The House Of Un American Activities Committee, Hollywood And The Red Scare

1991 words - 8 pages

“When a great democracy is destroyed, it will not be because of enemies from without, but rather because of enemies from within.” During the late 1940s and early 1950s, these words of Abraham Lincoln were all on the minds of Americans (McCarthyism). After fighting against Communism for decades, the fear of it taking down the country terrorized people’s thoughts. Even more so, people were extremely frightened of the idea that there could be Communists within the spotlights of American influence that were plotting the destruction of the United States. A fear swept the country for almost a decade, and it transformed every aspect of American culture. This transformation began in the entertainment industry and hit here the hardest. The fear of Communism completely spun the industry upside down and distorted everything that made American showbiz so distinct. Even today, the controversies of the 1940s and 1950s have left an impression on the current entertainment industry.
Before the “Red Scare”, the United States was a huge world power and was thriving in every facet possible. Its people could do as they pleased for the most part, and did not have to fear persecution for their beliefs or associations. The entertainment was reaching its prime with celebrities creating the greatest films and writings the country had ever seen (Pearson). This all changed in 1947, when President Harry Truman upset the waters. Earlier in the year, Truman ordered background checks of all the civilians in service. The results that this investigation found was unnerving. Alger Hiss, a high-ranking State Department official, was revealed as a Soviet spy. He was then convicted on espionage charges and served three years in prison. If someone of his rank could cover as a spy so well, Americans knew that anyone could have Soviet relations (McCarthyism).
A fear and panic swept the nation after Hiss was exposed. The first to react was the entertainment industry. The House of Un-American Activities Committee began to put Hollywood under a microscope after Truman’s findings earlier in 1947. Looking for potential Communist beliefs or relations, HUAC reviewed over hundreds of movies and writings. After their examinations, the committee enforced the trials of many of those in the Hollywood spotlight. They first interviewed 41 people, who came forth voluntarily to help HUAC with their investigation. These “friendly witnesses” named many 19 people working in Hollywood with left-wing views, which share many common ideas with those that Communism is based off of. The friendly witness to cause the most noise was Roy Brewer, who named 13 of the 19. All but one of them refused to answer any questions during their trial because they thought their rights were being violated. The “Hollywood Ten” were also asked to name others they suspected of having Communist relations which they also refused to do (Simkin). Because of their lack of cooperation, they...

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