On 26th May, 1938, the United States House of Representatives authorized the formation of the Special House Committee on Un-American Activities. "The Speaker of the House of Representatives is authorized to appoint a special committee to be composed of seven members for the purpose of conducting an investigation of (1) the extent, character, and object of un-American propaganda activities in the United States, (2) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin and attacks the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by the Constitution, and (3) all other questions in relations thereto that would aid Congress in any necessary remedial legislation."
The first chairman of the Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was Martin Dies. The main objective of the HUAC was the investigation of un-American and subversive activities. Soon after his appointment Dies received a telegram from the Ku Klux Klan: "Every true American, and that includes every Klansman, is behind you and your committee in its effort to turn the country back to the honest, freedom-loving, God-fearing American to whom it belongs."
The original intention of the HUAC was to investigate both left-wing and right wing political groups. In a statement made on 20th July 1938, Dies claimed that many Nazis and Communists were leaving the United States because of his pending interrogations. The New Republic argued that the right-wing Dies, who it described as "physically a giant, very young, ambitious, and cocksure" would target those on the left. It was no surprise when Dies immediately announced that he intended to investigate aspects of the New Deal that had been established by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
J. Parnell Thomas, a member of the HUAC, described the Federal Theatre Project as being "infested by radicals from top to bottom" and on 26th July, 1938, called for Hallie Flanagan, the head of the organisation, to answer questions. Flanagan immediately went on the attack arguing that: "Some of the statements reported to have been made by him (Parnell Thomas) are obviously absurd... of course no one need first join or be a member of any organization in order to obtain employment in a theatre project."
On 19th August, 1938, Hazel Huffman, a former employee of the Works Projects Administration (WPA), appeared before the HUAC and claimed that Flanagan was a person who "was known as far back as 1927 for her communistic sympathy, if not membership" and pointed out that 147 pages of her book, Shifting Scenes of the European Theatre, had devoted 147 pages to "eulogizing the Russian theater." Huffman also pointed out that Flanagan had appointed Elmer Rice, "a well-known leftist" as regional director of the Federal Theatre Project in New York City. Another witness, Sallie Saunders, condemned the Federal Theatre because it had performed "pro-union plays, plays referring to Negro discrimination, and anti-Fascist plays." Saunders also complained that the project encouraged racial intergration and that while working for the FTP she had been "telephoned by a Negro for a date".
Hallie Flanagan eventually appeared before the HUAC. She later recalled: "The room itself, a high-walled chamber with great chandeliers, was lined with exhibits of material from the Federal Theatre and the Writers' Project; but all I could see for a moment were the faces of thousands of Federal Theatre people; clowns in the circus ... telephone girls at the switchboards... actors in grubby rehearsal rooms...acrobats limbering up their routines... costume women busy making cheap stuff look expensive... musicians composing scores to bring out the best in our often oddly assembled orchestras... playwrights working on scripts with the skills of our actors in mind... carpenters, prop men, ushers. These were the people on trial that morning. I was sworn in as a witness by Chairman Dies, a rangy Texan with a cowboy drawl and a big black cigar. I wanted to talk about Federal Theatre, but the Committee apparently did not. As the hearing broke up I thought suddenly of how much it all looked like a badly staged courtroom scene; it wasn't imposing enough for a congressional hearing on which the future of several thousand human beings depended. For any case on which the life and reputation of a single human being depended, even that of an accused murderer, we had an American system which demanded a judge trained in law, a defense lawyer, a carefully chosen jury, and above all the necessity of hearing all the evidence on both sides of the case. Yet here was a Committee which for months had been actually trying a case against Federal Theatre, trying it behind closed doors, and giving one side only to the press. Out of a project employing thousands of people from coast to coast, the Committee had chosen arbitrarily to hear ten witnesses, all from New York City, and had refused arbitrarily to hear literally hundreds of others, on and off the project, who had asked to testify."
J. Parnell Thomas objected to the radical message in some of these plays. Thomas claimed that: "Practically every play presented under the auspices of the Project is sheer propaganda for Communism or the New Deal." Martin Dies, the chairman of the Un-American Activities Committee, called for the resignations of Harold Ickes, Harry Hopkins and Frances Perkins, as the three had "associates who were Socialists, Communists, and crackpots." Roosevelt refused to sack these three members of his government but did bring the Federal Theatre Project to an end. During its four years existence the FTP launched or established the careers of such artists as Orson Welles, John Houseman, Will Geer, Arthur Miller, Paul Green, Marc Blitzstein and Canada Lee.
Martin Dies and the HUAC also began attacking other left-wing artistic groups. This included describing the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League as a Communist-Front organization. The actress, Luise Rainer, replied: "I do not believe in the so-called revelations made by the Dies Investigating Committee. I believe their purpose is purely destructive, aimed at discrediting worthwhile peace and anti-fascist organizations, which are so much needed in these worried times." The film director, John Ford commented in October, 1938: "May I express my whole-hearted desire to cooperate to the utmost of my ability with the Hollywood anti-Nazi League. If this be Communism, count me in."
Another supporter of the HANU, Frederic March, argued: "Every time during the last few years that I have felt impelled to protest an injustice, to cry out against man's inhumanity to man, or to espouse some social reform, I have been called a Communist. Because the founders of our country believed in justice, tolerance and the exercise of such social reform as would benefit the people at large, I insist upon the right to follow their example and still be recognized as a loyal American citizen."
