October 20, 1947: The House Un-American Activities Committee Hearings and the Start of the Hollywood Blacklist

October 20th, 2017

“They never found one un-American activity in the United States. But they went after and destroyed careers of many people.” - Charles Dubin, Blacklisted Director

On October 20, 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee began its hearings focusing on the supposed Communist influence in Hollywood. These hearings led to an era of suspicion, paranoia, and destruction in the entertainment industry, affecting film and television, Hollywood and New York.

The Blacklist barred people from working, a system held up by zealous politicians like Joseph McCarthy and J. Parnell Thomas and publications such as Red Channels, which listed supposed Communists and which, in the television industry, networks, advertising agencies, and advertisors used to weed out actors, directors, writers, and others who they deemed to be "subversive."

As agent Ruth Engelhardt says, "Everybody caved. The advertising agencies caved, the networks caved, the sponsors caved."

But all of that began with the hearings of October of 1947, when a group of men who became known as the Hollywood Ten were called to testify before Congress. 

In our interview with him, writer Ring Lardner, Jr., a member of the Hollywood Ten, describes his experience testifying before HUAC in 1947, including his famous line when the Chairman insisted he respond to the question, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?":

"I could answer that question the way you want, but I’d hate myself in the morning."

Learn more about the Hollywood Blacklist in the video below and visit our Hollywood Blacklist page to see interviews with dozens of those who lived through the era.

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