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

How not to get beaten by inflation
Inflation

How not to get beaten by inflation

With inflation at 9%, and the bank rate at 1% you’re not going to get a real return on cash. But there are steps you can take to beat inflation, says …
19 May 2022
Barry Norris: we’re already in the 1970s. Here’s how to invest
Investment strategy

Barry Norris: we’re already in the 1970s. Here’s how to invest

Merryn talks to Barry Norris of Argonaut capital about the parallels between now and the 1970s; the transition to “green” energy; and the one sector w…
19 May 2022
Delivering profits : should you buy Royal Mail shares?
Share tips

Delivering profits : should you buy Royal Mail shares?

The volume of parcels delivered by Royal Mail soared during the pandemic, and so did its profits. But it has been coming under pressure lately. So, as…
19 May 2022
Avoid easyJet shares – there are better airlines to invest in
Share tips

Avoid easyJet shares – there are better airlines to invest in

EasyJet used to be one of Europe’s most impressive airlines. But now it is facing challenges on all fronts and losing out to the competition. Rupert …
19 May 2022

Most Popular

Get set for another debt binge as real interest rates fall
UK Economy

Get set for another debt binge as real interest rates fall

Despite the fuss about rising interest rates, they’re falling in real terms. That will blow up a wild bubble, says Matthew Lynn.
15 May 2022
Is the oil market heading for a supply glut?
Oil

Is the oil market heading for a supply glut?

Many people assume that the high oil price is here to stay – and could well go higher. But we’ve been here before, says Max King. History suggests tha…
16 May 2022
Value is starting to emerge in the markets
Investment strategy

Value is starting to emerge in the markets

If you are looking for long-term value in the markets, some is beginning to emerge, says Merryn Somerset Webb. Indeed, you may soon be able to buy tra…
16 May 2022