The Un-American Activities Committee originally investigated both left-wing and right wing political groups. Some called for the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan to be interrogated by the HUAC. Martin Dies however was a supporter of the Klan and had spoken at several of its rallies. Other members of the HUAC such as John Rankin and John S. Wood were also Klan sympathizers. Wood defended the Klan by arguing that: "The threats and intimidations of the Klan are an old American custom, like illegal whisky-making." Eventually Ernest Adamson, the HUAC's chief counsel, announced that: "The committee has decided that it lacks sufficient data on which to base a probe." Rankin added: "After all, the KKK is an old American institution." Instead, the HUAC concentrated on investigating the possibility that the American Communist Party had infiltrated New Deal projects.
Martin Dies soon came under attack from those who saw the HUCA as a method of blocking progressive policies being advocated by Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was reflected in the comments made by Vito Marcantonio. "It has become the most convenient method by which you wrap yourselves in the American flag in order to cover up some of the greasy stains on the legislative toga. You can vote against the unemployed, you can vote against the W.P.A. workers, and you can emasculate the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; you can try to destroy the National Labor Relations Law, the Magna Carta of American labor; you can vote against the farmer; and you can do all that with a great deal of impunity, because after you have done so you do not have to explain your vote."
Several famous writers complained that the HUAC was having an impact on creativity. The author and screenwriter, Dashill Hammett, argued: "We indignantly reject these irresponsible attacks. At this crucial time when the cooperation of all democratic forces is so essential, this attack throws a very dubious light on the character of the whole Dies investigation. It emphasizes the need for the greatest alertness on the part of all democracy-loving American people." Lewis Milestone, the famous film director, argued: "It seems to me that the hysteria of the Dies Committee's investigations have only succeeded in strengthening public belief in the organizations and movements they have attacked. For myself, and for members of the motion picture industry, if our aid to democracies now victims of fascist aggression can be misinterpreted as un-American acts, then perhaps the Dies Committee has its own translation of the word democracy."
Martin Dies retailated by suggested that the HUAC should investigate political propaganda in Hollywood. In 1940 the screenwriter, Dorothy Parker, replied: "The people want democracy - real democracy, Mr. Dies, and they look toward Hollywood to give it to them because they don't get it any more in their newspapers. And that's why you're out here, Mr. Dies - that's why you want to destroy the Hollywood progressive organizations - because you've got to control this medium if you want to bring fascism to this country."
In 1945 Emanuel Celler issued a warning to the Un-American Activities Committee. "The Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities is now a standing investigatory committee with power to initiate legislation.... Bluntly then, the present committee can make its choice. It can either adopt the Dies course of unfounded character assassinations, lynch-law, prosecutor-jury and executioner all in one - or it can proceed in a manner consonant with the American tradition of the right to be heard, the right of counsel and the right of confrontation of witnesses, placing emphasis on investigation of all foreignisms with honest judicious objectivity. If we are to have again an extravaganza of persecution - a deep-seated mania of embracing some I individually conceived notion of alienism, we face again a betrayal of our basic constitutionally guarded frights. The power to investigate is a great public trust. And we ask the newly constituted committee not for one instant to forget that."
After Martin Dies ceased being chairman of the HUAC in 1944 he was followed by Edward Hart (1944-1945), John S. Wood (1945-46) and J. Parnell Thomas. Other members of the HUAC included John McDowell of Pennsylvania, Harold Velde of Illinois, Francis Walter of Pennsylvania, John Rankin of Mississippi, Karl Mundt of South Dakota and Richard Nixon of California.
On 20th October, 1947, the HUAC opened its hearings concerning communist infiltration of the motion picture industry. Harley Kilgore of West Virginia, Claude Pepper of Florida, Elbert D. Thomas of Utah, and Glenn H. Taylor of Idaho joined forces to protest about the hearings: "We the undersigned, as American Citizens who believe in constitutional democratic government, are disgusted and outraged by the continuing attempt of the House Committee on Un-American Activities to smear the Motion Picture Industry. We hold that these hearings are morally wrong because: (1) Any investigation into the political beliefs of the individual is contrary to the basic principles of our democracy; (2) Any attempt to curb freedom of expression and to set arbitrary standards of Americanism is in itself disloyal to both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution."
Some figures in Hollywood were strongly opposed to this investigation and John Garfield, Sterling Hayden, Lena Horne, Marsha Hunt, Myrna Loy, Philip Dunne, June Havoc, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Huston, William Wyler, Henry Fonda, Bette Davis, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Vincente Minnelli, Katharine Hepburn, Paul Henreid, Dorothy Dandridge, Melvyn Douglas, Ira Gershwin, Billy Wilder, Edward G. Robinson, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, Danny Kaye, Robert Ryan and Frank Sinatra established the Committee for the First Amendment.
On 27th October, 1947, the group flew to Washington, D.C. to protest against the HUAC hearings into the motion picture industry. Marsha Hunt later recalled: "The flight was not masterminded by Communist. It was concocted by William Wyler and John Huston and Philip Dunne, who were having lunch at Lucy's across from Paramount... I remember being invited to a small Sunday-afternoon gathering at Willie Wyler's house to plan and coordinate our actions... We went on a chartered plane. The whole industry chipped in to pay for it."
Hunt was shocked by the way the press treated the protest: "It was all so new to me. I had never been in a position of public controversy before. We were treated with skepticism and hostility, frequently by the Hearst press and some syndicated columnists. We were so misquoted. In my, own case, I was quoted as saying things I would never say, at a function never attended. This was almost libelous, and I wanted a retraction. But wiser heads said that we should let such things pass, that all of this would soon be yesterday's news and quickly forgotten.... We sat there for two days. We were not given any role in the hearings at all. We were not there as anything hut part of the audience. Later, back at the hotel, we held a press conference, which was well-attended."
