Blacklist (Entertainment Industry)

Blacklist (Entertainment Industry), refusal to hire people in the entertainment industry during the 1940s and 1950s because they had been accused of being members of the American Communist Party or having some connection to Communism. People working in film, television, radio, and theater were fired from their jobs and could not get new ones as a result of the blacklist. Because the blacklisting was secret, no one knows how many people were affected.

The blacklist developed in the fall of

The blacklist developed in the fall of 1947 after the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives, held public hearings to investigate the influence of Communists in the motion picture industry. Some of the people the committee called to testify became friendly witnesses and told HUAC the names of other people who they believed to have Communist connections.

Ten of the men called to testify

Ten of the men called to testify, a group of writers, directors, and producers, refused to tell the committee whether or not they belonged to the Communist Party. They insisted that the committee`s questions violated their constitutional rights. The committee decided that they were in contempt of Congress and, after a long legal battle, the Hollywood Ten, as they were called, went to prison in 1950 for periods ranging from six months to a year.

A month after the HUAC hearings

A month after the HUAC hearings, the film studios that employed the Hollywood Ten fired them and announced that they would not hire Communists. Within a few years, hundreds of other people within the film industry were dismissed and blacklisted. Like the Hollywood Ten, many of these people refused to cooperate with HUAC and similar investigating committees. They would not talk about their own Communist connections if any, or give the names of other people connected to Communism. Although many of these people were or had once been members of the American Communist Party, usually during the 1930s and 1940s, they had never done anything illegal. However, during the early years of the Cold War, the political and economic struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, Communism had become so feared that anyone who was suspected of sympathizing with it could lose his or her job.

An informal group of journalists

An informal group of journalists, former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, and other anti-Communists supported and extended the blacklist. In 1950 an organization called American Business Consultants that was committed to exposing Communism, published "Red Channels, the Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television," a list of the names and supposed Communist ties of 151 entertainers. The book became an unofficial blacklist. Networks and advertising agencies would not employ anybody whose name was in it, and they paid the blacklisters to find out if other people they wanted to hire had Communist connections. The Hollywood studios used a similar system to clear their employees. Executives in the entertainment industry abided by the blacklist because they feared repercussions from commercial sponsors and the American public if they were considered soft on Communism.

The entertainment industry blacklist spread

The entertainment industry blacklist spread from suspected Communists to people who had once supported the same causes as Communists, such as organizing labor unions and protesting against racial discrimination. Entertainers with the same names as Communist sympathizers were wrongly accused, and some people were blacklisted simply for opposing the blacklist. Because anybody who refused to cooperate with an anti-Communist investigating committee was automatically fired, entertainers who had once been in or associated with the Communist Party felt enormous pressure to become friendly witnesses and name people who had Communist connections.

The blacklist lasted until the 1960s

The blacklist lasted until the 1960s, destroying hundreds of careers. Actors suffered the most. Writers accused of having Communist ties could sometimes get work by using false names or finding other people to pretend that they had written their scripts. Some blacklisted entertainers left the United States. Others left show business altogether. The networks and film studios censored themselves and would not deal with controversial issues for years.

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