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”.




MacCarthyism Effect on Hollywood: Inherit the Wind

Inherit the Wind

Inherit the Wind was filmed in 1960 by Stanley Kramer, producer of High Noon, and the script had been written by Harold Smith and Nedrick Young (although in the movie he appears as Nathan E. Douglas). This film was based on the play with the same title written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee in 1950. These two men were familiar with the so-called “monkey trial”, for that was the name that the historical events which occurred in 1925 took. Lawrence and Lee saw a metaphor between the current situation developing with McCarthyism and the trial.

Inherit the Wind is the story of a school teacher who was put on trial for teaching evolution in school. The press covered this event and as the situation could not be contained, the atmosphere was chaotic. The Tennessee state law forbade teaching Darwin’s theory and so that is how everything began. Although the authors of the play have stated that even if the trial is based on historical facts, the story is completely fictional. The names were changed, Clarence Darrow became Henry Drummond and William Jennings Bryan was transformed into Matthrew Harrison Brady. What they actually wanted to denounce through this film was the lack of intellectual freedom, under McCarthyism, people were denied their right to think, the HUAC was not trying to control people’s mind, they would simply erase what they did not want people to think (Communist ideas) and would move on with the next victim. In this film, religious people are afraid that their beliefs are so vulnerable they did not want them to be confronted to different points of view which could destroy them. If someone’s values preclude them from watching movies or reading some books, that is their problem, what they do not have the right to do is to make everyone else stop doing it.

Nedrick Young was called to speak before the HUAC in 1953, it is after that year when he began to change his name and use alias to sign scripts so he could still earn money out of his talent. He was apparently quite aggressive towards the committee. “I will probably refuse to answer any questions from a committee that refuses to confront me with a prosecuting attorney, which is the oldest right in the United States. Why don’t you say which proofs you have against me?” The bold answer of the witness made the public laugh, and it probably made the HUAC feel uncomfortable. He mentioned the First Amendment when they inquired if he supported the Communist Party “by answering your question, I would grant you the right to ask it, which I will not do”. Young was doing the same thing the Hollywood Ten had done a few years before, which gained Young their respect among them when they were interviewed about Nedrick Young’s interview. From 1951, uncooperative witnesses had to resort to the Fifth Amendment, which Young did, infuriating Jackson, who for a moment was unable to speak because of the rage. The screenwriter commented that Jackson was on his way to Fascism, to which he answered “I prefer to go that way than being a slave and a footman from the Communist Party”. Young mocked him for recognizing his sympathies for Fascists. Jackson intended to cover it up by blending Fascism and Communism, but the harm had already been done. (Humphries, pp.168)

The review published by Bowsley Crowther in The New York Times in 1960 does not refer to anything out of the common, it mentions its clear connection on the freedom of ideas, but this topic could be connected to many things, so it was not immediately linked to Communism. In fact, it can be assumed that the filmmakers refer to Hollywood’s situation because of who is writing and who is directing. (Kramer as it has already been mentioned, preferred to support the freedom of the people from a distance; the moment it jeopardised his job, the situation changed). Crowther mentions the two main actor’s fantastic interpretation with the help of the consistent characters they were interpreting. He comments on the make up and direction of the movie, but makes no comment concerning MacCarthyism. By the beginning of the 60s it is true that some of the Hollywood blacklisted began to be hired again by some bold studios. Situation was starting to be as normal as it could get taking into account that very few years had passed since the trials had sent quite a lot of people in Hollywood into unemployment.