Hunt recalls that on the flight home the mood had changed: "We went full of verve and dedication and outrage at what was taking place. We were going to try to explain and clarify things to a really confused public. On the flight back to Hollywood we were, I think, subdued and shaken by what we had witnessed and heard in the hearing room, by the ridicule and suspicion that the press afforded us. They thought we must be Communists, or sympathetic to Communism, or incredibly naive. We came home sadder... We had certainly learned a good deal about pressure politics and distortion of our purpose."
The chief investigator for the HUAC committee was Robert E. Stripling. The first people it interviewed included Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Ayn Rand, Jack L. Warner, Robert Taylor, Adolphe Menjou, Robert Montgomery, Walt Disney, Thomas Leo McCarey and George L. Murphy. These people named several possible members of the American Communist Party. The HUAC also called Lela Rogers, the mother of Ginger Rogers. She claimed that Clifford Odets, had introduced communist propaganda into the film, None but the Lonely Heart (1944): "I can't quote the lines of the play exactly but I can give you the sense of them. There is one place in which - it is unfair, may I say, to take a scene from its context and try to make it sound like Communist propaganda, because a Communist is very careful, very clever, and very devious in the way he sets the film. If I were to give you a line from that play straight out you would say 'What is wrong with that line?' unless you knew that the Communist is trying in every way to tear down our free-enterprise system, to make the people lose faith in it, so that they will want to get something else-and the Communists have it waiting for them. I will tell you of one line. The mother in the story runs a second-hand store. The son says to her, 'You are not going to' in essence, I am not quoting this exactly because I can't remember it exactly-he said to her, 'You are not going to get me to work here and squeeze pennies from people poorer than we are.' Many people are poorer and many people are richer. As I say, you find yourself in an awful hole the moment you start to remove one of the scenes from its context."
As a result their investigations, the HUAC announced it wished to interview nineteen members of the film industry that they believed might be members of the American Communist Party. This included Herbert Biberman, Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., Samuel Ornitz, John Howard Lawson, Larry Parks, Waldo Salt, Bertolt Brecht, Richard Collins, Gordon Kahn, Robert Rossen, Lewis Milestone and Irving Pichel.
The first suspected communist to appear before the HUAC was John Howard Lawson on 27th October, 1947. Lawson requested the right to make an opening statement but this was refused by J. Parnell Thomas with the words that the "statement is not pertinent to this inquiry." The statement included the following: "As an individual, I am not important. The obvious fact that the Committee is trying to destroy me personally and professionally, to deprive me of my livelihood and what is far dearer to me-my honor as an American - gains significance only because it opens the way to similar destruction of any citizen whom the Committee selects for annihilation... It is not surprising that writers and artists are selected for this indecent smear. Writers, artists, scientists, educators, are always the first victims of attack by those who hate democracy. The writer has a special responsibility to serve democracy, to further the free exchange of ideas. I am proud to be singled out for attack by men who are obviously - by their own admission on the record-out to stifle ideas and censor communication."
Robert E. Stripling asked Lawson if he was a member of the Screen Writers Guild. He refused to answer this question on principal but he did comment that his membership was a matter of public record. His next question was: "Mr. Lawson, are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?" Lawson replied that "the Bill of Rights was established precisely to prevent the operation of any committee which could invade the basic rights of Americans." With this answer Lawson was removed from the room by the guards.
The next person called was Dalton Trumbo who was also denied the right to make an opening statement. In it he wanted to make the point that the HUAC was having a damaging impact on world opinion: "As indicated by news dispatches from foreign countries during the past week, the eyes of the world are focused today upon the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In every capital city these hearings will be reported. From what happens during the proceedings, the peoples of the earth will learn by precept and example precisely what America means when her strong voice calls out to the community of nations for freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, the civil rights of men standing accused before government agencies, the vitality and strength of private enterprise, the inviolable right of every American to think as he wishes, to organize and assemble as he pleases, to vote in secret as he chooses."
Trumbo was asked by Robert E. Stripling if he was a member of the Screen Writers Guild. He refused to answer the question: "Mr. Stripling, the rights of American labor to inviolably secret membership have been won in this country by a great cost of blood and a great cost in terms of hunger. These rights have become an American tradition. Over the Voice of America we have broadcast to the entire world the freedom of our labor... You asked me a question which would permit you to haul every union member in the United States up here to identify himself as a union member, to subject him to future intimidation and coercion. This, I believe is an unconstitutional question."
Trumbo also refused to admit he was a member of the American Communist Party. Trumbo was removed from the room and HUAC investigator, Louis Russell, now read out a nine page report on his Communist Party affiliations. John Parnell Thomas now stated: "The evidence presented before this Committee concerning Dalton Trumbo clearly indicates that he is an active Communist Party member. Also the fact that he followed the usual Communist line of not responding to questions of the Committee is definite proof that he is a member of the Communist Party. Therefore, by unanimous vote of the members present, the subcommittee recommends to the full committee that Dalton Trumbo be cited for contempt of Congress."
