“Are You Now or Have You Ever Been–?” Marking HUAC’s Foray into Hollywood

The Blacklist. Sixty-six years ago the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) began a nine day hearing on Communist influence and propaganda in Hollywood, resulting in the boycotting, or blacklisting, of 300 actors, directors, radio commentators, and  screenwriters. Those called before HUAC had been named in a Hollywood Reporter column written by the trade paper’s founder, William Wilkerson entitled “A Vote For Joe Stalin.” In subsequent columns, Wilkerson named others he suspected of being commies and pinkos.

Ten of those called before HUAC, now known as the Hollywood Ten,  refused to answer some of committee’s questions and were cited for contempt of Congress. Bertold Brecht who was also called did give names, while director Edward Dmytryk later announced that he had once been a Communist and was prepared to give evidence. When Congress announced that they would go forward and press charges against the Hollywood Ten, the Screen Actors Guild voted to make its officers swear to a non-Communist pledge, while Hollywood executives hastily cobbled together an agreement that the Hollywood Ten would be fired or suspended without pay, and until they were cleared of contempt charges and had sworn that they were not Communists, they would not be reemployed.

In response to HUAC, director John Huston and actors Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Danny Kaye organized the Committee for the First Amendment to protest the government targeting of the entertainment industry, Bogart later had to defend himself in print against charges of being a Communist sympathizer. HUAC’s influence, which cast a chill over Hollywood, lasted until the late 1950s. Even J. Edgar Hoover’s favorite comedienne, Lucille Ball, was questioned.

The Hollywood Ten

23 Responses to "“Are You Now or Have You Ever Been–?” Marking HUAC’s Foray into Hollywood"
ThingsComeUndone | Monday October 21, 2013 03:34 pm 1

I have tried to get the intake people at the homeless shelter to ask that question at intake when we take their i.ds if they said no I wanted the intake person to ask Why Not.
After all what is wrong with being a Commie?
I later tried to get the intake people to ask are you a witch because of that GOP loon Senate candidate’s tv ad.
Again if they said no I wanted the intake person to ask Why Not.

ThingsComeUndone | Monday October 21, 2013 03:40 pm 2

People should be able to state their beliefs and state facts why they believe them. But the questioners should also be able to do the same and they should do it first.
The goal should be to have a debate not ban people from working or send them to jail. Commit an actual crime go to jail.
Argue for National Healthcare, Social Security, Medicare all ideas the Right says are Commie plots and you are not committing a crime. Trying to stop debate or getting political support for an idea is wrong and an abuse of power by a government obviously enthralled to the rich.

ThingsComeUndone | Monday October 21, 2013 03:42 pm 3

But but its there money! Yes it is but if nobody wants to work for them at the wages they pay people should have a right to organize to not work for them. They can keep their money we can withhold our labor.

ThingsComeUndone | Monday October 21, 2013 03:45 pm 4

OT just how many prewar, pro torture, pro government spying tv shows and movies are out there since 9/11?
FDL it could make a game of that and cite examples but it would be a very long post.

bluewombat | Monday October 21, 2013 03:49 pm 5

Williams Wilkerson

Time for me to put on my former entertainment writer hat, Lisa: It’s William Wilkerson, and he generally went by “Billy” — Billy Wilkerson.

Wilkerson was basically the father of the Sunset Strip, helping, if I remember correctly, to found clubs like the Trocadero and turning the Strip into the tourist destination it still is today.

Obviously, he was also a red-baiting schmuck, but I thought I’d just provide a little background.

bluewombat | Monday October 21, 2013 03:50 pm 6

P.S.: When Wilkerson was something like 61, he married his second (?) wife, Tichi, who was 18. She may still be around, for all I know.

JamesJoyce | Monday October 21, 2013 03:56 pm 7

Which politician will become the next Lester C. Hunt, when bribed by information or data “illegally obtained,” and forwarded to political operatives?


Who will be the next Joe M, seeking to advance his political career at the expense of a nation?


So why would a potential senator have his phone wiretapped at the behest of a vice president? Russ Tice is the man…..


“….the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls and whispered in the sounds of silence….”

“Who is running the show????” This is vile……

JamesJoyce | Monday October 21, 2013 04:00 pm 8

Russ Tice….


“Hiding the fact that this is a police state….”

“…trademark of a police state…”

The NSA/CIA/Homeland Security, has the most recent updated blacklist. Mirrors that no fly list?

richardCA | Monday October 21, 2013 04:04 pm 9

Go ask any high school kid today, ‘What’s a Commie’.

Wonder how many could answer.

