1947 October 24

Committee for the First Amendment Opposes HUAC Investigation of Hollywood


Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Huston and other Hollywood celebrities established the Committee for the First Amendment on this day to protest the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) investigation into alleged Communist influence in the movies. They announced plans to fly across the country, stopping in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh, before reaching Washington, D.C. for the HUAC investigation into Hollywood, which had begun on October 20, 1947. The hearings involving eleven “unfriendly” witnesses,which was the focus of the controversy, were scheduled to begin on October 27, 1947.  Those hearings were a stormy affair, with the “unfriendly” witnesses belligerently challenging the legitimacy of the committee’s inquiry and refusing to answer its questions. Ten of the witnesses, who became known as the Hollywood Ten, were cited for contempt of Congress, convicted and sentenced to prison, and then blacklisted by the Hollywood studios.

Public opinion quickly turned against the Hollywood Ten and the Committee for the First Amendment, in part because of the rising anti-Communist hysteria in the country and also because of the witnesses conduct at the hearings. The anti-HUAC committee quickly faded away. Hollywood executives, meanwhile, announced a blacklist of anyone with Communist associations on December 3, 1947, and members of the Hollywood Ten and many noted writers and directors were blacklisted and unable to work in the film industry.

Learn more about the Committee for the First Amendment: Michael Freedland, with Barbara Paskin, Witch-Hunt in Hollywood: McCarthyism’s War on Tinseltown (Ch. 6) (2009)

Learn more about blacklisting in Hollywood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUxdwFvwUTI

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

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