The next witness, Albert Maltz, was allowed to make an opening statement. It included the following: "I am an American and I believe there is no more proud word in the vocabulary of man. I am a novelist and a screen writer and I have produced a certain body of work in the past fifteen years.... Now at the age of 39, I am commanded to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. For a full week this Committee has encouraged an assortment of well-rehearsed witnesses to testify that I and others are subversive and un-American. It has refused us the opportunity that any pickpocket receives in a magistrate's court the right to cross-examine these witnesses, to refute their testimony, to reveal their motives, their history, and who, exactly, they are. Furthermore it grants these witnesses congressional immunity so that we may not sue them for libel for their slanders. I maintain that this is an evil and vicious procedure; that it is legally unjust and morally indecent - and that it places in danger every other American, since if the rights of any one citizen can be invaded, then the constitutional guaranties of every other American have been subverted and no one is any longer protected from official tyranny."
Maltz also raised the issue that John Parnell Thomas was a long-term critic of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. He quoted Thomas as saying that: "I just want to say this now, that it seems that the New Deal is working along hand in glove with the Communist Party. The New Deal is either for the Communist Party or it is playing into the hands of the Communist Party." Maltz also pointed out that Thomas and John Rankin had a record of opposing measures to bring an end to lynching and in the past had been a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan. Maltz added: "I will take my philosophy from Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and I will not be dictated to or intimidated by men to whom the Ku Klux Klan, as a matter of Committee record, is an acceptable American institution."
Maltz, like previous unfriendly witnesses, refused to answer questions on his membership of the Screen Writers Guild and American Communist Party. This approach was followed by Alvah Bessie, who argued: "It is my understanding of the First Amendment to our Constitution that it expressly forbids Congress to pass any law which shall abridge freedom of speech or of opinion. And it is my understanding of the function of Congressional Committees that they are set up by the Congress for the express purpose of inquiring into matter that may lead to the initiation of legislation in the Congress." The First Amendment protected the privacy of political beliefs.
The next witness, Samuel Ornitz, raised the issue that the majority of those brought before the HUAC, were Jewish. He also made reference to the fact that John Rankin was the leading anti-Semite in Congress: "I wish to address this Committee as a Jew, because one of its leading members is the outstanding anti-Semite in the Congress and revels in this fact. I refer to John E. Rankin. I refer to this evil because it has been responsible for the systematic and ruthless slaughter of six million of my people. Nor were they alone to die. Thirty million others died, including American boys. It may be redundant to repeat that anti-Semitism and anti-Communism were the number one poison weapon used by Hitler - but still terribly relevant, lest we forget. In speaking as a Jew, I speak in a deeper sense as an American, as the one who has to take the first blow for my fellow-Americans. For when Constitutional guarantees are overridden, the Jew is the first one to suffer... but only the first one. As soon as the Jew is crushed, the others get it. Or haven't we been through this... the most horrible of wars to date!"
Victor Navasky, the author of Naming Names (1982) has been pointed out that ten of the nineteen originally named members of the American Communist Party were Jews (Gordon Kahn, Lewis Milestone, Richard Collins, Albert Maltz, Robert Rossen, Samuel Ornitz, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole) and two others had been involved in the recent film, Crossfire (1947), that was an attack on anti-Semitism (Adrian Scott and Edward Dmytryk).
Kahn wrote in Hollywood on Trail (1948): "The key to why subpoenas were served on Adrian Scott and Edward Dmytryk, respectively producer and director of the film Crossfire, was found when Mr. Stripling, the interrogator, inadvertently addressed Mr. Scott as "Mr. Dmytryk." Supposedly called before the Committee as separate and unrelated individuals, the link between these two gentlemen in the corporate mind of the Committee was made amply clear by Mr. Stripling's slip of the tongue. Scott and Dmytryk were subpoenaed because they produced and directed Crossfire. That now celebrated film attacked anti-Semitism in particular and racial hatred and intolerance generally."
Ring Lardner Jr. also refused to answer questions about being a member of the Screen Writers Guild and the American Communist Party. He told John Parnell Thomas that he was unwilling to answer the follow-up question on identifying other members of these organisations. He added: "It depends on the circumstances. I could answer it, but if I did I would hate myself in the morning." He told the New York Herald Tribune: "I have always associated the words I'll hate myself in the morning with a situation in which a previously chaste woman is succumbing to the indecent blandishment of a scoundral and very likely launching herself on the road to prostitution. That is the analogy I wished to suggest."
On 30th October, 1947, Bertolt Brecht, who had arrived in the United States six years previously, was willing to answer questions in front of the HUAC. He denied he was a member of the Screen Writers Guild and the American Communist Party. Brecht pointed out: "As a guest of the United States, I refrained from political activities concerning this country even in a literary form. By the way, I am not a screen writer, Hollywood used only one story of mine for a picture showing the Nazi savageries in Prague. I am not aware of any influence which I could have exercised in the movie industry whether political or artistic. Being called before the Un-American Activities Committee, however, I feel free for the first time to say a few words about American matters: looking back at my experiences as a playwright and a poet in the Europe of the last two decades, I wish to say that the great American people would lose much and risk much if they allowed anybody to restrict free competition of ideas in cultural fields, or to interfere with art which must be free in order to be art. We are living in a dangerous world. Our state of civilization is such that mankind already is capable of becoming enormously wealthy but, as a whole, is still poverty-ridden. Great wars have been suffered, greater ones are imminent, we are told. One of them might well wipe out mankind, as a whole. We might be the last generation of the specimen man on this earth. The ideas about how to make use of the new capabilities of production have not been developed much since the days when the horse had to do what man could not do. Do you not think that, in such a predicament, every new idea should be examined carefully and freely? Art can present clear and even make nobler such ideas."
The first ten men accused of being communists: Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz, Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, John Howard Lawson and Ring Lardner Jr, refused to answer any questions about their political and union activities. Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The HUAC and the courts during appeals disagreed and all were found guilty of contempt of Congress and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison.