There are no real parallelisms to be found between MacCarthyism and Inherit the Wind, of course a few of them can be found, but they are not obvious. It is more the general idea of liberty to think and produce and utter the speaker’s own ideas what relates this movie with Hollywood’s situation. When Henry Drummond (the liberal lawyer from Chicago who was sent to defend the teacher) arrives in Tennessee, he is received with hatred by the people of Hillsboro. Only two people talk to him, a reporter and the accused, whereas Matthew Harrison Brady enters the town with his wife and almost a parade celebrating his presence in the trial. What today’s society considers ‘the good guy’ was then thought as the undesirable man. In Los Angeles, in the 50s what today would be considered as the ‘good guys’, at the time they had no one to talk to, no friends who would help them, since they were all in the same situation. Edward Copeland in his review of the movie explains:

“He also asks why would God give man the ability to think when no other species does. Didn’t God grant Darwin the ability to come up with that theory? Does a sponge think? Brady says that if God wants a sponge to think, it thinks. ‘Shouldn’t man have the same rights as a sponge?’ Drummond asks. ‘I don’t think about things that I don’t think about,’ Brady responds. As the give-and-take continues between the two men, Drummond says, ‘It frightens me to think about the state of learning in the world if everyone had your driving curiosity.’ (…) Finally, Drummond reminds his legal adversary that, ‘The Bible is a book. It’s a good book, but it’s not the only book.’” (Edward Copeland)

Drummond turns all the Bible’s religious ideas against Brady who tries to answer as well as he can with all the information he has been instructed with since he was a child. And hence, Drummond manages to disturb him, to trap him in his own speech, as the HUAC used to do with nervous and insecure witnesses. Chicago’s lawyer’s quote about the lack of interest in learning can also be attributed to some of the friendly witnesses, and the great majority of United States population who believed everything they were told by the media, they did not want to know the truth, or they were maybe not curious about the truth, what they were told was the end of the matter, and that was it. Another similarity can be depicted with the Bible, “It’s a good book, but it’s not the only book”. The HUAC, Hoover and MacCarthy’s way of thinking could have been considered by some as a good way of doing things and obtaining results, but it was surely not the only one, and theirs was surely not the best. But what they wanted was for everybody to think the way they did, or they were afraid their belief structure would crumble.

MacCarthyism’s Effect on Hollywood: On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront, 1954, was directed by the famous director Elia Kazan, who gave eight names when he was called to testify. He could have claimed the Fifth Amendment, but decided otherwise and destroyed the career of the co-workers who had helped him reach fame in the seventh art. Humphries explains “On the Waterfront, written by Schulberg, makes an eloquent apology on the act of testifying” (Humphries, pp. 193). Kazan received an Honorary Oscar for all his devoted years to the cinema industry in 1999 which was severely criticised due to his betrayal almost half a century before. Budd Schulberg called the HUAC, before he had been called, to declare his communist past. He stated that blacklisted moviemakers could find jobs in other places are theatres, publishing books or editors. He could not understand why that bleak reaction, he believed there were job offers opened everywhere. Cinema was over for them, but other possibilities were still available, which was not entirely true, as the blacklisted’s names were public and although they wrote asking for jobs, most of them were left unanswered. Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg made this movie, as a way to purge their conscience, and to defend their ideas, with a doubtful result on the screen. If this movie was watched knowing what it was about and the context, parallelism began to appear everywhere, sentences with double meaning and characters that represent other people or situations. It must have been the same for the anti-communist who looked in movies for communist tinges, if they had imagination (and paranoia) it could be found everywhere.

The film is about Terry Malloy’s story and his confrontation with Johnny Friendly, the Union boss who rules it as if he were the capo. It is based on a true blackmailing story. Malloy wants to defend his interests and ends up being a squealer. Terry is contacted by the police to make a statement about Johnny. He is considered a friendly witness, not an unfriendly one, “the irony of this declaration lies in the fact that what happens to Terry (the Union’s reprisals) is precisely what happened to dozens of people that appear before the HUAC.” (Humphries, pp. 193) Terry speaks and then has to endure the consequences. Kazan spoke and then made the others suffer the consequences. Terry represents both Schulberg and Kazan. They tried to justify their acts when it is done because of honest and noble reasons. Johnny Friendly’s Union represented the Communist union. The parallelism between Terry’s confessions about his Union and Kazan’s confessions about the Communist Party was meant to be that all Communist Unions were corrupted and all the corrupted unions were Communists. It was not like that, not in Hollywood, nor anywhere else in the States.

