The Hollywood Motion Picture Blacklist: Seventy-Five Years Later

Univ. Pr. of Kentucky. Aug. 2022. 246p. ISBN 9780813195889. $27.95. FILM
In October 1947, the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) opened hearings on alleged Communist “infiltration” of the movie industry. When 10 of the HUAC’s subpoenaed witnesses refused comment or to “name names” (i.e., accuse other Hollywood peers of being Communists), the movie industry promptly blacklisted them, denying them employment for years. The Hollywood blacklist eventually grew to 300 artists, even as other HUAC witnesses threw colleagues and friends under the bus in order to save their own careers. With three previously published books on the subject, historian Ceplair (emeritus, Santa Monica Coll.; Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical; The Marxist and the Movies; Anti-Communism in Twentieth-Century America) has been following this topic for 47 years. His essays in this latest book address how different participants in the HUAC hearings navigated the treacherous waters of what Ceplair calls government-induced hysteria. This slim volume contains three of Ceplair’s previously published articles (on Ring Lardner Jr., who refused to name names; on Isobel Lennart, who did; and on the relationship between Carl Foreman and Stanley Kramer), along with three new texts (on Jewish anti-communism in Hollywood; on Dashiell Hammett; and a comparison of the postures and moral justifications of HUAC’s friendly and unfriendly witnesses). Ceplair also asks whether a new blacklist era could arise in the so-called “cancel culture” era. The book includes an up-to-date annotated bibliography and filmography.
VERDICT Mostly for history or film buffs.
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