In June, 1950, three former FBI agents and a right-wing television producer, Vincent Harnett, published Red Channels, a pamphlet listing the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed had been members of subversive organisations before the Second World War. The names had been compiled from FBI files and a detailed analysis of the Daily Worker, a newspaper published by the American Communist Party. The list included Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell. A free copy was sent to those involved in employing people in the entertainment industry. All those people named in the pamphlet were blacklisted until they appeared in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and convinced its members they had completely renounced their radical past. As a result both Alan Campbell and Parker were blacklisted.
John Keats, the author of You Might as Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker (1971) has pointed out: "Alan Campbell was a victim of the Red hunt, despite his well-known objections to Dorothy Parker's pre-war political activities and his refusal to have anything to do with them. Because her career in films was over, he could not offer himself and Dorothy Parker as a writing team to any studio, nor was any studio willing to employ him alone, because he was the husband of a suspected Communist. To be unemployed in Hollywood is normally to be regarded as a pariah, but in these abnormal times it was something worse. No one knew who might be reported for his association with someone else, however slight that association might be; no one knew how suspect were the friends of his friends. There was no help for this: no one could say when, or whether, the terror would end... the House Committee on Un-American Activities said it had evidence that Dorothy Parker was a Communist. She was angrily noncommittal when questioned by newspaper reporters. She refused to become one of those who went crawling to the Committee, or to the studios, to wear the guise of a penitent and seek redemption and good fortune by being traitorous."
Marsha Hunt was another one who was named in Red Channels: "Well, that ended my career. Red Channels came out in the summmer of 1950, while - how's this for irony? - I was in Paris being invited to dinner by Eleanor Roosevelt. Red Channels was concerned entirely with the broadcast field. The film industry later had its own lists of victims. Red Channels included me because I had been offered my own TV talk show. I'd had beginner's luck on TV, being, as you can see, very voluble. I had been on a number of early talk shows with people like George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly, bright, articulate folk. And I was currently quite successful on Broadway, having starred in Joy to the World with Alfred Drake and The Devil's Disciple with Maurice Evans in 1950.... They had listed several affiliations under my name - some I'd never heard about, complete lies. One, I think, had me attending a peace conference in Stockholm. I had never been to Stockholm, nor to a peace conference. The rest were innocent activities that Red Channels viewed with suspicion."
On 8th March, 1951, the HUAC committee began an "Investigation of Communism in the Entertainment Field". The chairman was John S. Wood, and other members included Harold Velde of Illinois, Francis Walter of Pennsylvania, Morgan M. Moulder of Missouri, Clyde Doyle of California, James B. Frazier of Tennessee, Bernard W. Kearney of New York and Charles E. Potter of Michigan. Louis Russell was the senior investigator and Frank S. Tavenner, was chief counsel.
The first witness was Victor Jeremy Jerome, who refused to answer any questions. He used the protective cover of the Fifth Amendment, which broadly states, "when a witness in his own opinion considers that the answer to a question might tend to incriminate him, he cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself and made to answer".
Howard da Silva took a similar approach to the problem: "I refuse to answer the question on the following basis: The first and fifth amendments and all of the Bill of Rights protect me from any inquisitorial procedure, and I may not be compelled to cooperate with this committee in producing evidence designed to incriminate me and to drive me from my profession as an actor. The historical origin of the fifth amendment is founded in the resistance of the people to attempts to prosecute and persecute individuals because of their political views."
Gale Sondergaard appeared on 21st March, 1951. Frank S. Tavenner told her he documents to show that she joined the American Communist Party on 1st December, 1944, and had the card number 47328. Sondergaard refused to comment upon this documentary evidence and all subsequent efforts by the committee to link her with Communist fronts and organizations.
Larry Parks gave evidence later that day. He admitted that he joined the American Communist Party in 1941. He joined because it "fulfilled certain needs of a young man that was liberal of thought, idealistic, who was for the underprivileged, the underdog". At first he refused to name other members of the party: "I would prefer not to mention names, if it is at all possible, of anyone. I don't think it is fair to people to do this. I have come to you at your request. I have come and willingly tell you about myself. I think that, if you would allow me, I would prefer not to be questioned about names. And I will tell you everything that I know about myself, because I feel I have done nothing wrong, and 1 will answer any question that you would like to put to me about myself. I would prefer, if you will allow me, not to mention other people's names.... The people at that time as I knew them-this is my opinion of them. This is my honest opinion: That these are people who did nothing wrong, people like myself.... And it seems to me that this is not the American way of doing things to force a man who is under oath and who has opened himself as wide as possible to this committee - and it hasn't been easy to do this -to force a man to do this is not American justice."
However, Parks did agree to name members in a private session of the HUAC. This included Joseph Bromberg, Lee J. Cobb, Morris Carnovsky, John Howard Lawson, Karen Morley, Anne Revere, Gale Sondergaard, Dorothy Tree, Roman Bohnan, Lloyd Gough and Victor Kilian. Three days later Paul Jarrico, who was due to appear before the HUAC, told the New York Times, that he was unwilling to follow the example of Parks: "If I have to choose between crawling in the mud with Larry Parks or going to jail like my courageous friends of the Hollywood Ten, I shall certainly choose the latter."
Sterling Hayden was also willing to answer questions about his political past. On 10th April 1951 he told the HUAC that during the Second World War he served behind enemy lines and that he became "enraptured by the Partisans of Yugoslavia and how he concomitantly became exposed to Communist ideology". Hayden joined the American Communist Party in June, 1946.
