Hollywood Blacklist Begins
Top Hollywood executives met at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City in late November 1947 and agreed that they would not employ people who refused to answer questions about their political affiliations before legislative investigating committees. The so-called “Waldorf Statement,” issued on this day, initiated the Hollywood blacklist of people because of their political views. The ACLU promptly criticized the blacklist on December 14, 1947.
The statement and the blacklist were prompted by the stormy hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) into alleged Communist influence in Hollywood — in particular, the confrontation with the Hollywood Ten, the writers and directors who refused to cooperate with the committee. See October 27, 1947, October 28, 1947, and October 30, 1947 for the Hollywood Ten hearings.
Some of the notable Hollywood figures who were blacklisted were Dalton Trumbo, who won an Academy Award on March 27, 1957 for a script he wrote under the pseudonym “Robert Rich”; Ring Lardner, who testified on October 30, 1947, began to work again after the blacklist ended, and became famous as the author of the script for M*A*S*H, which also became a successful television series.
Michael Wilson was blacklisted after the 1951 HUAC hearings on Hollywood. When he was able to resume his career in the 1960s, he took his revenge by inserting 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. In one scene, Charlton Heston is forced to stand naked before what is obviously an “Un-Ape Activities Committee.”
Part of the Waldorf Statement: “Members of the Association of Motion Picture Producers deplore the action of the 10 Hollywood men who have been cited for contempt by the House of Representatives. We do not desire to prejudge their legal rights, but their actions have been a disservice to their employers and have impaired their usefulness to the industry.
“We will forthwith discharge or suspend without compensation those in our employ, and we will not re-employ any of the 10 until such time as he is acquitted or has purged himself of contempt and declares under oath that he is not a Communist.
“On the broader issue of alleged subversive and disloyal elements in Hollywood, our members are likewise prepared to take positive action.
“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.”
Read the ACLU report on blacklisting: Merle Miller, The Judges and the Judged (1952)
See the film about blacklisting in Hollywood: Hollywood on Trial (1976)
Learn more: Michael Freedland, with Barbara Paskin, Witch-Hunt in Hollywood: McCarthyism’s War on Tinseltown (2009)