“Movies of the 1950s did not display any evidence of the populist spirit which infused some of the more notable ‘30s and ‘40s films. On the contrary, studios complacently turned out hundreds of movies which… debased women, ignored blacks and other minorities, and exalted war and imperialism…” — Allen Rivkin, screenwriter
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The House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (HUAC) began its investigation into Communist influence in Hollywood on this date in 1947. Among the “Hollywood Ten,” blacklisted and jailed for refusing to testify, were Alvah Bessie, a screenwriter who had been a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain; Herbert Biberman, who went on to direct the classic independent labor film, Salt of the Earth (1954); Lester Cole, who wrote the screenplays for If I Had a Million (1932) and numerous other films; Albert Maltz, whose documentary, The House I Live In, won an Academy Award in 1945; Samuel Ornitz, an organizer of the Screen Actors Guild; and John Howard Lawson, who went on to write the screenplay for Cry, the Beloved Country (1951) under a pseudonym. Among those who named names before HUAC were Lee J. Cobb, Clifford Odets, David Raksin, Robert Rossen, and Budd Schulberg.
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.