Robert Vaughn, the author of Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting (1972) has argued that "Hayden... was the first of many who elected to put the continuance of their careers ahead of personal and professional friendships." People named by Hayden included Robert Lees, Karen Morley and Abraham Polonsky. Hayden also said: "One of them was someone named Bernie but I never knew his last name. He was a sort of intellectual type and led the educational discussions." He was talking about the young screenwriter Bernard Gordon who was later named by William Alland.
Hayden later commented in his autobiography, Wanderer (1963): "Not often does a man find himself eulogized for having behaved in a manner that he himself despises. I subscribed to a press-clipping service. They sent me two thousand clips from papers east and west, large and small, and from dozens of magazines. Most had nothing but praise for my one-shot stoolie show. Only a handful - led by The New York Times - denounced this abrogation of constitutional freedoms whereby the stoolie could gain status in a land of frightened people."
Will Greer appeared on 11th April, 1951. Greer refused to answer the claim that on 23rd July, 1942, he had signed a pro-Communist petition. John S. Wood asked him why he was not answering questions about his past. Greer replied: "I stand on the advice of my counsel... With the situation of the world as it is. It's a hysterical situation." Harold Velde asked him: "Would it be any crime to admit your membership in a legal party, then?" Greer replied: "In this day of hysteria it is, sir."
Robert Lees also refused to answer questions later that day: "There are a great number of organizations that this committee has deemed to be subversive and my connections with any individual that can be connected with these organizations can tend to incriminate me, and for this reason I have declined to answer that question."
Richard Collins gave evidence on 12th April, 1951. He told the HUAC that he had been recruited to the American Communist Party by Budd Schulberg in 1936. He named John Howard Lawson as a leader of the party in Hollywood. Collins also claimed that fellow members of his communist cell included Ring Lardner Jr. and Martin Berkeley. He also named John Bright, Lester Cole, Paul Jarrico, Gordon Kahn, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Robert Rossen, Waldo Salt and Frank Tuttle. Collins estimated that the Communist Party in Hollywood during the Second World War had several hundred members and he had known about twenty of them.
Paul Jarrico gave evidence on the 13th April and argued that the treatment of the Hollywood Ten meant that it was impossible for him to cooperate with the HUAC: "Ten of my friends, very dear friends, have gone to jail for coming before this body and saying that Congress may not investigate in any area in which it may not legislate, and since the Constitution of the United States specifically states that Congress shall make no law restricting the freedom of speech, and since countless decisions of the courts have held that this provision of the Constitution means that Congress cannot investigate into areas of opinion, of conscience, of belief, I believe that in asking that those men be cited for contempt of Congress and in successfully sending these men to jail, that this committee has subverted the meaning of the American Constitution."
Edward Dmytryk had originally been a member of the Hollywood Ten, however, on 17th April he decided to answer questions he received before the HUAC. This time he answered all their questions including the naming of twenty-six former members of left-wing groups. This included Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Gordon Kahn, Richard Collins, Jules Dassin, Jack Berry, John Wexley, Michael Gordon, Michael Uris and Bernard Vorhaus. Dmytryk also revealed how Lawson, Scott and Maltz had put him under pressure to make sure his films expressed the views of the American Communist Party. This was particularly damaging as several members of the original Hollywood Ten were at that time involved in court cases with their previous employers. Dmytryk also testified that along with Tuttle, Berry, Biberman, Dassin and Vorhaus, he had tried to gain control of the Screen Directors Guild.
Dmytryk told the HUAC: "I know that there have been comments - I don't mean Communists but even among certain progressives and liberals - that people who talk are in effect informers. I heard that so much that I went to the dictionary and looked up the word. An informer, roughly speaking, is a man who informs against colleagues or former colleagues who are engaged in criminal activity. I think the Communists, by using this word against people, are in effect admitting they are engaged in criminal activit}. I never heard of anybody informing on the Boy Scouts."
Edward Dmytryk later recalled: "Not a single person I named hadn't already been named at least a half-dozen times and wasn't already on the blacklist. Because I didn't know that many. I only knew a few people, literally a handful of people, all of whom had been in the Party long before I was, all of whom were known by the FBI and were known to the Committee. There was no question about that. With me it was that defending the Communist Party was something worse than naming the names. I did not want to remain a martyr to something that I absolutely believed was immoral and wrong. It's as simple as that."
Dmytryk was followed by Anne Revere. She refused to answer the questions because she believed if she did so she would be aiding the HUAC in its "attempt to overthrow the American system". Revere argued: "Mr. Tavenner and gentlemen, this would seem to me, based upon my observation in the course of the week in which I have listened to these testimonies, to be the first in a possible series of questions which would attempt in some manner to link me with subversive organizations; and as the Communist Party is a political party - legal political party - in this country today, and as I consider any questioning regarding one's political views or religious views as a violation of the rights of a citizen under our Constitution, and as I would consider myself, therefore, contributing to the overthrow of our form of government as I understand it if I were to assist you in violating this privilege of mine and other citizens of this country, I respectfully decline to answer this question on the basis of the fifth amendment, possible self-incrimination, and also the first amendment."
John Garfield did answer questions and denied he ever joined the American Communist Party or knew any of its members. He did admit to being a supporter of left-wing causes and during the 1930s had spoken at Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee meetings and in the 1948 Presidential Election he had advocated the election of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party candidate.
