The Black List

Humphrey Bogart and John Huston vs HUAC
Legendary actors Humphrey Bogart and John Huston prepare their testimony for the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

HUAC and the Hollywood Witchhunt
Re-printed from an except by Jeanine Basinger, American Cinema: One Hundred Years of Film-making, courtesy of Modern Times

The content of Hollywood films has always been regulated in one form or another, however between 1947 and 1954 the House Un–American Activities Committee (HUAC) became indirectly involved in this kind of regulation. After the Second World War the America’s alliance with the Soviet Union ended, the Cold War began, and the “Red Scare” moved into full force. The HUAC members considered it their duty to purge the country of any Communist influences. While numerous industries were investigated by HUAC, because of Hollywoods high profile, it became the best known target of this infamous committee.

In 1947, the committee’s purpose was threefold. First, it intended to prove that the Screen Writer’s guild had Communist members with an insurrectionist agenda. Second, it hoped to show that these writers were able to insert subversive propaganda into Hollywood films. Third, J. Parnell Thomas, head of the committee, argued that President Roosevelt had encouraged pro–Soviet films during the war. Although none of these claims were ever substantiated, the committee’s tactics worked to force many talented and creative people to leave Hollywood.

HUAC was a political witchhunt that fired solely within the paranoid imagination of a few members of post-war American government. The committee members were looking for a new enemy for America to focus it's rage upon. Although there were Soviet spys active in America, they were not the black-listed writers and actors, including Dalton Trumbull, that faced Washington's irrational firestorm.

Trumbull, who spent a year in federal prison on Contempt charges for refusing to take the witch hunt seriously, previouslly wrote Hollywood blockbuster 30 Seconds Over Toyko (1943) and underground classic Gun Crazy (1949). After being blacklisted, Trumbull continued to write screenplays under a vareity of pseudonyms and fronts. As "Robert Rich" he won an Oscar for writing The Brave One (1956) and didn't officially recieve it for 10 more years. His screenplay for the classic film Spartacus (1960) was credited to "Sam Jackson". Spartacus won four of the six Academy Awards it was nominated for in 1961. This one Trumbull eventually accepted.

Over three decades after HUAC, Trumbull adapted his 1939 book "Johnny Get Your Gun" into film in 1971 starring Jason Robards. He, and men like him, were forced into decades of obscurity for no reason other than the evil ambition of unscrupulous politicians. The careers of Ronald Reagan, who became a six time Screen Actors Guild President with crooked political ambition, and a young Richard Nixon were made by assisting the notorious Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) in ruining the lives of many of Hollywood's of best and brightest.

Wikipedia, HUAC
Wikipedia, Dalton Trumbo, American Masters: Trumbo
Dan Moldea, The Corruption of Dutch Reagan

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