There is a strong imagery regarding birds throughout the movie. At the beginning of On the Waterfront Marlon Brandro (Terry Malloy) sets a trap for a man named Joey. He does not know they will kill him, Malloy thinks they are only going to talk to him, but Joey is thrown from the top of the building and dies. Some of the union workers make a joke saying “Maybe he could sing but he couldn’t fly”, for Joey was a squealer. He is made an example for all to see. Joey’s father does not want to make a statement when the policeman arrives, he knows his son was murdered because he decided to talk. Later, Malloy is shown on the top of a building were he takes care of a cage of carrier pigeons, in a conversation with Edie, Joey’s sister, he says he envies them, because they have no one controlling them. It could be interpreted as if in a sense he envies Joey as well, who could not fly and hence, now has no worries for he is buried. It might be a feeling of guilt because it was his fault that Joey was killed. It is a clear sign that Malloy feels manipulated by Johnny Friendly, and sees the birds in the cage freer than he sees himself. He has the help of a young boy, Jimmy, who also cleans the pigeon’s cage when Terry cannot do it. After he declares against the Union, Jimmy kills all the carrier pigeons and throws one of them to Malloy. Jimmy has destroyed Terry’s only hobby, the only thing he cared for and thought of it as a passion. Kazan can be seen in Jimmy who killed the dream and job of others. Edie says “you try to help them and they stab you in the back”. Johnny Friendly is also seen as a hawk, who hunts mercilessly the pigeons he finds free in the middle of the street. This imagery links the first one above explained, Terry’s pigeons are freer in a cage, where they are free and safe at some level because in the streets were they can be killed any moment due to the lack of protection, but then, their murder can be considered an easy one because they are all locked up in the cage and they trust Jimmy. They were betrayed by someone they thought they were safe with, as Kazan gave the names of people who were his friends. It is a movie which explains at some level the reasons for Schulberg and Kazan to form an alliance with the HUAC, but it has many flaws and some scenes go against the ideas they are promoting. It may seem that the creators of On the Waterfront did not know how to defend their ideas with arguments without fissures.

Another comment that traps the ‘true’ meaning of the movie is when at a certain point it is clear that Friendly works for other people, he does not have the leader’s position, and they are represented in the movie as the industry union. They mention a phone call made by ‘Mr. Upstairs’. The film wants to show that Johnny Friendly works under orders of the Union, but actually he works for business men as corrupted as he is. Without doing it on purpose, On the Waterfront depicts the true capitalist who export jobs. Schulberg and Kazan meant to represent the Union as the Communist Party, but I see it more as the HUAC. Some people (as Budd Schulberg) turned to the HUAC to confess, this was a way of becoming directly a friendly witness, and at the same time acquiring the honour to be despised by the rest to the moviemakers. In On the Waterfront, people went to the union to ask for some favours, normally money, and then, they were trapped by the system. They could not talk against the Union, because somehow they were part of it, they could not go against the union because they had gone to ask for help, it was a manner the Union had to defend itself. And terror, of course, was a very important factor. And if somebody was against the Union, as Joey was, it could be eliminated, creating fear among his friends, who would not want to cooperate with the police anymore. HUAC did not kill people, but they could make the producers not offer them jobs. In Schulberg’s case, for example, he had gone to talk to them to save his future, destroying other people’s future at the same time. The HUAC considered him a friendly witness, they had caught another important fish. People who were against the HUAC were sent to prison like the Hollywood Ten, or were blacklisted. The HUAC had all the power it needed, it made everyone be terrified by it, and that was more than enough.

