25 November 1947: The “Hollywood Ten” are blacklisted

Today in 1947 ten Hollywood luminaries were blacklisted and their careers ruined after refusing to answer the questions of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The most dangerous thing to come out of Hollywood these days is another big-budget flop or a tedious sequel. But in the years following the end of the Second World War, Tinsel Town was seen as a very dangerous place.

America's House Un-American Activities Committee was charged with investigating subversive ideology on the silver screen. It had to stop socialist propaganda from being piped into American cinemas up and down the country. Communists were everywhere. Hollywood was infested with them – all the committee needed were names. "There is no question that there are communists in Hollywood", said committee chairman Parnell Thomas. "What the committee wants to know is the extent of their infiltration into the film industry."

Over 40 actors, screen writers, directors and producers were ordered to appear before the committee for interrogation. However, ten refused, claiming their civil liberties were being trampled on – a damning indictment indeed. At the end of November 1947, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott and Dalton Trumbo were all cited with being in contempt of Congress. They were later fined and sentenced to a year in prison.

The next day, the “Hollywood Ten” were blacklisted. No studio worth its salt would have anything to do with them and their careers were effectively over. Or so it was believed by the studio executives (and Dmytryk, one of the Hollywood Ten. He was released from prison early when he ratted out 20 “communists”).

Dozens of names were added to the blacklist over the next few years, but many carried on working under different names. Dalton Trumbo is perhaps the most famous example. Writing under the nom de plume Robert Rich, he won an Oscar for The Brave One in 1957. And when Trumbo was publicly acknowledged as the writer of the highly acclaimed Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas in 1960, the witch hunt had run its course.

Recommended

Has passive investing created a stockmarket bubble?
Sponsored

Has passive investing created a stockmarket bubble?

Over the past two decades, investors have been switching from buying actively managed investment funds to buying passive funds that simply track a mar…
28 Sep 2021
Why are people panicking about fuel shortages?
UK Economy

Why are people panicking about fuel shortages?

With huge queues forming at petrol stations around the country, Saloni Sardana looks at the reasons behind the fuel shortage and asks how long it's l…
28 Sep 2021
Why investors should beware of corporate waffle
Investment strategy

Why investors should beware of corporate waffle

When top executives try to retreat behind impenetrable jargon, investors should be very sceptical, says John Stepek.
28 Sep 2021
Ensign Group: profiting from US private care
Trading

Ensign Group: profiting from US private care

Nursing and care-home specialist Ensign Group should thrive as Americans age. Matthew Partridge picks the best way to play it.
28 Sep 2021

Most Popular

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer
Investment strategy

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer

Inflation need not be a worry unless it is driven by labour market shortages. Unfortunately, writes macroeconomist Philip Pilkington, that’s exactly w…
17 Sep 2021
What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us
Inflation

What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us

As UK inflation hits 3.2%, Dominic Frisby compares the cost of living 50 years ago with that of today, and explains how debt drives prices higher.
15 Sep 2021
The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest
Small cap stocks

The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest

We are living in strange times. But the basics of investing remain the same: buy fairly-priced stocks that can provide an income. And there are few be…
13 Sep 2021