America’s Enemies in Hollywood Then & Now
Book review of Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters – Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler by Allan H. Ryskind, Regnery Press, 2015, 538 pp.
With the war on Islamic terrorism being portrayed as a righteous cause in “American Sniper,” the Clint Eastwood film breaking box office records, a book which documents the days when Hollywood was a mouthpiece for communist propaganda might seem out of date. But Allan H. Ryskind’s book, Hollywood Traitors, is a reminder that Hollywood can’t always be counted on to take America’s side in a war, even a World War when the United States faced dictators by the names of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
The Ryskind book, published by Regnery, documents how the much-maligned House Committee on Un-American Activities, known as HUAC, uncovered dramatic communist infiltration of Hollywood and forced the studios to clean house.
Ryskind calls HUAC’s investigation of Hollywood in 1947 and 1950 “one of the most effective, albeit controversial, probes ever carried out by any committee of Congress.” He adds, “HUAC had revealed that Hollywood was packed with communists and fellow travelers, that the guilds and the unions had been heavily penetrated, and that wartime films, at least, had been saturated with Stalinist propaganda. Red writers were an elite and powerful group in Hollywood – many of them working for major studios.”
He writes that, “HUAC, though bruised by elite opinion, had won the support of the American people and a victory over Hollywood communists, fellow travelers and the important liberals who supported them.” Members of Congress involved in HUAC did their jobs, in the face of opposition from “the East coast establishment newspapers” like The New York Times and The Washington Post.
The book reminds us that the Hollywood agents of Stalin had also been “Allies of Hitler,” a threat symbolized on the book cover by a Hollywood director’s chair featuring a Nazi swastika. The Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939-1941 had paved the way for World War II.
As a result of the purging of communists from Hollywood, the so-called “blacklist,” we entered a time, from about 1947 to 1960, when the communists lost control of the major Hollywood unions and “the studios were actually creating anti-communist pictures,” Ryskind writes. It was a remarkable turnaround.
The 'Hollywood Ten' producers and directors leave a court hearing; they received a one year prison sentence
For many years, there was a comparable body in the Senate, which went by different names but tackled such matters as “Castro’s Network in the United States,” a 1963 investigation into the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee” that we later learned included JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
To those insisting it was somehow inappropriate to ask Hollywood figures about their “political beliefs,” Ryskind counters that “Few questions could have been more important for a congressional committee to ask than whether American citizens were actually serving as agents of a hostile foreign government.” He said HUAC was engaging in hearings designed to accurately disclose membership in the Communist Party, “a subversive organization controlled by an enemy nation and designed to turn America into a communist country…”
In its battle against Communism, HUAC had subpoena power and was not afraid to use it. HUAC also issued contempt citations against those who refused to testify completely and truthfully. All of the members of the so-called “Hollywood Ten,” who refused to testify about their involvement in the Communist Party, eventually went to prison.
Ryskind cites estimates that over 200 Hollywood communists were named in this process. His book provides the Communist Party card numbers of the Hollywood Ten as well as the names of other “well-known radicals,” many of them overt communists, who were active in the movie industry.
Bring Back HUAC?
Today, with dozens of leading conservatives now clamoring for congressional action to “Stop the Fundamental Transformation of America,” the Ryskind book may add to the impetus for Congress to reestablish a HUAC-style panel. The George Soros-funded Center for American Progress (CAP) acted frightened and alarmed in 2010 when Rep. Steve King (R-IA) expressed agreement with my suggestion at that time that re-establishment of such a committee would be a good idea. “I think that is a good process and I would support it,” he said.
The oath of office for members of Congress requires that they support and defend the Constitution of the United States “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” HUAC is a model for how such a problem can be identified and confronted.
Donald I. Sweany, Jr., a research analyst for the House Committee on Un-American Activities and its successor, the House Committee on Internal Security, sees the need for such a committee. He has issued this statement:
“The re-creation of the House Committee on Internal Security will provide the Congress of the United States, Executive Branch agencies and the public with essential and actionable information concerning the dangerous and sovereignty-threatening subversive activities currently plaguing America.
The new Hollywood film makes the communist Trumbo into a misjudged hero
Although the 506-page book is based on HUAC hearings, Ryskind conducted independent research that adds to his case against the Hollywood traitors. For example, he combed through the historical papers of one major Hollywood-Ten figure, the Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who refused to cooperate with HUAC and expose his comrades. Ryskind reports on an unpublished script Trumbo wrote that treated the invasion of South Korea as a “fight for independence” for the communist north.
Trumbo wrote many excellent film scripts, including Roman Holiday, but was “a hard-core Party member, a fervent supporter of Stalinist Russia and Kim Il-sung’s North Korea, and an apologist for Nazi Germany until Hitler double-crossed Stalin and invaded the Soviet union,” Ryskind notes. “Yet to this day he is regarded as a hero in Hollywood.”
Almost on cue, as Ryskind’s book was being published, it was reported that Hollywood is planning a new film which glorifies Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame as the screenwriter. The battle over communist influence is slated to return for another act.
Posted February 2, 2015
was first published in Accuracy in Mediaon January 26, 2015