JamesJoyce | Monday October 21, 2013 04:09 pm 10

Now instead of being called pinkos, they can affix or use the term, “Enlightened American”, for those unwilling to kow-tow to neo-fascists, witch hunters or the Church, which burnt Bruno, to protect power, influence and control?

JamesJoyce | Monday October 21, 2013 04:29 pm 11

Responding to richardCA,@9 I was listening to a competition between Lexington HS, MA and Concord HS, MA students in a quiz format on PBS one sunday morning while doing paperwork The question posed was: “Where did the “shot heard round the world” take place?”

School House Rock Shot Heard Round the World America Rock …


None of the students representing their schools could answer the question. None of the students even attempted to answer the question!

Considering that Minuteman National Park is in Lexington, MA and the shot heard round the world was fired at the the Old North Bridge, Concord, MA, one might view the inability of Concord HS and Lexington HS students to answer a simple American history 101 question, which took place in their communities as utterly PATHETIC!

Never mind the definition of a commie?

Lisa Derrick | Monday October 21, 2013 04:35 pm 12
In response to bluewombat @ 5

Typo, sorry. Slipped past me.

Lisa Derrick | Monday October 21, 2013 04:37 pm 13

I don’t blame the schools entirely. Parents and students have responsibility.

Check this out: http://youtu.be/4V4bmm6yJMw
94 Maidens author, Rhonda Fink-Whitman interviews Pennsylvania public school graduates currently enrolled at four different PA universities to see what they know about the Holocaust, WWII, and Genocide in general.

bluewombat | Monday October 21, 2013 04:45 pm 14
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 12

No biggie. It gave me the chance to show off.

tremoluxman | Monday October 21, 2013 04:52 pm 15
In response to richardCA @ 9

Commies were the ‘terrorists’ of the Cold War era. They were like The Shadow and could be lurking anywhere, ready to strike when least expected. Like modern day Ninja, they had the arcane ability to cloud men’s minds, walk through walls, bend others to their will, and recruit weak-minded intellectuals to do their bidding. They walked among all classes, hid behind doors and under beds, and infiltrated every level of government, commerce, and the arts. You had to be ever and hyper-vigilant lest you fall prey to their designs. No expense was spared ferreting out these denizens.

Sound sickeningly familiar?

stevelaudig | Monday October 21, 2013 05:37 pm 16

Witches, women, peasants, foreigners, laborers, Unions, Anarchists, “Reds”, Socialists, Communists, Blacks, civil rights, Panthers, super predators, Mexicans, Hispanics, Terrorists, Muslims….. a lineage of mind=numbing bigotry and fear from those who rule by fear to prevent change and create institutions that are not too big to fail, but are too big to fix and so must fail.

DaveMoore | Monday October 21, 2013 06:04 pm 17

My posts normally go unnoticed. As outlined in the book “No Ivory Tower,” you can read about how Daniel Boorstin gave up nearly 80 names. What is worse, is that he recruited his own students for Communist Party membership, then gave them up. This was all a big deal as he was nominated for Librarian of Congress by Nixon, a leading member in HUAC. I used to hear Boorstin yelling at his secretary, so I’ve always considered him a pig.

What many like to forget, however, is John and Bobby Kennedy were also HUAC members.

RFShunt | Monday October 21, 2013 06:04 pm 18

Interesting that the vast majority of the 10 are writers. I wonder if the studios were using the HUAC as a cudgel against the Writers Guild?

JamesJoyce | Monday October 21, 2013 06:05 pm 19
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 13

Powerful video. My parents educated us a a very young age about the Holcaust. I met my first holcaust survivor at age of twelve and saw the tatooed number on forearm. I will never forget nor will my children…..

JamesJoyce | Monday October 21, 2013 06:06 pm 20
In response to JamesJoyce @ 19

Miss that edit button!

dogjudge | Monday October 21, 2013 06:26 pm 21

But this entire type of “questioning” is still going on today. Especially as you might imagine with the Republicans.

Any time you see someone asking a question and then not allowing the person to respond.

Any time you ask a loaded question, “Do you support . . . ” and not allow a response.

Any time you come up with BS such as, “I have a list of . . .” (Allen West not so long ago)(Ted Cruz not so long ago) that no one ever gets to see.

Joseph McCarthy was a drunk and an opportunist, but he was extremely adept at putting people in positions where they would appear guilty without ever allowing that person to face their accusers or defend themselves.

AitchD | Monday October 21, 2013 06:34 pm 22
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 13

Q. Who was Josef Mengele?
A. I dunno.
A. I dunno.
A. I dunno.
A. Was Joseph Maloney an arthur?

caleb36 | Monday October 21, 2013 07:12 pm 23
In response to DaveMoore @ 17

Boorstin was a University of Chicago professor (American history). ‘Nuff said.

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post