Lehrer NewsHour on Oct. 24. The segment opened with excerpts from a 1987 PBS "documentary" entitled "The Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist," narrated by Burt Lancaster. The documentary skirted around the issues of whether the affected persons were indeed subservient to the Communist Party, and suggested that HUAC was motivated by publicity rather than any real concern about communism. "Indiscriminate blacklisting became a full-time pursuit," Lancaster said. Correspondent Elizabeth Farnsworth then interviewed Jarrico and blacklisted actress Marsha Hunt, who talked at length about how they suffered. There was no discussion of why many Americans opposed letting Communists use Hollywood movies to further the Stalinist cause.
Hollywood's rehabilitation of The Ten even spilled over into a network drama show, Touched by An Angel. We found this odd. The show is produced by Martha Williamson and features a heavy religious theme and characters who openly talk about their faith in God, most unusual on network television. The CBS show 60 Minutes even did a feature on Williamson, stressing that families watched her show because it contains no gratuitous violence and sex, only moral messages.
Yet this same woman did an episode on Nov. 16 which was a shameful misrepresentation. The man depicted as the target of investigators claimed to his daughter that his "persecutors" eventually wanted to target Jews, blacks, teachers and lawyers. The villain is patterned on Sen. Joe McCarthy; when the daughter sees him on TV, she remarks, "He's a very bad man." [McCarthy, in fact, had nothing to do with the Hollywood investigation. HUAC conducted the major hearing in 1947, three years before McCarthy seized upon communism as an issue.]
In the climactic scene, the father is honored years later at a Hollywood event, and the daughter tells the audience that people have to tell the truth because, "if we don't, it means Joe McCarthy won and God lost." What a sordid implication that God sided with those who resisted the investigation of Communist influence in Hollywood!
The movies dominated American entertainment during the 1940s, with the industry claiming 85 million ticket sales a week. But the men who ran the studios knew even before the HUAC hearings that a Communist problem existed. Jack Warner, of Warner Brothers, was asked by HUAC counsel Robert Stripling in May 1947 whether there was a period when "you considered that the Communists had infiltrated into your studio." Warner replied, "Chiefly, I would say starting in about 1936 or 1937. That is the first time I started to notice that type of writing coming into our scenarios. It is being put into our scripts to this day in one form or another." Once he detected such a writer, his contract was not renewed. There was this further exchange:
STRIPLING: Is that the principal medium, the writers, through which the Communists have sought to inject their Communist propaganda into films? WARNER: Yes, I would say 95 per cent.
The writers did not advocate the overthrow of the government "but they do advocate the overthrow of our capitalistic system," Warner said. The realization came to Warner gradually, through the reading of hundreds of scripts. "That is how they get in. If you will watch the films, you will find that is what happens." As an example, he cited a script in which John Garfield, angered at Joan Crawford for romantic reasons, cried, "Your father is a banker." He continued, "My father lives over a grocery store." Warner excised the lines.
Warner said, "Some of these lines have innuendos and double meanings and things like that, and you have to take eight or ten Harvard law courses to find out what they mean." One theme was to do scripts "aimed at the capitalistic system not exactly, but the rich man is always the villain." Warner found this animus towards capitalism peculiar because the scripts came from "fellows getting two or three thousand dollars a week."
The Communists took care of one another, Warner testified. "In each studio there is what is called a steerer. Most of them are members of the story editors and writing departments, and they bring in all these boys." Both Warner and Sam Wood testified that anti-communists simply did not get jobs. Once he realized what was happening, Warner said, his studio stopped renewing contracts for the Red writers. Those dropped, Warner said, included Alvah Bessie, Gordon Kahn, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, John Wexley, Emmet Lavery, Julius and Philip Epstein. The first seven were among the Hollywood Ten.
Stalin's Hollywood Role
The historical record demonstrates that Josef Stalin was too realistic to envision a political conquest of America through the chronically feeble Communist Party, USA. Communism built its power base in European nations by aligning itself with a radical labor movement, something lacking in the U.S. because of such conservative union leaders as William Green and George Meany. But the CPUSA had its tactical uses. During the 1920s through the 1940s, the Soviets used it as a recruiting pool for espionage agents, ordering trusted members to shed their party membership and "go underground" to infiltrate the government and industry; Alger Hiss and Whitaker Chambers, agents for Red Army intelligence, are the two most conspicuous examples. The party was also a conduit for the money which Moscow used to finance these agents.
But the CPUSA's public face amounted to little more than political cosmetics. Stalin's long-range goal was to tarnish the United States as a nation by depicting it as a racist society "an almost insanely xenophobic place, murderously hostile to foreigners," in the words of Stephen Koch, a professor at Columbia University. Koch wrote the definitive work on the Communist International [or Comintern] campaign in the intellectual and arts community in his 1994 book, Double Lives: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas Against the West [Free Press, $24.95]. One person Koch interviewed at length was Babette Gross, a Prussian woman who was the common-law wife of Willi Munzenberg, a German Communist and founding organizer of the Comintern, who was one of Stalin's key operatives both in Europe and the United States.
