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The era of McCarthyism is one of the darkest times of American history, and should be a lesson to those who would use fear tactics to violate people's constitutional rights.
In 1947, shortly after World War II, the House of Un-American Activities Committee interviewed 41 people who worked in Hollywood; these people volunteered information and were known as "friendly witnesses." However, there were 10 screenwriters and producers who refused to answer questions about their beliefs, contending that they had the right under the First Amendment (freedom of speech). These men were the following:
- Alva Bessie
- Herbert Biberman
- Lester Cole
- Edward Dmytryk
- Ring Lardner, Jr.
- John Howard Lawson
- Albert Maltz
- Samuel Ornitz
- Adrian Scott
- Dalton Trumbo
The men lost their case of vilation of their First Amendment rights and were sentenced to six and twelve months in prison on the charge of contempt of Congress. Their names and the names of others were put on a blacklist, naming them sympathetic to the Communist Party.
In an effort to get off the blacklist, Dmytryk testified later that he was pressured to make his films reflect the views of the Communist Party. This testimony, of course, was extremely damaging to the other members of the Hollywood Ten who were involved in their own court cases.
The Hollywood Ten
The Hollywood Ten were a group of movie people (all of them were like directors and writers and such, not actors) who were caught up in the Red Scare of the early Cold War.
Specifically, these ten were cited for contempt of Congress in late 1947. They were cited for this because they refused to answer the questions that were put to them by members of Congress when the ten appeared in front of them. The ten were asked various questions about their alleged involvement with communism.
They were among a group who was later blacklisted -- prohibited from working in the movie industry. There are short biographies of them at the link below.
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