In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

In the coming struggle for power the middle-class intellectual will face a great moral crisis. He will have to choose between security (for himself and his family) and sacrifice. Since the security offered him will be illusory, his real choice will be between cowardice and heroism. . . . He will not serve fascism in America even if his refusal to do so is called treason. —Paul Jarrico, 1946 Well before World War II ended and the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union commenced, anti-Communist organizations and government agencies began to position themselves for a full-scale offensive against communism and Communists in Hollywood, their liberal allies, and their front organizations. J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation , led the attack. In September 1942, he sent to the bureau’s Los Angeles office a memorandum and a copy of a pamphlet titled Radical Artists—Writers—Actors—Musicians Demand a Second Front, which had been provided to the bureau by an “unknown outside source.”1 Noting that 21 of the 116 signers of that pamphlet were from Hollywood, Hoover authorized a massive investigation of the industry under the code name COMPIC (Communist Infiltration— Motion Picture Industry). The following February, the special agent in charge of Los Angeles (SACLA) sent to Washington a 211-page report that stated that about one-half of the Hollywood unions were controlled by the Communist Party or closely followed the party line 4 The Cold War in Hollywood, 1945–47 and that “quite a number of directors and executives are well-known Communists.” The Hollywood Communists, it was alleged, “form part of a gigantic world-wide conspiracy of control which has its origin and direction in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” and they are laying “the foundations for a future coup” to take control of all guilds and unions. The report listed a broad range of activities; analyzed every guild, union, cultural front organization, and publication ; and identified the “Communist” participants.2 The SACLA followed with a series of reports concerning movies containing “Communist propaganda.” In August, he sent to the bureau a complete breakdown of the branches, officers, and members of the Los Angeles party’s northwest section. The report, based on the materials provided to the SACLA by a paid party organizer, Elizabeth Benson (a.k.a. Leach), listed the names of 347 members of the twenty Hollywood branches. In February 1944, the SACLA sent to FBI headquarters a history of the Communist Party in Hollywood, including a summary description of 319 members: 125 males, 194 females; 317 whites (200 of whom were Jewish), 2 blacks. The median age of the membership was thirty-five, and the median length of party membership was five years.3 In May, Hoover directed the SACLA to compile a list of all persons in the motion picture industry who were members of the party or its front groups, because “such a list will not only be of value to the Bureau but also to your office for reference purposes in future investigations to be conducted in this case.” He asked that each name be followed by a “brief identifying paragraph,” including activities in the industry and political groups and facts of party membership (section and branch). “If this is not known, a short sentence stating how the person is known to be a Communist Party member should be added.” Hoover later sent summaries of these files to the U.S. attorney general and to President Truman’s military aide.4 While the SACLA gathered his data, anti-Communists in Hollywood organized the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA). On the evening of February 4, 1944, seventy-five motion picture people gathered at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel to listen to anti-Communist speeches. Director Sam Wood was elected president and Walt Disney first vice president.5 84 BLACKLIST Two months later, the MPA announced it was opening an active campaign against Communist groups’ infiltration of the motion picture industry. Among the speakers at this meeting were Clark Gable, Lela Rogers (Ginger Rogers’s mother), and several MGM writers who had led the fight against the SWG in the 1930s.6 Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper were among the two hundred in the audience.7 Billy Wilkerson, owner-publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, and Hedda Hopper, gossip columnist of the Los Angeles Times, strongly supported the MPA’s efforts. At the same time, Congressman John Rankin (D...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.