1 minute read

Hollywood Ten Trials: 1948-50

Hollywood Divided Into Two Camps

At the same time in the film capital, several years of labor unrest had been coming to a head. Two major craft unions—the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Machine Operators (IATSE) and the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU)—had been rivals in a series of jurisdictional disputes and actions. When the CSU called a strike in 1945 and were supported by Communist Party members and Communist-dominated unions, IATSE leader Roy Brewer viewed it as a concerted attempt by the Communists to take over the motion picture industry. As the strike dragged on for six months, he convinced studio heads of his conspiracy theory.

Meantime, the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, led by actor (later President) Ronald Reagan, producer Dore Schary, composer Johnny Green, actress Olivia de Havilland, and screenwriter Ernest Pascal, was becoming a militant anti-Communist unit. By 1947, the film capital seemed divided into two camps: anti-Communist and pro-Communist.

Against this background, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the House Committee for the Investigation of Un-American Activities, which had been concerned with Communist activities since the late 1930s, sent investigators from Washington to interview "key Hollywood figures," all of whom were members of the anti-Communist Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. The interviews resulted in public hearings by the House committee, mislabeled HUAC ever afterward.

"Friendly witnesses," all members of the Alliance, testified first. They included producer Jack L. Warner, novelist Ayn Rand, and actors Gary Cooper, Robert Montgomery, Ronald Reagan (then president of the Screen Actors Guild), Robert Taylor, and Adolphe Menjou. Altogether, they depicted a Hollywood virtually at the mercy of militant Communists whose orders came directly from Moscow; they described a climate all but saturated with Red propaganda.

Next, 19 people, identified by the "friendly witnesses" as suspected Communists, were subpoenaed from a list that totaled 79.

All were known as radicals. Most were writers; therefore, to HUAC, they were likely conduits for spreading Communist propaganda via the silver screen. But why these particular individuals were called has never been explained.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953Hollywood Ten Trials: 1948-50 - Hollywood Divided Into Two Camps, The Right To Remain Silent, "i Would Hate Myself In The Morning"