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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hollywood Blacklist

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In the United States Constitution the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” In America all people are supposed to be guaranteed these rights, but in the late 140s and early 150s their was an immense amount of controversy in Hollywood as to what the stipulations of this Amendment consisted of to Americans, especially in Hollywood. In 18 The House of Un-American Activities formed, but it wasn’t until 147 that it decided to search Hollywood “citizens” to find the so-called reds. It was also in 147 that the Preliminary hearings of the Communist Infiltration of Hollywood Motion Picture Industry began and saw their “friendly witnesses” testify. It wasn’t long after these hearings that the “blacklisting” began. (quote)


In America we strive for freedom, in fact, that is how we got our start and that is where our roots lie, but in 150 it was as if a “wrong” opinion would lead you to complete failure. The people named on the Hollywood blacklist were not given the rights of the Constitution, but instead had almost all their rights taken away, because it was “known” that they supported Communism. It is important to look at the Hollywood blacklist to determine if these men and women were served the justice they deserved, or whether they were not given the same rights as all Americans based on “hearsay.” To better understand or justify the Hollywood blacklist a chronology of the facts must be discussed.


The House of un-American Activities actually began in 18 and was indirectly involved with regulations, however their “fame” didn’t come until after World War II had ended and the Cold War had begun. With so many Americans afraid of the “red scare” and unsure of the so-called spies, the HUAC began investigating America to find those people who had ties to Communism. Its main focus lay in Hollywood. Hollywood people were the focus because they could brainwash with their clever films and productions. To prevent this from happening, HUAC stepped in right in time to find all the Communist supporters. The considered it the hunt for the reds, and it marked the beginning of the Hollywood nightmare. No sooner than the hunt for the reds began did the trials also begin to find all Communists. The trials began in 147 and served three distinct purposes to find out if the Screen Writers’ guild supported communism, to find out if these writers could put communist propaganda into their films, and to get rid of any pro-Soviet films. Although none of these ideas lasted through the trials, Hollywood ended up losing many talented and creative people because of them.


In late 147 the Primary Hearings of the Communist Infiltration of Hollywood Motion Pictures Industry had their “friendly witnesses” testify. These witnesses were members of the Hollywood writers, actors and directors, who kept their name clean by naming others who were involved in the Communist Party or support for the Communist party. Some of the more famous “friendly witnesses” were Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, and Lela Rogers. At the same time these “friendly witnesses” testified against their peers, the “unfriendly witnesses” took a chance for the worst and refused to speak. When these “unfriendly witnesses” took the stand they pleaded the Fifth Amendment. The most popular “unfriendly witnesses” were the famous Hollywood Ten. These ten men stood together and refused to give any information out about involvement or support of the Communist Party.


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When people began to realize that HUAC was wrong in their accusations and trials, some attorneys started the Committee for the First Amendment (CFA). This committee consisted of fifty members who defended the Hollywood Ten and all other Communist-accused people of their first amendment rights. Their attempts appeared quite successful until (quote). After this the CFA still tried to defend the Hollywood Ten, but their attempts seemed quite hopeless.


After the trials, all of the Hollywood Ten were sent to serve time in prison and were placed on the “Hollywood Blacklist.” Not only were theses ten men on the blacklist, but over 50 other members of the Hollywood arena were also blacklisted. They were out of money, they could not work, and they had a bad name. Many ended up moving to other countries to clear their name to find work, while others used and alias to keep writing. Because of these horrible acts by HUAC, not only Hollywood, but America lost some of its most talented actors, writers and directors of the 150s. It is difficult to see how ridding America’s Hollywood of so-called pro-Communists would make the United States a safer place, however the government at the time felt this was a good way to do it.


One particular government advocate of finding these reds was Senator Joe McCarthy. His leadership led to many people getting blacklisted. His name is even coined for the blacklist�McCarthy’s blacklist and also the 150s is often referred to as the McCarthy era in Hollywood. Even though he died of alcohol poisoning many years ago, his legacy in Hollywood still lives on. People still feel pain from the blacklist and are still striving to overcome its effects on them, their families and their companies.


Looking back to the introduction, which stated the First Amendment, it is difficult to understand how the HUAC was as successful as it was. After all, if America is based on freedom, especially the First Amendment rights, why did these men a women lose their identity and success due to popular belief and hearsay. An analysis of the first amendment rights should be understood.


First, the First Amendment right of non-association should be considered. Redish and McFAdden state in the Minnesota Law Review that this deals with “an individual being punished because of his politicial beliefs not despite but because of the First Amendment right of free expression. The legitimacy of this paradox derives from the fact that the First Amendment rights at stake are not those of the victim ut rather those of the individuals who are punishing the victim because of his political views” (p. 1). In the case of the Hollywood Ten this application is legitimate, because the HUAC and the government were afraid that the pro-communists would harm them, thus they were being punished. Although this is legitimate it is not a popular action carried out in the courts, and it is difficult to accept accusing and punishing someone because of self-interest.


Next, we should consider whether the First Amendment right of non-association “would actually havae extended to the actions of those private individuals who shunned the Hollyowood Ten and , eventually, countless other member sof the Hollywood community because of their current or past membership in the CPUSA” (Redish and McFadden, 1). Although it would be nice to believe this is probable, the truth is that it is probably not likely because in this case, the courts drew on the idea of association and only used non-association “as a protective corollary to that affirmative right” (Redish and McFadden, p.).





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