Donald L. Jackson questioned Garfield's account about his knowledge of what was going on in Hollywood: "Do you contend that during the seven years or more that you were in Hollywood and in close contact with a situation in which a number of Communist cells were operating on a week-to-week basis, with electricians, actors, and every class represented, that during the entire period of time you were in Hollywood you did not know of your own personal knowledge a member of the Communist Party?"
Garfield replied: "When I was originally requested to appear before the committee, I said that I would answer all questions, fully and without any reservations, and that is what I have done. I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. My life is an open book. I was glad to appear before you and talk with you. I am no Red. I am no "pink." I am no fellow traveler. I am a Democrat by politics, a liberal by inclination, and a loyal citizen of this country by every act of my life."
Roy M. Brewer of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees appeared on 17th May. He testified that he did not believe that John Garfield was telling the truth. He argued that it was impossible for an actor in Hollywood and not to be aware of the power of the American Communist Party. "I do not think the opinion of one man is of much value, but I think if you could document the employment records of those individuals that were not acceptable to the Communist group as against those individuals who were in the forefront of it, I think you would find a rather substantial indication that there were influences at work. Those influences work in many, many ways. Lots of times the opinion of a secretary or of a clerk in a casting bureau can make the difference between whether one man is hired or another man is hired. I can see, from my standpoint, knowing the set-up in Hollywood, how easy it would be for an underground movement to use influence in such a way that an individual without such protection would be at a disadvantage, and I am of the definite opinion that was the case. I think it can be proven by records. I haven't attempted to do that, but in my judgment it could be done."
On 23rd May, 1951 Budd Schulberg agreed to answer questions and admitted he joined the American Communist Party in 1937. He also stated that Herbert Biberman, John Bright, Lester Cole, Richard Collins, Paul Jarrico, Gordon Kahn, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Waldo Salt had all been members. Schulberg left in 1940 because of a dispute with Victor Jeremy Jerome: "It was suggested that I talk with a man by the name of V. J. Jerome, who was in Hollywood at that time. I went to see him... I didn't do much talking. I listened to V. J. Jerome. I am not sure what his position was, but I remember being told that my entire attitude was wrong; that I was wrong about writing; wrong about this book, wrong about the party; wrong about the so-called peace movement at that particular time; and I gathered from the conversation in no uncertain terms that I was wrong. I don't remember saying much. I remember it more as a kind of harangue. When I came away I felt maybe, almost for the first time, that this was to me the real face of the party. I didn't feel I had talked to just a comrade. I felt I had talked to someone rigid and dictatorial who was trying to tell me how to live my life, and as far as I remember, I didn't want to have anything more to do with them."
Frank Tuttle appeared before the HUAC on 24th May, 1951. He named the following as being members of the Communist Party: Jack Berry, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, John Bright, Joseph Bromberg, Hugo Butler, Lester Cole, Richard Collins, Jules Dassin, Edward Dmytryk, Michael Gordon, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Robert Lees, Albert Maltz, Waldo Salt, Dorothy Tree, Dalton Trumbo, Michael Uris and Bernard Vorhaus.
Tuttle explained his reasons for giving information of former comrades: "I believe that there is a traditional dislike among Americans for informers, and I am an informer, and I have thought about this constantly. I believe all decent people who share this dislike for informers, if they think about this carefully, will agree with me that at this particular moment it is absolutely vital. In a case like this, with ruthless aggression abroad in the world, the aggressors. I believe, are as ruthless with their own people as they are with those they consider their enemies; and I feel that today it is absolutely necessary for Americans to be equally ruthless.
On 25th June, 1951, Robert Rossen admitted that in the 1930s he had friends who were members of the American Communist Party. This included Alvah Bessie, John Bright, Lester Cole, Richard Collins, Edward Dmytryk, Guy Endore, Lou Harris, Ian Hunter, Paul Jarrico, Hy Kraft, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Isobel Lennart, Albert Maltz, Waldo Salt, Adrian Scott, Leo Townsend, Dalton Trumbo, Frank Tuttle, Michael Uris, Bernard Vorhaus and John Wexley.
Rossen went on to argue: "I should like to emphatically state that I am not a member of the Communist Party. I am not sympathetic with it or its aims. I can't believe in any divided loyalty, and in the event this country goes to war I stand ready now, as I always have, to bear arms in its defense and to serve in whatever capacity the country may call on me, against any and all of its enemies, including the Soviet Union." Frank S. Tavenner responded by stating that he had information that Rossen had been a member as late as the 3rd June, 1951. Rossen answered: "I shall have to decline to answer that question on the grounds it may tend to incriminate and degrade me, and thus violate my rights under both the first and fifth amendments."
Joseph Bromberg had been named as a member of the American Communist Party by Frank Tuttle. When he appeared in front of the HUAC on 26th June, 1951, he refused to answer any questions on the Fifth Amendment. Jeff Corey, who had been named as a communist by fellow actor, Marc Lawrence, appeared before the committee to claim: "I am really not (a communist). My name was brought up at an earlier committee hearing and since then I have been grey-listed, if not completely black-listed. Hitherto I had been quite busy as an actor, but my professional fortunes have waned considerably, coincident with the mentioning of my name."
The director, Martin Berkeley, took a completely different view and on 21st September, 1951 named 155 people as former members of the party, including Bromberg, Ben Barzman, Herbert Biberman, Gale Sondergaard, John Bright, Joseph Bromberg, Sidney Buchman, Hugo Butler, Alan Campbell, Dorothy Parker, Richard Collins, Lester Cole, Howard da Silva, Cyril Endfield, Guy Endore, Carl Foreman, Michael Gordon, Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, Ian Hunter, Paul Jarrico, Gordon Kahn, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Robert Lees, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Robert Rossen, Waldo Salt, Budd Schulberg, Lional Stander, Donald Ogden Stewart, Dalton Trumbo, Frank Tuttle, Michael Uris, Dorothy Tree, Bernard Vorhaus and John Wexley.
