1947 December 14

ACLU Criticizes Hollywood Blacklist

 

Less than two weeks after major Hollywood producers announced that they would not employ (that is, “blacklist”) writers, directors and actors who were Communist Party members, or who had been found in contempt of Congress for not answering questions about their political beliefs and associations, the ACLU criticized the decision. In a letter to the Motion Pictures Producers Association on this day the ACLU declared that there was no evidence that “American films have been influenced in any way by Communists or subversive employees.”

The Hollywood producers first decided on a blacklist at a meeting at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City in November (and the policy is often referred to as the “Waldorf Statement”), and then made the statement public on December 3, 1947. The policy was initiated in response to the controversy over the “Hollywood Ten,” the group of writers and directors who refused to answer questions about their politics before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in hearings that began on October 27, 1947. The policy initiated an infamous blacklist in the film industry that continued until 1960. See January 20, 1960, when director Otto Preminger publicly credited blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo for his forthcoming film, Exodus. Trumbo had won an Academy Award, on March 27, 1957, for a script he wrote under the pseudonym “Robert Rich.”

Other notable Hollywood figures who were blacklisted were Ring Lardner, who after the blacklist ended, became famous as the author of the script for M*A*S*H, which also became a very successful television series (see his testimony on October 30, 1947); and Michael Wilson who, after the blacklist ended, inserted a wicked parody of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the original film, Planet of the Apes, which was released on February 8, 1968.

The Waldorf Statement: “We will not knowingly employ a Communist or a member of any party or group which advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods. . . To this end we will invite the Hollywood talent guilds to work with us to eliminate any subversives: to protect the innocent; and to safeguard free speech and a free screen wherever threatened.”

Read the full Waldorf Statement: http://cobbles.com/simpp_archive/huac_nelson1947.htm

Read about the Hollywood blacklist: Larry Ceplair and Steven Englund, Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community, 1930–1960 (1980)

Read the ACLU report on blacklisting: Merle Miller, The Judges and the Judged (1952)

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