Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist

In October 1947, the Cold War came to Hollywood when the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) held nine days of hearings, searching for alleged Communist subversion in Hollywood. The subsequent firings and blacklisting of directors, actors, writers and film technicians lasted into the early 1960s. Doherty (Hollywood and Hitler 1933-1939) breaks his book into three sections: background conflicts between liberal unions and conservative studio heads; the 41 witnesses who testified during the nine days; and a summary of the careers affected by the blacklist and the decades-later resurrection of several of the "hostile" witnesses.

Doherty smoothly marshals his material and sets the stage well with colorful and knowledgeable backgrounds on all those involved. At this point in HUAC's history (before the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy), there are few villains to be found--just people scared of losing their careers, film empires and the trust of a very fickle and easily scared movie-going public. The book's middle section is its most compelling, as studio heads and "expert witnesses" like Ayn Rand comment on Mission to Moscow and Song of Russia as pro-Soviet propaganda films. These were the first hearings of their kind, and the public was fascinated, listening to Ronald Reagan, Adolphe Menjou and Ginger Rogers's mother find Communists under every bed. Meanwhile, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Billy Wilder and the U.S.'s most decorated soldier, Audie Murphy, spoke out against the committee.

Doherty's concise background and the actual testimonies of the witnesses freshen the book. Show Trial is an important and valuable study that illuminates a dark period of American history. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Powered by: Xtenit