From 1947 to 1961, your ability to work in Hollywood’s motion picture industry strictly depended on whether or not your name appeared on a list of suspected Communist activists or sympathizers. The blacklist.

SAG and the Motion Picture Blacklist by Larry Ceplair

In 1947 and 1951 the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated the motion picture industry due to concerns that Communists could use films to disseminate subversive messages and negative images of the U.S. Many writers, directors, producers and performers were blacklisted from working in the industry unless they cooperated with the committee and incriminated others. The “Hollywood Ten” screenwriters who refused to answer HUAC’s questions in October 1947 cited protection under the First Amendment, but they were found guilty of contempt of Congress and received jail sentences.

Inquisition in Hollywood cover If you are interested in researching this bit of history, your University Library has books such as The inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the film community, 1930-1960 (3rd-floor Main Collection, PN1993.5 .U6 C4), Radical innocence: A critical study of the Hollywood Ten (3rd-floor Main Collection, PN1998.2 .D5 1989), “Hollywood Blacklist” in the Encyclopedia of the American Left (2nd-floor Reference Collection HX86 .E58 1990, pp. 326-330), and even Scoundrel time, Lillian Hellman’s biography (3rd-floor Main Collection, PS3515 .E343 Z499).

A search of the Library’s article databases such as Academic Search Premier would find articles including “The Hollywood Ten in history and memory” (Film History, 2004, pp. 424-436) and “The Hollywood Reds: 50 years later” (American Communist History, 2003, pp. 63-76). Newspaper articles from the time of the investigations, such as “Hollywood is a main Red center, Adolphe Menjou tells House body” (front page, May 16, 1947) and “79 in Hollywood found subversive, inquiry head says: Evidence of Communist spying will be offered next week” (October 23, 1947, front page) are available in the New York Times Historical database.

Web sites may be useful, too, such as the FBI’s digitized files on James Francis Cagney, Jr., an actor who was accused of being a communist sympathizer during the HUAC hearings.

Please ask a librarian if you would like assistance finding materials.

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About Barbara

I am a Reference & Instruction librarian, head of that department in Andersen Library, an associate professor, and a member of the General Education Review Committee and Faculty Senate. I've been working at UW-W since July 1, 1990.
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