Munzenberg is known as the "first great organizer of Communist fronts." His chief contribution to the Comintern was the notion that the communists would achieve greater results if they recruited "intellectuals" and middle class professional people rather than workers. As a 1956 HUAC history stated, while working in Germany "he organized and promoted art and photo exhibits, radio programs, benefit concerts, propaganda theaters and motion pictures...along with a whole series of attractive periodicals." His Worker's Illustrated Review achieved a circulation of almost one million. The intellectuals who succumbed to his political seduction were expected to pay the bills. For these front groups he had the contemptuous name, "Innocents Clubs."
Babette Gross, Munzenberg's collaborator, told Koch how he exerted influence in Hollywood. Koch quoted her at length, in paraphrase: "You do not endorse Stalin. You do not call yourself a Communist. You do not declare your love for the regime. You do not call on people to support the Soviets. Never. Under any circumstances."
The fellow-travelers, in Hollywood and elsewhere, should pose as "independent-minded idealists" who were concerned with "racism, by the oppression of the working man," she said. "You think the Russians are trying a great human experiment, and you hope it works. You believe in peace. You yearn for international understanding. You hate fascism. You think the capitalist system is corrupt."
Babette Gross was direct in what Stalin wanted from the film industry: "The actual mandate in Hollywood was twofold, and it was not directed at the masses but the elite. The aim was never to make Stalinist movies. It was to Stalinize the American glamour culture, while simultaneously giving the apparatus [of the Comintern] a cash cow capable of producing a large, untraceable supply of much-needed American hard currency to finance various operations around the world."
What she called "communists in the glamour society" were given "pseudo-missions such as founding the Screen Writers Guild," which were "largely pretextual and propagandistic." Moscow didn't care "how many thousands of dollars a week a set of pampered and self-righteous purveyors of kitsch made on Writers' Row. Their real interest was to divert as many of these dollars as possible into the apparat's covert finances."
Koch's book details how Willi Munzenberg developed his Hollywood networks during the 1930s, first from offices in Berlin and Paris, then from New York. His man on the scene was a veteran communist named Otto Katz, who posed in Hollywood as an anti-fascist refugee named "Rudolph Breda." Katz worked closely with Donald Ogden Stewart, who would become one of the loudest of the Hollywood Ten, and his boon companion Frances Faragoh. Stewart and Faragoh helped create the New Playwrights' Theater in New York in the 1920s under guidance of Stalin functionaries V.J. Jerome and Alexander Trachtenberg. Another future Hollywood Ten figure was also involved in this theater, John Howard Lawson.
In Hollywood, the Stalinist vehicle, a most effective one, began under the name Hollywood Anti-Fascist League, with such impeccable credentials that the Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles spoke at one of its fund-raising benefits for German refugees. There was much support for the Communist side in the Spanish Civil War, again as an anti-fascist effort. The writers Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett were prominent in its leadership.
But the league showed its true red colors when Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin in 1939 and invaded Poland. It promptly became the "Hollywood League for Democratic Action," and as Koch writes, proved that its leading lights "were infinitely more committed to supporting Stalin than they were to resisting Hitler." Resistance to the Nazis was always a secondary concern. Although the rank-and-file Communists left the league en masse, "Otto Katz had chosen his front people well," and the leadership remained intact "Parker and Stewart and Hellman and Hammett all stayed in place, self-righteous as ever. Discipline held. Not one raised a single word of public criticism."
Ironically, Munzenberg realized the horrors of Stalinism even while his "Innocents Clubs" continued to function. At the height of Stalin's 1937 purge, he received a summons to return to Moscow. Munzenberg had better sense. He refused, was interned briefly in France when war broke out, escaped and several days later was found hanging from a tree, the apparent victim of either a Soviet or French Communist murder squad.
The Truth About The Ten
Director Edward Dmytryk, one of the defiant Hollywood Ten who testified voluntarily before HUAC after his release from prison, aptly described the damage done by fellow travelers in The Saturday Evening Post on May 19, 1951. In "What Makes a Hollywood Communist?" he wrote, "The time has come now when even the fellow traveler must get out. They're like the waxy capsule that protects the tubercle dissolve that waxy covering and you could kill tuberculosis in no time." He continued, "I know now that you can't aid a Communist front in any way without hurting your own country. The Hiss conviction, the Judith Coplon trial, they all show that no matter how small a fraction of the party is guilty of espionage, the responsibility is on the whole party, and anyone who supports it."
