Cold war witchhunt in Hollywood


This is the trailer of the film Trumbo.

By Charles Bogle in the USA:

Hollywood on Trial: a timely reminder

10 December 2009

Hollywood on Trial (1976) directed by Daniel Halpern, Jr., written by Arnie Riesman, cinematography by Barry Abrams, narration by John Huston

The Hollywood witchhunt and blacklisting of left-wing actors, writers and directors in the post-World War II period has been the subject of many books, but has received little serious attention in Hollywood itself. …

The Front, Martin Ritt’s 1976 film starring Woody Allen, is a humorous effort with some serious insights. Other films concerned with the blacklist or McCarthyism in general include Guilty by Suspicion (1991), The Majestic (2001), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), and the television film Tail Gunner Joe (1977). The list is shamefully short.

More recently, in 2007, the worthwhile but limited documentary Trumbo appeared, based on letters from screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who was one of the Hollywood Ten, the writers and directors who were cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted in 1947 for refusing to testify, on First Amendment grounds, before the witchhunting House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

The only effort to deal in some detail and in documentary form with the history of the HUAC hearings in this period is the 1976 film Hollywood on Trial.

There is much valuable material in this movie. The footage in some cases speaks for itself, showing the Congressional witchhunters at work.

The film exposes the myth commonly subscribed to that the witchhunt was the product of a few flawed individual minds, specifically those of the redbaiting Senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy, and the California Congressman who went on to become president of the United States some two decades later, Richard Nixon.

Senator Joseph McCarthy

While McCarthy and Nixon were notorious for playing the anti-communist card throughout their despicable political careers, they were only two among other prominent players in these events, and neither played a leading role in the Hollywood events. The witchhunt represented the policy of the American ruling class, not simply one or more of its political representatives. …

The documentary’s most valuable service is in dispelling the superficial and mistaken conception that the anti-communist hearings arose suddenly in conjunction with the post-World War II Cold War, and just as suddenly disappeared without leaving a trace.

In fact, although HUAC became a permanent body in 1945, its origins go back to the 1930s and even further, to a Congressional committee that began investigating Bolshevism after the 1917 Russian Revolution. …

HUAC was neither the beginning nor the end of anti-communism. In recent decades many in Hollywood have smugly assured themselves that the days of the blacklist were an unfortunate aberration. The aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001 demonstrated the stupidity of such a claim, as new efforts were made to ensure that movies toed a patriotic, pro-war line.

Film critic Robin Wood dies at 78: here.

Radio and TV history in the USA: here.

The First World War (1914-1918) marked the initial foray by the US ruling elite into promoting a war with assistance from Hollywood film companies. The latter responded enthusiastically to the appeals of the Woodrow Wilson administration: here.

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8 thoughts on “Cold war witchhunt in Hollywood

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