Anne Revere

Anne Revere

Anne Revere was born in New York on 25th June, 1903. The family moved to Westfield, New Jersey when she was a child. In 1926, she graduated from Wellesley College and then studied acting with Maria Ouspenskaya and Richard Boleslavsky.

In 1931 Revere made her Broadway in The Great Barrington. Three years later she appeared as Martha Dobie in the original 1934 production of The Children's Hour. The play written by Lillian Hellman, is set in an all-girls boarding school run by two women, Dobie and Karen Wright (Katherine Emery). An angry student, Mary Tilford, runs away from the school and to avoid being sent back she tells her grandmother that the two headmistresses are having a lesbian affair."

Revere now moved to Hollywood where she appeared in Double Door (1934). Over the next few years she mainly acted in plays but also appeared in several movies including, One Crowded Night (1940), The Tree of Liberty (1940), The Devil Commands (1941), Men of Boys Town (1941), The Flame of New Orleans (1941), Meet the Stewarts (1942), Shantytown (1943), The Song of Bernadette (1943), Rainbow Island (1944), National Velvet (1944) and Forever Amber (1947).

In 1947 Revere became involved in a film project, Gentleman's Agreement, that attempted to deal with the dangerous topic of anti-Semitism. Directed by Elia Kazan, it included a cast of people that shared Revere's left-wing opinions including John Garfield, Gregory Peck, Sam Jaffe, Joan Havoc and Jane Wyatt. The authors of Radical Hollywood (2002) have argued: "Garfield, as the returning Jewish soldier tired of hearing liberal talk about the 'poor little Jews', who hits the hardest, virtually demanding social change; and Anne Revere, the protagonist's mother, who vows to live on to see a better world." The film was a great success and won three Academy Awards.

During this period the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened its hearings concerning communist infiltration of the motion picture industry. The chief investigator for the 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.

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 Larry Parks, Herbert Biberman, Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., Samuel Ornitz, John Howard Lawson, Waldo Salt, Bertolt Brecht, Richard Collins, Gordon Kahn, Robert Rossen, Lewis Milestone and Irving Pichel.

The first ten witnesses called to appear before the HUAC, Biberman, Bessie, Cole, Maltz, Scott, Trumbo, Dmytryk, Lardner, Ornitz and Lawson, refused to cooperate at the September hearings and were charged with "contempt of Congress". Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The courts disagreed and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison. The case went before the Supreme Court in April 1950, but with only Justices Hugo Black and William Douglas dissenting, the sentences were confirmed.

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.

Larry Parks gave evidence on 21st March, 1951. He admitted that he joined the American Communist Party in 1941 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."

However, Parks did agree to name members in a private session of the HUAC. This included Anne Revere, Joseph Bromberg, Lee J. Cobb, Morris Carnovsky, John Howard Lawson, Karen Morley, 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."

Anne Revere appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee on 17th April, 1951. 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."

Revere was now blacklisted and did not appear in a Hollywood movie until Tell Me That You Love Me in 1970. This was followed by Macho Callahan (1970) and Birch Interval (1977).

Anne Revere died on 18th December, 1990.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Anne Revere, testimony before the House of Un-American Activities Committee (17th April, 1951)

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.

(2) Anne Revere, letter to her fellow Screen Actors Guild Board members in 1953.

You, the Board of the Screen Actors Guild, point with pride to your seven-year fight against the Communist conspiracy. What have you accomplished? You have sanctioned the blacklist of 23 of your fellow members because they chose to defy an unconstitutional investigation into their thoughts and beliefs. Have you given strength to the industry by depriving those artists of their art and bread? Or have you further incapacitated the industry and the art which you profess to nourish? For seven years you have purged the screen of 'dangerous ideas.' With what results? The obliteration of all ideas. And people. Behold an industry that once bestrode the envious pinnacle of world leadership, now so paralyzed with fear that the screen is now inhabited solely by three-dimensional spooks and men from Mars. But there is still hope. The invalid is sick but not dead. Unlock the dungeon doors. Give him fresh air and sunshine. Take off the straitjacket and let him move about with freedom. But above all, return his conscience which you have filched from him.