Lawson and another member of the Hollywood Ten, writer Albert Maltz, did not conceal their Communist affiliations. For instance, both men spoke at the founding rally of the Communist-sponsored League of American Writers in April 1935. Keynoter Earl Browder, chairman of the CPUSA, stressed the role of the party in "the creation of fine literature as well as in the fight against reaction." Browder said, "The first demand of the party upon its writer-members is that they shall be good writers, constantly better writers, for only so can they really serve the party." Both Lawson and Maltz were elected to the League's executive committee.
Rather than debate the undeniable Communist presence in Hollywood, the left chose to ridicule HUAC. During the 1947 hearings, Harold Ickes, who had been President Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior the James Carville of his era declaimed, "They've gone to Hollywood and there discovered a great Red Plot. They have found dangerous radicals there, led by little Shirley Temple. Imagine the great committee raiding her nursery and seizing her dolls for evidence." Good political rhetoric, but factually nonsensical. HUAC never accused the child star of being a Red, only that her managers were derelict in permitting Communist front groups to use her name in endorsements.
One other fact still sticks in the craws of hard-core liberals. The Hollywood Communism issue helped give political birth to two of the left's most-reviled men, first Richard Nixon, then Ronald Reagan. Nixon won his senate seat in 1950 by attacking the far-left ties of Helen Gahagan Douglas, wife of actor Melvyn Douglas. Liberals still accuse Nixon of bogus Red-baiting for attacking her record. But truth was on Nixon's side. In her autobiography, Dorothy Healey, longtime CPUSA leader in California, wrote that Mrs. Douglas was "a major figure in such Popular Front organizations as the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League."
Reagan's sin, in the eyes of far-leftists, is that as president of the Screen Actors Guild, he gave moving HUAC testimony about the perfidies of Communists in Hollywood. Reagan's career abruptly ended, and he spent years hosting a television show sponsored by General Electric before turning to elective politics. Another anti-Communist who was punished was the writer Morrie Ryskind, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the play, "Of Thee I Sing," only to find himself unemployable because of his conservative politics. We now know, via documentary evidence from Moscow archives, that the Soviet Union was paymaster for the CPUSA from the 1920s right up through the Hollywood-Ten period.
Why The Idolatry?
People who live and work in Hollywood, then as now, feel themselves above moral and political standards followed by the average citizen. There is also the often overlooked factor of sheer dumbness. And here we use as our expert none other than New York writer James Lardner, whose father, Ring Lardner, is a surviving member of the Hollywood Ten.
In an Op-Ed article in The Washington Post, James Lardner wrote about how his father's prison term for contempt of Congress disrupted the family's comfortable life, and how many Hollywood Communists felt themselves in the vanguard on such issues as civil rights. But he also questioned their devotion to a system in which "a minority of sectarian zealots [the Communists] took power by violence and then set out to impose their doctrine on a vast population." How, he asked, could these sheltered Hollywood Reds "have overlooked all the ghastliness that communism was inflicting" on the Soviet Union. In retrospect, James Lardner wished that his father had stayed away from communism, or, at a minimum, spoken honestly of its horrors once he realized the depravity of the system. What puzzled the younger Lardner even more was Hollywood's continued contempt for those persons who "prized their country more than the party of Stalin and Brezhnev," borrowing a line from the director Edward Dmytryk, who broke with the Communists after serving time for contempt of Congress. Dmytryk remains blacklisted by the Hollywood left along with director Elda Kazan, who has been denied a lifetime achievement award by the film establishment.
Hollywood's treatment of Kazan shows the evil hypocrisy of the film establishment, and helps explain why so many Americans are choosing to find their entertainment somewhere other than a movie theater. Kazan has a long list of distinguished credits, including On the Waterfront, East of Eden, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Now aged 88, Kazan won two Oscars as a director. In 1996, some of his industry colleagues decided it was time to put him up for the lifetime achievement award given each year by the American Film Institute and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
But the far-leftists who run Hollywood could not tolerate a man who put patriotism above fealty to Stalin and communism. Their complaint was that Kazan told HUAC in 1952 that eight of his Hollywood associates had been members of the Communist Party, which he had left in disgust. Some of these men, in subsequent memoirs, admitted that Kazan was correct, that in fact they had been Communists. But the damage was done. Kazan was now a pariah, and Hollywood chose to leave him in professional purgatory.
So the distinguished lifetime achievement award went to another aged director/producer, Roger Corman. He is famous in his own right. He did such films as Attack of the Crab Monsters, Swamp Women, and other such schlock. Corman's advantage over Kazan, of course, is that he is a politically correct leftist and thus acceptable to the nitwits who are in charge of the awards program.
As The New York Times noted in reporting this act of political infamy, the establishment gave past awards to producers who forged checks, beat up women, and abused employees. Hollywood, it seems, will forgive anyone except an honest anti-communist. Hollywood has given us yet another reason not to go to movies.