Frances Chaney Lardner
In the McCarthy era, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) blacklisted actors, and those deemed “subversive” quickly found themselves unemployable.
I was an actress and I had a decent career in New York. But after the HUAC hearings, I couldn’t get any real work. From 1947 till 1963, I was able to play only one part on night-time television. An agency sent me for a big part on the Philco Playhouse, in a script written by Paddy Chayefsky. I thought, “See, by God, I’ve sneaked through.” That spring, the same agency said they had a part for me in Marty. Chayefsky had written it with me in mind, and all they wanted was script approval. And then the process started: “Call us back in an hour.” They finally said they were very sorry. Someone else had been cast in the part. Then they recast the first Chayefsky programme: I was out. The terrible thing about the whole business is what it did to people. It made the victims of the blacklist suspicious and fearful. For example, I remember well the time that I got my first important job in a Broadway play in 1962.
There was a lovely woman who understudied me. We were in the dressing-room we shared, and I suddenly felt, “What if she’s from the FBI?” I had nothing to conceal whatsoever, and yet I had this sense that she was put there. You found yourself worried because there were things that had to be protected: children had to be protected, your livelihood had to be protected. I went from being an open, free, healthy, outgoing person to suddenly having these walls around me.