The Catholic Priest, (Father Barry) interpreted by Karl Malden, represents idealism, he is the possibility of how witch hunting could have been if no one had betrayed no one, but fear is a powerful enemy. It might also be seen as a way of telling the blacklisted that indeed it was their fault to be if they were in such a situation because they did not fight for their rights. The union makes the Malloy brothers face each other. Charlie, the older brother, has to convince Terry to go back to their way (to their ‘good’ way) or he has to let him go, with all the consequences. In the car conversation Charlie points a gun at his brother and forces him to accept the job, a job in which he will do nothing, and earn 400 dollars a week, the condition is that he will do nothing, but say nothing either. They are trying to make him take that job so if for some reason the boat sinks, Terry Malloy will sink with them because he will be part of the band. When Terry refuses and Charlie lets him go, Charlie enters a trap and ends up murdered. Terry finds him, hung on the street; he has been shot three times. In Mccarthyism not only the witnesses who were considered Communists were attacked, but the people close to them as well, so people who in the beginning were strong against the HUAC would little by little crumble. Another scene in which they play with silence and sound is when Terry confesses to Edie that he is to blame for Joey’s death, the sound of the boats does not let the audience hear the conversation, which can be a metaphor stating that the truth is not completely revealed, or the truth can only reach the ears of a few chosen ones.

As the movie comes to an end, Kazan and Schulberg begin to be more ambiguous. After Terry Malloy confirms that he was the last person to have seen Joey alive and that Friendly had his men kill him, his acquaintances and friends in the street do not greet him. Hence, this scene might mean that Kazan and Schulberg considered the way they were treated unjust as they firmly believed they were doing the correct thing by denouncing their friends to the HUAC. If they had filmed On the Waterfront it was a form of defending their ideas but also a kind of apology. Perhaps they wanted to see themselves as the victims of this situation for they kept their jobs but they lost their credibility to be loyal and the trust and friendship of all the people who had helped them get to the place where they were. The reason why Terry spoke in court was because Johnny Friendly had killed his brother Charlie, Terry here had a personal excuse to denounce the Union – apart from the unjust way the union treated the other workers. But Kazan had no reason for revealing the names of those who had been in the Communist Party with him. Alternatively, maybe Kazan considered himself old enough, he was in his early forties when he spoke with the HUAC, to believe that even if he went somewhere else to work, it would be hard to start from the beginning. In any case, it is quite clear he took the easy way, first thinking about himself and not doing what he later makes Father Barry do in the movie. He took his chance, knowing he had the talent and he was at the right time in the right place. He obviously felt guilty and later filmed On the Waterfront; it was his way of expiating his sins.

The last scene is an idealistic happy ending Schulberg wrote, certainly wishing everything would have ended that way for them. When Terry Malloy confronts Friendly, all the longshoreman back him up, maybe not taking part in the fight, but only their presence probably made Malloy feel stronger and gave him the courage to be so brave. But then again, the situation cannot be compared because Terry is the one that has no job because he spoke in court, whereas Kazan and Schulberg precisely because they spoke, they had the guarantee they could keep theirs. In the end, when they gain control of the union, giving equal rights and conditions for everybody and having no boss who would manipulate them as puppets, it can be related to Communism. So, even if these filmmakers wanted to free themselves from Communism and named names to ‘clean’ the country from those ideas, this movie can be considered to have a Communist ending. Communism was something they learnt to hate so much, they even ended up becoming part of it, and tinges of communism began to spread everywhere.

Movie critic A. H. Weiler wrote in July 29th 1954, only a day after it was released, a review about On the Waterfront, only mentioning the theme of the movie, the cast and the wonderful job the producers, director and scenarist had made. There is not a single word about the HUAC or Communism. Another review published in The Times on the 9th of August of the same year, explains not only what Weiler mentions, but also comments some anecdotes on the setting, other movies which were filmed at the same time and the money that was spent for it. Bosley Crowther was bolder in his critic of High Noon than these two reviews probably because the HUAC was becoming very severe and because Kazan was not trying to make people react, he was just representing his point of view and the victim he had become when he named names.

What some of the contemporary reviews say is the magnificent work Kazan and Schulberg have done, what an extraordinary work they accomplish, and how clearly they explain Malloy’s need to tell the truth to be in peace with himself. If Schulberg and Kazan represent Malloy, that statement cannot be true, because if they were proud and did not doubt they had made the right choice then it would make no sense to later shoot a movie, to explain their behaviour. In Damian Cannon’s review he mentions

“It becomes painfully clear as to why someone wouldn’t want to testify, simply because the cost is too high, and it wouldn’t be their fault. Not everyone is cut out to be a hero. Some folk have learnt, in the spirit of self-interest, to look away and forget what they’ve seen. On the Waterfront has it both ways.”