Carl Foreman and Sidney Buchman both appeared in the HUAC on 24th September, 1951. Foreman refused to answer any questions. Buchman admitted he had been a member of the American Communist Party from 1938 to 1945 but took the Fifth Amendment about naming other members of the party. Buchman was charged with contempt of Congress and was found guilty and fined $150 with a one-year suspended sentence.
Elia Kazan appeared before the HUAC on 10th April, 1952. He admitted he had joined the Communist Party in 1934 and left two years later over disagreements about policy. Kazan claimed that he had been instructed to "capture" the Group Theatre. He named Clifford Odets, Joseph Bromberg, Morris Carnovsky and Tony Kraber as former members of the party.
Odets agreed with Kazan about the way he was treated by the Communist Party in the 1930s. He testified on 24th April, 1952 that he had criticized for not writing enough "progressive plays". The Daily Worker accused him of "wasting his time writing about ordinary, middle-class life when he could be writing a glorious play about the war in Spain." Odets went on to name Joseph Bromberg, Elia Kazan and Tony Kraber as members of the Communist Party.
Clifford Odets went on to explain the political problems of being a left-wing writer: "The lines of leftism, liberalism, in all of their shades and degrees, are constantly crossing like a jangled chord on a piano. It is almost impossible to pick out which note is which note. I have spoken out on what I thought were certain moral issues of the day, and I found myself apparently in line with your documentation, I have found myself frequently on platforms with Communists that I did not know about then but evidently are now known Communists. I have said before that many of these people have some very good tunes. They have picked up some of our most solemn and sacred American tunes and they sing them. If I as an American liberal must sometimes speak out the same tune, I must sometimes find myself on platforms, so to speak, with strange bedfellows. I have never wittingly, since these early days, have ever wittingly, joined or spoken on an exclusively Communist program or platform, not to my knowledge. I sec that one must do one of two things. One must pick one's way very carefully through the mazes of liberalism and leftism today or one must remain silent. Of the two, I must tell you frankly I would try to pick the first way, because the little that I have to say, the little that I have to contribute to the betterment or welfare of the American people could not permit me to remain silent."
Lillian Hellman, named by Martin Berkeley as a member of the American Communist Party, refused to appear before the HUAC and instead sent a letter explaining her position: "I am most willing to answer all questions about myself. I have nothing to hide from your committee and there is nothing in my life of which I am ashamed. I have been advised by counsel that under the fifth amendment I have a constitutional privilege to decline to answer any questions about my political opinions, activities, and associations, on the grounds of self-incrimination. I do not wish to claim this privilege. I am ready and willing to testify before the representatives of our Government as to my own opinions and my own actions, regardless of any risks or consequences to myself. But I am advised by counsel that if I answer the committee's questions about myself, I must also answer questions about other people and that if I refuse to do so, I can be cited for contempt. My counsel tells me that if I answer questions about myself, I will have waived my rights under the fifth amendment and could be forced legally to answer questions about others. This is very difficult for a layman to understand. But there is one principle that I do understand: I am not willing, now or in the future, to bring bad trouble to people who, in my past association with them, were completely innocent of any talk or any action that was disloyal or subversive. I do not like subversion or disloyalty in any form and if I had ever seen any I would have considered it my duty to have reported it to the proper authorities. But to hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. 1 cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group."
Edward G. Robinson had been a member of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and was a well-known supporter of liberal causes. On 30th April 1952 he admitted that "many civic, cultural, philanthropic, and political organizations of which I have been amember and a contributor, but a small percentage I later discovered were tinged with the taint of communism. It is a serious matter to have one's loyalty questioned. Life is less dear to me than my loyalty to democracy and the United States. I ask favors of no one. All I ask is that the record be kept straight and that I be permitted to live free of false charges.
I readily concede that I have been used, and that I have been mistaken regarding certain associations which I regret, but I have not been disloyal or dishonest."
On 29th September, 1952, Roy Huggins named Ben Barzman, Guy Endore and Robert Lees, as members of the American Communist Party. He attempted to explain the attractions of Marxism: "Marxism has a wonderful thing about it, in that, being a closed system of thought, if you feel great despair about the world or are having difficulty understanding it, Marxism does something for you. It suddenly allows the whole universe to fall into a nice simple pattern. There are no unanswered questions once you become a Marxist. It is a nice feeling, particularly if your field is political philosophy, and you like to feel that you do know all of the answers."
Over 320 people were placed on the blacklist that stopped them from working in the entertainment industry. This included Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz, Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Ring Lardner Jr, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, Clifford Odets, Larry Parks, Michael Wilson, Paul Jarrico, Louis Untermeyer, Anne Revere, Jeff Corey, Donald Ogden Stewart, Arthur Miller, Pete Seeger, Yip Harburg, John Garfield, Howard Da Silva, Joseph Losey, Richard Wright, Abraham Polonsky, Ian McLellan Hunter , Bernard Vorhaus, Gordon Kahn, Lewis Milestone, Bernard Gordon, Jean Rouverol , Hugo Butler, John Bright and Waldo Salt.
In 1969, HUAC was renamed the Internal Security Committee. Six years later it was abolished and its functions transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.