America's Communism Scare And The Hollywood Blacklist

1825 words - 7 pages

BLACKLIST - A list of persons who are under suspicion, disfavor, or censure, or who are not to be hired, served, or otherwise accepted.

During the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s, there was a great fear of Communism in America and abroad. The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) was created in 1938 as a means to investigate and weed out Communists and Communist supporters from American society. Its first major attack was on the Hollywood film industry. Blacklisting of Hollywood writers, actors, producers, directors and others suspected of Communist affiliations began with the committee's hearings in October of 1947, and flourished throughout the 1950s. Senator Joseph McCarthy conducted “witch hunts” in an attempt to find and eliminate suspected Communists. The Hollywood Ten, a group of distinguished writers and directors, were cited for contempt of Congress and jailed for failing to cooperate with the house committee.

As World War Two ended, and the once widely popular and accepted Communist movement began to fade away, Congress started becoming highly concerned with the possibility of a Communist revolt. People in influential positions, such as Senator Joseph McCarthy, believed that such an uprising would begin from within Hollywood, as there were many popular and powerful directors, producers and writers there, who had easy access in reaching people across over America (Cole Hollywood Red). The Senate committee believed strongly that left-wing ideas were a threat to traditional American society and its values. Meanwhile, the FBI was intent on crushing any possible skirmishes before they could start by infiltrating the communist party; dividing the party amongst its own members, and having it destroy itself.

Although there was a growing fear of Communism invading American society during the Cold War era, the blacklisting of writers and others in Hollywood because of their political beliefs should not have occurred during the Cold War, or any other period of time. The individuals, who were persecuted during what is now referred to as the “McCarthy Era,” had their once prominent careers destroyed. They lost their friends and family, and all based on untrue rumors which were spread about them, such as planning to start a revolution and attempt to overthrow the Government of the United States. At no time did the Communist Party have the manpower or financial resources to do anything more than a small demonstration and no party member from Hollywood gave serious thought to even that idea.

Blacklisted writers, such as Walter Bernstein, Abraham Polonsky, and Lester Cole had a very difficult time finding work and trying to survive during the period of the blacklist. Suspected Communist sympathizers went through a horrifying experience during the HUAC hearings, as they were constantly and consistently harassed by the FBI and other agencies and people who tried to force...

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