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Hollywood remembers its Red Scare victims

Stage October 28, 1997
Web posted at: 3:59 p.m. EST (2059 GMT)

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- Fifty years after the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, Hollywood's scars are some of the most often recalled of the Red Scare. As the focal point of 1940s McCarthyism marks its golden anniversary, Hollywood's four major talent guilds held an event Monday night to remember members blacklisted those years ago.

"Hollywood Remembers the Blacklist," held at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, showed film clips, live commentary and dramatic recreations of the hearings which resulted in the blacklisting of writers, directors and performers.

Blacklisting of Hollywood writers suspected of communist leanings or affiliations began with the committee's hearings in October 1947. Hollywood blacklisting flourished into the 1950s.

In one recreation, Billy Crystal played actor Larry Parks, whose rise to fame in the 1940s was cut short when he confessed to past membership in the Communist Party. Actors John Lithgow, Kevin Spacey and David Hyde Pierce were also featured in the event.

Hollywood Ten member attends event

Lardner

Actor John Randolph, blacklisted for 15 years, blacklisted actress Marsha Hunt, and blacklisted writer Ring Lardner were among audience members. At the end of the program, blacklisted writers stood amid applause from the audience.

Lardner, who won an Oscar in 1970 for writing "M*A*S*H" and another Oscar in 1942 for "Woman of the Year," read a statement that the House committee refused to let him deliver after he declined to testify.

He was the only member of the Hollywood Ten to attend the ceremony.

"I think it's appropriate for the occasion. They escorted me out of the hearings, and I never could read it," Lardner said, adding that he had lost the text but archivists found it.

He and nine other distinguished writers and directors were held in contempt of Congress for refusing to reveal their political affiliations. They were cited on October 27, 1947.

Some still bitter about guilds' actions

But not all guild members have forgiven the guilds for the role they played in putting members out of work.

Writers

Writer-director Edward Dmytryk is among the still-bitter victims. The only other living member of the Hollywood Ten, Dmytryk was invited to attend the Beverly Hills event but declined.

He served six months in jail, but upon his release he testified as a friendly witness, was removed from the blacklist and returned to work, making "The Sniper" and "The Caine Mutiny."

"I understand the amount of pressure he was under," Lardner, 82, said of Dmytryk. "I still think it was wrong."

Dmytryk said he didn't want to sacrifice himself for a cause and tactics he didn't believe in. By refusing to speak candidly about the Communist Party, filmmakers demonized it and sealed their fate, he said.

"I think it's silly -- Hollywood apologizing to itself," the 89-year-old Dmytryk said. "These people are still being asked to be recognized as martyrs. Having been one of them, I can tell you, we're not martyrs."

 
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