Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Hollywood Reds

The most absorbing book I have read recently is "Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony's Long Romance with the Left" by Ronald and Allis Radosh (Encounter Books). Incorporating new research, this riveting book replaces (or should replace) the hagiographical efforts of Lillian Hellman and Victor Navasky, not to mention a slew of Hollywood films such as "The Way We Were [Not]." By presenting only the story of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and the ensuing blacklist, left-leaning apologists have created a mythical picture of the Hollywood Ten and their associates as heroic, innocent victims.

Rightly, the Radoshes take the story back to the thirties when the Communists (and they were almost all Communists) attacked John Dewey’s commission, which was seeking the truth about the murder of Leon Trotsky in Mexico City. They whitewashed Stalin's show trials of the old Bolsheviks. And they invented contorted rationalizations for Stalin's appalling pact with Hitler of August 23, 1939. Their acceptance of the Soviet-Nazi pact showed that they were not "anti-fascists," as they claimed, but Stalinists. Enforcers like John Howard Lawson made sure that the Party line, dictated by the Kremlin, was strictly followed. The Radoshes show how the Hollywood Reds operated in a conspiratorial manner, penetrating and controlling the liberal "front" organizations they used for their purposes.

Most of the hard core of Hollywood Reds consisted of writers. Relatively few actors, directors, and producers were found in their ranks. Although the leftist writers claimed to have the interests of the working class at heart, there was little outreach to the Hollywood proletariat of camera people, lighting personnel, make-up artists and the like. With the possible exceptions of Albert Maltz and Budd Schulberg, these writers were all high-grade hacks. They specialized in turning out filmable scripts in short periods of time. For these services they were well rewarded. In fact it was said that the Hollywood Reds were the highest paid Communists outside the upper elite of the Soviet Union. Still, they felt resentment that the stars and studio bosses earned even more. This resentment probably accounts for much of the Reds’ phony proletarian sentiment.

The Radoshes say (without further elaboration) that some of the sixty persons who cooperated with HUAC did so because of fear that their homosexuality would be exposed. What individuals were they thinking of? Not Whitaker Chambers, who showed that Alger Hiss was a spy for the Soviets, but had nothing to do with Hollywood. The only obvious name that occurs to me is Will Geer (later known for impersonating Papa Walton on TV), who had been the lover of Harry Hay, the founder of the American gay movement.


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