The Communist Conundrum: Moderate Hollywood Communists and Why They Were Subject to the HUAC Inquisition
The HUAC investigation of Hollywood (1938-1951) devastated the film community like no other event in its history. The drive to eliminate Communism within Hollywood touched every corner of the industry and fragmented America’s most recognizable enterprise. Spearheaded by soon to be convict J. Parnell Thomas, known racist John Rankin, and “red baiter” extraordinaire Richard Nixon, the 1947 Hollywood Hearings produced drama that could only be found in tinseltown.1 With all of its glitz, glamour, and prestige, Hollywood represented a fitting post-war starting point for an attention starved HUAC who translated their film-land success into an escalation of federally prosecuted anticommunist activity. The HUAC-Hollywood hearings also played an instrumental role in establishing the repressive tenor that would come to dominate the McCarthy era. It was a purge justified by the infamous propaganda charge, an allegation that proved nothing more than Committee fabrication. What the Committee did accomplish, however, was the establishment of a “blacklist” for supposed “Red” employees. On that list were names of individuals guilty of nothing more than progressive thinking in a time when HUAC correlated a call for equality with global revolution. The repressive, media driven red scare climate of the time only assisted in perpetuating the “list” which marginalized, ostracized, and, in several cases, ended the careers of several of the industry’s brightest figures.