Cannon treats Kazan as a hero. This review was published in 1999, it was crystal clear that at that time what Elia Kazan had done to maintain his job was of common knowledge, at yet some people treat him as a hero because he was a good film director. Talent and integrity have nothing to do with each other.

MacCarthyism’s Effect on Hollywood: High Noon

High Noon

High Noon was released in 1952. It had been written by Carl Foreman, based on the story of John W. Cunningham, The Tin Star. Fred Zinneman directed the movie and Stanley Kramer produced the picture. Stanley Kramer and Carl Foreman had worked together in two previous movies Champion (1949) and The Men (1950), the latter was nominated to best original screenplay and Carl Foreman won an Oscar for his work. In 1951, the writer was called by the HUAC while he was finishing the script but did not mention anyone’s name before the tribunal and was declared an uncooperative witness. When the producer found out Foreman’s implication with the witch hunting, he forced him to sell his part of the company, as Foreman was the associate producer. Stanley Kramer did not want his friend’s connection to Communism to damage the movie, although Carl Foreman had not been part of the CP for over ten years. It was High Noon’s main actor, Gary Cooper, with the help of Fred Zinneman who managed to get Carl Foreman out of the country before the movie was released. When Kramer tried to fire Foreman, Gary Cooper menaced him to leave the job if the writer was treated in such a way, even thought it was not necessary as Carl Foreman had already left for England. The actor was not a leftwing as the writer was, but he considered very un-American the outrage. The screenwriter already knew he would not be able to work again in the USA. Kramer erased Foreman’s name from the final credits of the movie; after this they did not talk to each other again, on the other hand Cooper and Foreman became very close friend and that relationship lasted their whole life.

On 23rd of October 1947 Gary Cooper was called to testify. He was considered a friendly witness, but the actor did not give anybody’s name, he was as loyal to his co-workers as he could be, for he did not mention a single name. He was asked if he had found tinges of Communism in the scripts he read before deciding whether to do a movie and Cooper answered he had found some scripts with Communist parts, and had not even finished reading them. The HUAC asked for the titles of the scripts and the authors’ name and Gary Coopers commented he usually read at night in bed, as did most of the actors, and that was why he could not recall any of the names. All this made him look a bit thick, and the situation was a little bit unbelievable, an actor who cannot remember any of the scripts he reads is hard to accept. The Chairman was very furious against Cooper for not collaborating with them. It is curious that four years later the actor decided to be the lead star on a film where Communism could not be appreciated, but the metaphor at the time must have been quite clear. I think Gary Cooper must have chosen High Noon on purpose, he knew what he was doing, and that movie was the only opportunity he had to support the blacklisted and the suffocating situation that Hollywood was living. Although he was severely pressured not to help Carl Foreman, he was still loyal to the screenwriter. As Byman mentions “he showed some sense of absent morality during that period by denying to deprive some people of their jobs, not taking into account the political differences.” (Byman, 2004, pp. 90)

High Noon is the story about the sheriff Will Kane who has just got married to his young wife Amy Fowler. After the wedding Kane promised her he would leave his job and go to another city to work as a shopkeeper. While the wedding is taking place, some people see three members of Frank Miller’s band. Frank Miller, who is a killer and wants to take revenge on Kane because he had put him in jail, will arrive in the noon train with the firm purpose of killing him. Kane decides to take again his badge and not leave Hadleyville to capture Miller. He has less than an hour and a half to try and convince his friends and people from his town to help him kill Miller. The film has been filmed in real time, images of the clocks around the city are shown, so that the viewer feels oppressed by the minutes passing, just as Kane does. Not only his wife turns her back on him, but his deputy, his former lover and his friends do not want anything to do with it. There is a clear parallelism with MacCarthyism. The working people in the film industry knew that their time would arrive sooner or later, they would be called by the HUAC, and the fact that the time passed only made them even more nervous. Friends started betraying each other because they were scared of going to prison or of being fired. And as Kane in this movie, the accused comprehended that he stood by himself with little or no help from outside. The only help they received was the same Will Kane was offered: incompetent people (because of their age) or too weak to help him. Dalton Trumbo, who was one of the Hollywood 10, made an interview and tried to put himself in the place of the people who had given the names of their friends and co-workers. “If you could choose between food for your children, and a house, basic needs against your freedom of speech, you’ll choose the food. So, very few people would remain fighting for the luxury.” (Trumbo, 2007)

