LA Times: 'Looking for Headlines, the House Committee on Un-American Activities Called a Host of Showbiz Talent'

June 10th, 2012 9:43 PM

This week the Los Angeles Times's Web site carries the story "Kirk Douglas on the blacklist: Why Hollywood showed so little courage," referencing  the actor's recently released memoir.  The article also appears in today's Chicago Tribune print edition, titled "How Douglas took on blacklist with 'Spartacus.'"  Author Patrick Goldstein reports Douglas is particularly proud of hiring former Communist and unrepentant member of the Hollywood Ten Dalton Trumbo to write the movie "Spartacus."

Several paragraphs into the piece, Goldstein writes:

Looking for headlines, the House Committee on Un-American Activities called a host of showbiz talent to testify about their associations, real or otherwise, with the Communist Party. Trumbo, in fact, was a member of the Communist Party from 1943 to 1948.

Goldstein, writing of Communist associations "real or imagined," then goes on to acknowledge Trumbo's party membership. He suggests the committee was merely looking for publicity, but the truth is that Communism was a significant problem in Hollywood and warranted investigation.  Numerous members of the film industry confirmed Red penetration and one is quoted in the February, 2012 Los Angeles Times Magazine  A Hollywood screenwriter testified that John Howard Lawson, another screenwriter and first president of the Screen Writers Guild, told students at a school for actors:

“It is your duty to further the class struggle by your performance. If you are nothing more than an extra wearing white flannels on a country-club veranda, do your best to appear decadent, do your best to appear to be a snob, do your best to create class antagonism.”

He would instruct writers: “Do not try to write an entire Communist picture. The producers will quickly identify it, and it will be killed by the front office. Try to get five minutes of line in every script you write...If you can make the message come from the mouth of Gary Cooper or some other star who is unaware of what he is saying, by the time it is discovered, he is in New York, and a great deal of expense will be involved to bring him back and reshoot the scene.”

The magazine also quotes Paul Jarrico, screenwriter, movie producer and Communist Party member:

“Oh, we were certainly involved in efforts to affect the content of films,” says Jarrico. “We were wide-eyed about the possibility of writing movies that would affect millions and millions of viewers."

Asserting the House Committee on Un-American Activities was solely looking for headlines in its Hollywood investigations is a disservice to history.  There's ample evidence that Communists and their minions actively worked on transmitting their views to unwitting audiences.