1952 May 1

Actor Edward G. Robinson Confesses to HUAC — “I Was a Sucker”

 

Hollywood film star Eward G. Robinson, it was reported today, publicly confessed the HUAC about his association with communists in the 1940s. The Chair of HUAC told him he had been “a No. choice sucker,” and Robinson agreed. His confession on April 30th was an arranged event designed to “clear” his name regarding accusations of pro-communist activity. Robinson’s name had first come up in December 1950. Robinson denied that he had ever been a member of the Communist Party, but the accusations affected his film career. He appeared in only a few films between 1950 and1952, a sharp decline from his active and successful career before 1950. After being “cleared,” his film activity returned to its previous level.

The Robinson episode was one of HUAC‘s established rituals, in which people would agree to “confess” or even name names in return for receiving HUAC’s blessing. (See Victor Navasky’s classic book, Naming Names). For most, it was a degrading and humiliating ritual. Robinson did not name any names of people he had known who had been Communist Party members.

During World War II in particular, Robinson was very active in ant-Nazi and pro-war efforts. Since the Soviet Union was a major U. S. ally in the war against Nazi Germany, many of the more than 800 groups he supported and donated to were left-wing groups, some of which were close to the Communist Party.

The people who caved in to HUAC include director Edward Dymtryk (April 25, 1951); writer Martin Berkeley (September 19, 1951); director Elia Kazan (April 10, 1952); and dancer Jerome Robbins (May 5, 1953).

Those who courageously stood up to HUAC include: screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (October 28, 1947); playwright Lillian Hellman (May 21 1952); and Pete Seeger (August 18, 1955).

Read about the history of HUAC: Walter Goodman, The Committee:The Extraordinary Career of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (1968)

Learn more about HUAC: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/huac

Read the classic account of “naming names:” Victor Navasky, Naming Names (1980)

Learn more about Robinson’s life: Edward G. Robinson, All My Yesterdays: An Autobiography (1973)

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