Monday, October 16, 2006

Red Scare

Hollywood on the Hill
Time Magazine, Nov. 3, 1947

It's '47 and they're trying to weed the Communists out of Hollywood - one DC hearing at a time...

...Next day, as all Washington knew, Robert Taylor would appear. The crowds were even bigger and earlier. Handsome Actor Taylor had a point to clear up. When Chairman Thomas had sleuthed out to Hollywood last summer for a preliminary sniff, Taylor had announced that he had been forced by New Deal pressure to appear in MGM's Song of Russia. Said he now: "I wasn't forced because they can't force you to make any picture."

But he was sure that Communist pressures were rising in Hollywood, and he offered the same cure-all as Menjou: "If I had my way about it, they'd all be sent back to Russia or some other unpleasant place." He was a success: when he had finished, more than half the spectators stamped for the door, clustered happily around him and followed him triumphantly more than a block down the street to his automobile.

The witnesses, famed and photogenic, the heroic, romantic faces known to all the U.S.—and to all the world as representing the U.S.—kept coming. Robert Montgomery turned up, looking like a handsome, but not incredibly handsome, broker. Said ex-Naval Commander Montgomery: "I gave up my job to fight totalitarianism called Fascism, and I am ready to do it again to fight totalitarianism called Communism." Dancer-Actor George Murphy and lazily-drawling Actor Gary Cooper followed him to the stand. By week's end the committee had heard testimony from 21...

5 comments:

stellypippin said...

Such a scary time that was - when I read John Garfield's biography, it talked about the stress of people, like John, had to go through when being labeled a 'Red' - such a pathetic witch-hunt that was.

la peregrina said...

Dark days, so many people ran scared. Then there were the self-righteous ones like Adolph Menjou. I never got a clear answer from anyone who lived through that time as to how, after fighting a war against just this kind of thing, this could happen in America.

Carrie said...

It's amazing the names you see when you read about this stuff.

Linda Alexander said...

But put it all in perspective. Look at the times. The reality -- if you study the period, you will see the reality -- is that the Communist Party in America was very real, & it took its orders straight from Russia. Members were well-trained in being something other than what they really were. There was an insiduous threat, an actual threat, looming over the US. All the people who were actually called "communists" were, indeed, card-carrying members of the party, and it was NOT the actors accused of "naming names" that "outed" them. The committee members produced copies of each individual Communist Party membership card for each individual known to be exactly that -- a communist, a registered, card-carrying communist.

So, yes, while the entire time was handled very poorly by the US government, & by the studio heads who could've stood up to the government, but didn't, the commentary of people "naming names" was as shameless as what was done to those who had dabbled in it but were never really communists.

Yes, sad all around. Consider the career of Robert Taylor, a "friendly witness," who, despite how history has recorded the event, did NOT name any names of anyone as a communists. What he did do was respond to a question that asked him if he knew of anyone who "disrupted" SAG meetings. To that leading question, he answered that, yes, there were people who were disruptive. And only after he was again prodded to say who, did he give the name of Howard DaSilva & Karen Morley.
History has a way of changing over the years. . . .

-- Linda Alexander
biographer, Robert Taylor
FRIENDLY WITNESS: ROBERT TAYLOR, HOLLYWOOD, & COMMUNISM
due out in '07

Carrie said...

Linda - now that I've read your post, I'll be looking for your upcoming book!