Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History

Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History

Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History

Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History


'Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?' That question was to be repeated endlessly during the anti-Communist investigations carried out by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in the early 1950s. The refusal of ten members of the film industry to answer the question in 1947 led to the decision by studio bosses to fire them and never to hire known Communists in the future. The Hearings led to scores of actors, writers and directors being named as Communists or sympathisers. All were blacklisted and fired.


… we were children of the Depression, and we saw this tremen
dous, nonsensical situation - the greatest production force in the
world was for no reason redundant, its factories were closed, the
windows were broken, there was despair and disillusion. The system
that supported it could not provide for its people. It was a faulty
system and we were radicalised.

Director Cy Endfield


The Democrat Roosevelt was elected to the White House in 1932 to combat the disastrous effects of the Depression: widespread unemployment as a result of the Stock Exchange Crash of 1929. His electorate comprised both ordinary Americans looking desperately for someone able to return their country to its pristine prosperity and businessmen who, fearing a socialist solution, turned to a moderate ready to save capitalism from itself, while ushering in an age of welfare destined to alleviate the worst suffering (Fraser and Gerstle 1989). The name given to Roosevelt's initiatives was 'the New Deal' and it was embraced by the majority of the American electorate, including many businessmen and the Warner Brothers. Opposition to it, however, was also considerable and the forms this opposition took help explain the climate of the 1930s and the post-war repercussions. Just two months after Roosevelt took office, the ultra-conservative newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst stigmatised him in an editorial, denouncing 'the inequitable, tyrannical, Bolshevistic policy of confiscatory income taxation' (Pizzitola 2002:

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