1951 September 18

Evasion of Hollywood Blacklist Exposed; Producers Ignore It


Leo Townsend, a Hollywood screenwriter, testified testified at a hearing by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that two members of the famous “Hollywood Ten,” who had been blacklisted for not cooperating with HUAC in 1947, had tried to sell scripts using “dummy fronts” (that is, having another person claim authorship and then secretly pass the income to the original author).

Townsend named Dalton Trumb and Lester Cole as two blacklisted screenwriters who had tried get him to serve as a “front” a little more than a year ago.

The significance of Townsend’s testimony is that it meant that everyone in Hollywood knew about the evasion of the blacklist through the use of “fronts” and allowed it to continue. Trumbo, in fact, won a screenwriting Academy Award on March 27, 1957 for The Brave One, which he wrote under the pseudonym “Robert Rich. At the Oscar ceremonies, no one came forward to claim the Oscar.

Woody Allen starred in the 1976 film, The Front, based on the practice of using “fronts” to evade the blacklist.

The Hollywood blacklist was finally broken on January 20, 1960 when producer Otto Preminger announced that he was hiring Dalton Trumbo to write the script for his film Exodus.

Watch Trumbo’s HUAC testimony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFR4RIyekis

Learn more about Trumbo’s life and career: Bruce Cook, Dalton Trumbo (1977)

See the 2015 film: Trumbo (2015)

Learn more: Michael Freedland, with Barbara Paskin, Witch-Hunt in Hollywood: McCarthyism’s War on Tinseltown (2009)

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