What Hollywood’s ‘blacklist’ era can teach us today

The author of a new book on the Hollywood blacklist corrects some common misconceptions about the era and explains why it's still important.

On March 5, 1946, at Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared the onset of the Cold War with an image that crystallized American fears of Soviet expansionism abroad and Communist subversion at home.

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent,” intoned Churchill.

“…in the fraught atmosphere of the early Cold War, it was impossible to maintain a moderate position…”

In October 1947, the nation’s fear of Communism spread to the film industry, as the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) held a series of hearings intended to probe subversive communism in Hollywood. The hearings resulted in contempt of Congress charges against the “Hollywood 10,” a group of filmmakers, mostly screenwriters, who refused to cooperate with the committee and were ultimately jailed and banned from working for all of the major studios.

The Hollywood 10 were just the beginning. The hearings ushered in the film industry’s blacklist era and scores more faced bans from work due to their political ideologies in coming years.

Thomas Doherty, a professor of American studies at Brandeis University, has meticulously examined the events that led to the Hollywood blacklist in his new book, Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist (Columbia University Press, 2018). Here, Doherty answers questions about the blacklist and the era’s legacy:

The post What Hollywood’s ‘blacklist’ era can teach us today appeared first on Futurity.

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