1947 October 20

HUAC Opens Hearings on Communists in Hollywood


The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) on this day opened its famous hearings into alleged Communist influence in Hollywood. The hearings began with a series of “friendly” witnesses who argued that there was Communist influence. The “friendly” witnesses included President of Screen Actors Guild and future U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who testified on October 23, 1947.

The most famous part of the hearings involved a stormy confrontation that began on October 27, 1947, between the committee and a group of the “unfriendly” witnesses, screenwriters and directors who opposed HUAC and refused to answer the committee’s questions about their political beliefs and associations. In the end, ten witnesses, who are now referred to as the “Hollywood Ten,” were cited for contempt of Congress and sent to prison. All of them were immediately blacklisted by the Hollywood studios. See the announcement of the blacklist on December 3, 1947.

One of the Hollywood Ten was Ring Lardner, Jr., who later wrote the acclaimed movie M.A.S.H., and who appeared before the committee on October 30, 1947. Another was Dalton Trumbo, who testified on October 28, 1947, and who won the Oscar for Best Original Story on March 27, 1957, under the pseudonym of “Robert Rich,” which he used to evade the blacklist.

The Hollywood Ten confrontation is probably the most famous event in the entire 37-year history of HUAC. The House of Representatives abolished HUAC on January 14, 1975.

See the dramatic HUAC confrontations:
Dalton Trumbo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFR4RIyekis

Herbert Biberman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds2SDTFXIgM

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

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

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