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Hollywood Ten Trials: 1948-50

The Blacklist Is Born

Thus began the blacklist that determined who would or would not be employed not only in Hollywood films but in all of television and radio for the next several years. Institutionalized, the blacklist meant that no artist in show business who had been accused of Communist Party membership, or called to testify, could get work without naming names.

In November 1947, a special session of Congress was called to appropriate funds to resist Communist infiltration in Europe. To that session, Representative Thomas brought his 10 citations for contempt. After a handful of House members had spoken against them, they were passed, 346 to 17.

On April 12, 1948, John Howard Lawson was brought to trial, followed three weeks later by Dalton Trumbo, in U.S. District Court in Washington. In each brief trial, the jury found the defendants guilty of contempt of Congress. Judges Edward M. Curran and David A. Pine suspended their sentences—one year in jail and $1,000 fine—pending appeals. Commenting later on Lawson's and Trumbo's willingness to stand trial, Thurman Arnold, former special assistant to the U.S. attorney general, said:

To test the constitutional right of any Congressional committee to ask, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?' it was necessary for these witnesses to do three things:

  1. Phrase their answers as they did.
  2. Accept citations for contempt of Congress.
  3. Stand trial in the Federal courts, and if convicted of contempt appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

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"