MacCarthyism Effect on Hollywood: Similarities and Conclusion


There are three major characters who find themselves alone confronting completely different situations. Will Kane tries to make his friends and neighbours help him kill Frank Miller, none of them seems interested in risking their lives for the former sheriff who has saved them several times. There is also Terry Malloy’s case, who tries to do the correct thing by talking in front a jury and sending Johnny Friendly out of the Union, but Malloy’s revenge is different, his motivation comes from his brother’s murder, and all he wants to do is find justice. The third character is Henry Drummond, who shows up in a town where no one wants him to defend a man he does not know, only to make freedom of speech and ideas a right all the citizens should have. And not a right which would be lawful to use depending on the occasion and provided that those who rule agree with it.

All three of these characters are a different side of the same coin. Kane stands for those blacklisted who saw their time had come to talk to the HUAC, or those who had already talked with them and knew they would not find jobs anymore. They had to face the situation on their own, friends who had been there supporting their career had suddenly disappeared. The word Communism produced fear among the population. Communists were something very bad, which had to be removed from the ideas of the citizens. Terry Malloy represents the opposite side of Kane, although the result seems to be similar, as both characters end up alone, with no friends. Malloy needs to speak to find internal peace, because he firmly believes he is doing the right thing since Johnny Friendly was oppressing the longshoreman. In the first part of the twentieth century, Communism was actually the only political party that apparently was doing something for its supporters, maybe what they did was not the right thing to do, but at least they tried. Terry feels unfairly treated, for he thought his actions were taking the right and only path one could take. In the movie, Friendly was clearly the bad character, but in reality, we have to wonder what would have happened if all the witnesses who had been called had named names. Let’s say that then, everyone would have been ‘free’ of guilt because everybody would have confessed and promise to erase all those Communist ideas from their brains. Someone needed to pay the price, some screenwriter or director would have been sent to jail, or left without a job. Even if all had named names, someone would have been fired, and the situation would have been the same because they needed someone to blame. So, the only conclusion to make is that Hollywood acted selfishly and there was nothing to do to save the situation. The last character, Henry Drummond, represents the ideas in the movie that link the other two situations. The lawyer corresponds with the truth and the freedom of religious (political) ideas. Inherit the Wind with Drummond explains how people should have behaved for their freedom of ideas, he fights in the trial for the right to think freely and to be able to disagree. There would be no progress if everybody had the same thoughts and believed in the same things.

In summary, it could be said that High Noon would correspond to Carl Foreman as a screenwriter and Stanley Kramer as producer; On the Waterfront would stand for Elia Kazan as a director and Budd Schulberg as the writer and finally Inherit the Wind would be Nedrick Young as the screenwriter and Stanley Kramer as the director. The only name that is repeated is Stanley Kramer’s. Roger Ebert in his review for the Suntimes comments

Inherit the Wind is typical of the films produced and directed by Stanley Kramer (1913-2001), a liberal who made movies that had opinions and took stands. He was dismissed by some critics for saddling his films with pious messages, for preferring speeches to visual style and cinematic originality, but he stuck to his guns.” (Roger Ebert)

So it is well known that Kramer was left-wing, and he ‘fought’ for the freedom of speech, but then, did not want to be related to Foreman when the HUAC called him as a witness. Kramer wanted to do good works, but from a distance where he knew he could be safe.



The general idea can be summed up in facts as clear as Americanism and Un-Americanism, some fought for American rights, others fought for human rights, as if it was not the same. Communist ideas became Un-American because Capitalism would lose money, and as capitalists controlled business, it was inadmissible. Hollywood got separated into two bands, some – mostly screenwriters – fighting for the freedom of ideas, and others fighting against Communist ideas, and somehow these two concepts stood against each other. Unfortunately, some people became famous puppets who convinced their fans by appearing on advertisements against Communism, and taking into consideration the poor criteria United States citizens have, it was rather easy to convince everybody of what was good and what was bad.

High Noon was released in 1952 and Carl Foreman wrote four movies during the next six years in which he had to change his name into Derek Frye, or he appeared uncredited. It is in 1958 when he began to produce his own movies and hence, was able to continue writing. Inherit the Wind was shown in the cinema in 1960, but Nedrick Young already had changed his name into Nathan E. Douglas. Inherit the Wind was the second movie in which he used that name. His name did not appear in 1964 in The Train, and finally in 1968 he was able to use his real name. He was also an actor and he appears uncredited since 1953 until 1966, when he acted in Seconds. Budd Schulberg on the contrary continued to write films and television shows until 1987, when he retired. He wrote an average of a film a year, or two or three television episodes a year.

Mccarthyism destroyed the life of many filmmakers, who for at least ten years had to live on other countries, had to write under other people’s name or work as a teacher or builder. Several people died due to the stress caused by the black list and the impossibility of getting a new job. Many of them died of heart attack, others committed suicide, and they were still young, in their late forties or early fifties. None of the moviemakers that have been analysed here suffered that kind of destiny. Of course it is easier to see everything with perspective now, to realise how clear this situation could have been if they had done something or another. But at the time they were in the eye of the hurricane and it was rather difficult to see outside the closed circle that was capturing filmmakers. As Drummond says at one point in Inherit the Wind “An idea is a greater monument than any cathedral”.






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