With the Bryan Cranston movie about Dalton Trumbo now out, and the usual tripe being written about that time, it’s a good time to get a refresher on who the so-called ‘Hollywood Ten’ were.
Through decades of Hollywood-inspired vilification of Joe McCarthy and valorization of blacklisted Communists, conventional wisdom in America is basically:
- Communist Hollywood screenwriters = Good
- HUAC = Bad
And that is pretty much the end of discussion.
Ann Coulter addressed the subject in Treason: Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (2004), and in Hollywood Traitors, Allan Ryskind has written what has become the definitive book on the subject. From that book’s inside flap:
According to the legend, noble Hollywood figures—creative screenwriters, brilliant directors, and beloved actors—were dragged before the dreaded House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and grilled on their personal beliefs and associations, in flagrant violation of the First Amendment. Only by “taking the Fifth” could they escape turning informant against their innocent friends and colleagues. The brave and conscientious “Hollywood Ten” were the heroes of the hour. They refused to “name names” of Communists in Hollywood (most of whom were simply slightly misguided liberals, according to the legend) and were jailed for contempt of Congress. And then, in what was a terrible loss for the cinematic art, they were completely shut out of working in Hollywood.
Now, however, you can learn the real story from an authoritative source: longtime Human Events editor Allan Ryskind, who, as the son of Marx Brothers screenwriter Morrie Ryskind, grew up in Hollywood and knew many of the key players in this real-life Hollywood drama.
In his recent column on Trumbo, Pat Buchanan writes:
Actually, Trumbo was not a socialist. Bernie Sanders is a socialist. Trumbo was a Stalinist, a hard-core Communist when the Communist Party USA was run from Moscow by the Comintern, agents of the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century.
Trumbo was not what Lenin called a “useful idiot,” a liberal simpleton. He was the real deal, a Bolshevik who followed every twist and turn in the Moscow party line…
Why is Hollywood making a movie about Trumbo?
To whitewash the traitor and his comrades who were blacklisted for refusing to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee about their Communist Party membership and affiliations.
As far as the Hollywood Ten themselves, they were:
- Alvah Bessie, screenwriter
- Herbert Biberman, screenwriter and director
- Lester Cole, screenwriter
- Edward Dmytryk, director
- Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter
- John Howard Lawson, screenwriter
- Albert Maltz, screenwriter
- Samuel Ornitz, screenwriter
- Adrian Scott, producer and screenwriter
- Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter
How many of them were Jewish, you might ask.
In The Jewish Chronicle, Jennifer Lipman writes:
Of the Hollywood Ten, six – John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz and Samuel Ornitz — were Jews.
In other words, while Jews made up approximately 1.5% of the general population, they were 60% of the Hollywood Ten.
Also in The Jewish Chronicle, one Michael Freedland has a piece titled “Hunting communists? They were really after Jews“:
For “communist”, read “Jew”. The hearings that took place in Los Angeles and in Washington between 1947 and the mid-’50s were as much (some would say more) antisemitic as anti-Communist. Hollywood was chosen for the attack because of the great publicity value the movie capital offered. It was also a great opportunity to get at the Jews of Hollywood. One after the other, the people called to give evidence to HUAC (in effect, put on trial by the committee) were Jews — not exclusively so, but enough to make the case.
The refreshing candor here is in equating a ‘War Against Communism’ as a ‘War Against Jews’.
In an essay on the subject, the inestimable KMac reminds us that:
Beginning in the 19th century, liberal/leftist politics has been a hallmark of the Jewish community in America and elsewhere. The attraction of Jews to the success of the Bolshevik Revolution was an entirely mainstream movement among large numbers of Jews in America and led to one of several anti-Jewish stereotypes during the 1920s and 1930s.
Large Jewish identity-politics groups such as the AJC, whole taking a position against Communism, nonetheless opposed Sen. McCarthy and HUAC, which KMac notes, before then proceeding to investigate why that might be:
But why exactly were these Jewish organizations and the vast majority of individual Jews so opposed to McCarthy? One might think that the Jewish organizations could simply cooperate with McCarthy to rid the Jewish community of hard-core communists. One reason was that the atmosphere created by McCarthy was not conducive to the liberal/left political agenda that the Jewish organizations were actively pursuing in the areas of civil rights and immigration policy. The McCarthy era produced an upsurge of patriotism in the US at a time when patriotism had strong overtones of supporting the traditional people and culture of America. Everything linked to communism came under suspicion. And since the CPUSA supported the domestic political agenda of Jewish organizations — an agenda entirely at odds with traditional conceptions of America, the Jewish organizations had an obvious motive to end McCarthyism as soon as possible.
Moreover, McCarthy fanned the passions of anti-communism and, because of the strong association of Jews and communism, these passions often had anti-Jewish overtones. A well-known example was the so-called Peekskill riots of 1949 in which demonstrators yelled out anti-communist and anti-Jewish epithets at people attending a scheduled performance by Black baritone and political radical Paul Robeson. Most of the concertgoers were Jewish radicals from New York City.
Jews were also vastly overrepresented in high-profile cases among those invoking the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate oneself, so that public hearings like McCarthy’s inevitably highlighted the Jewish role in communism. For example, in 1952, of 124 people questioned by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Weingarten identifies 79 Jews, 32 non-Jews and 13 with unknown ethnicity. All invoked the Fifth.
Even more remarkably, of the 42 people who were dismissed from their positions at the Fort Monmouth Laboratories in New Jersey on suspicion of constituting a spy ring (the same one that Julius Rosenberg belonged to), 39 were Jews and one other was married to a Jewish woman. M. Stanton Evans has an excellent chapter on the Monmouth case in his Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies — by far the best and most exhaustive survey of McCarthy’s battles. Evans shows how many of the Fort Monmouth accused invoked the 5th Amendment under questioning by McCarthy and he exposes the incredibly lax security procedures at the facility.