Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History

By Reynold Humphries | Go to book overview

1
Hollywood and the Union Question

The question of unions in general and Hollywood unions in particular is a vast and complex matter which we shall find recurring throughout these pages. It was the creation of a union that sowed the seeds of the antagonisms, conflicts and trench warfare that characterised the relations not only between studios and employees in Hollywood but also between unions. These relations were to lead by a tortuous route to the Hearings and the consequent blacklist. The protracted and bitter campaigns waged to form an independent writers' union and the nature of the attempts to sabotage any such union will be the central concern of this chapter. It will be useful at this stage to document and analyse a momentous event in the politics of California which, in many ways, set the scene for what was to ensue: the EPIC (End Poverty in California) campaign of Upton Sinclair.

Sinclair was a novelist and a Socialist who stood as a Democrat for the post of Governor of California in 1934. His platform included plans to raise taxes and expand relief programmes, but also to nationalise the film industry. This last measure led Hollywood to dub him a 'Bolshevik beast' (Ceplair and Englund 1980: 91). It transpired, however, that big business and the Republicans, in whose vanguard were to be found the studio bosses, were going to need more active methods than this rhetoric to defeat Sinclair. The capitalist gambit of the 'right to work' was easy to see through as an attack on unions, at a time when there were 300,000 unemployed in Los Angeles alone and when the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) had granted unions the right to organise. This had led to a wave of strikes in 1933 where wages and the recognition of unions were the key issues (Gottlieb and Wolt 1977: 204—5). Of the tactics used to discredit Sinclair, one was classic: the conservative anti-labour newspapers

-27-

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Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • The Background 1
  • I - Drawing Up the Battle Lines 7
  • Introduction 9
  • 1: Hollywood and the Union Question 27
  • 2: Thewaryears, 1939-1945 40
  • 3: Hollywood Strikes, the Right Strikes Back 62
  • II - From the Hot War to the Cold War 75
  • 4: The Hearings of 1947 77
  • 5: None Shall Escape 105
  • 6: The Anti-Communist Crusade on the Screen 128
  • 7: Life (And Death) on the Blacklist 144
  • Conclusion 159
  • Archival Sources 164
  • Bibliography 166
  • Index 175
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