The easy solution would have been for sheriff Kane to leave town, to prevent Miller from killing him. Kane’s former predecessor, played by Lon Chaney Jr., settled in town after retirement. When Gary Cooper knocks on his door for help, he explains: «It’s a great life. You risk your skin catching killers and juries turn ‘em loose so they can come back and shoot at ya again. If you’re honest, you’re poor your whole life. And in the end, you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star.» He has arthritis which makes his hands useless and his wife is Indian, so that leaves him in a position of marginal status. The previous sheriff has understood that the town’s inhabitants want the sheriffs to risk their life for them, but when they have to return the favour so that they can live in a peaceful and safe community, they simply close their eyes or look somewhere else. It means that the people would leave a man who has defended them on his own when the problem does not attain them directly.

The soundtrack of the movie Do Not Forsake Me also underlined the tension during the film, it was the first song to win an Oscar which did not belong to a musical film. Dimitri Tiomkin composed the music and Ned Washington the lyrics. During the whole movie there are not lyrics to the music, the drum’s sound accompanies Will Kane throughout the whole movie. It is a hypnotic song, played over and over again throughout the duration of High Noon. While the sheriff and Miller’s band are shooting at each other the music intensifies, using wind instruments to mark the danger of the final scene. It is not until the end, when Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly are about to leave town after having killed Ian MacDonald’s character, Frank Miller, that lyrics begin. But hence, words are not necessary to understand the pressure Gary Cooper’s character has to endure. Kane throws his tin star to the ground, almost disgusted of having worn it, for it did not represent as much as he thought it did. The lyrics sung in the movie do not correspond with the lyrics published on the Internet. In High Noon’s final scene, Frankie Lane – the singer – sings the song’s last stanza, but introduces new elements and erases other parts of the song. He sings for example: “I can’t be leaving, until I shoot Frank Miller dead”.

The insistence on the time shots during the whole length of the movie puts pressure on Will Kane and makes the audience nervous. The noon train is about to arrive and as time passes, the main character only finds himself even more alone. Frank Miller’s presence is a time bomb, which is about to arrive. Just like the summons Hollywood received. They knew it would arrive sometime, and maybe waiting for it, it made them more anxious that the actual HUAC. It was more the importance it was given to it by fear than its power. It seemed to be a mass hysteria, and even the big producers participated, as in fact the HUAC had no real influence on the screenwriters and directors work, it was the companies who decided to write the Waldorf statement. By the end of High Noon, when finally the train arrives and Frank Miller gets to Hadleyville, it can even be said that it is a little bit disappointing. It is the importance and power offered which made him more terrible than he really is. Kane ends up killing him, ending the problem. Unfortunately, MacCarthyism needed more than a gunshot to disappear. It happened, it was there and they had to face it.

This western has been very much applauded since it was released in 1952 and critics have only been but wonderful with this film, in modern and actual reviews the palpable MacCarthyism is mentioned, but in the year it was on the movie theatres, while MacCarthyism was still a very powerful influence, the critic Bosley Crowther wrote the 25th July 1952 about High Noon in the New York Times. This review begins as all the movie review about High Noon start: exalting its great work, the time so perfectly calculated, the splendid job of the actors and the wonderful music. But in almost all the reviews published these last few years, there is always a small mention of the parallelism between Macarthism and this movie. In Crowther’s review, this encrypted paragraph is the only clue he offers: “How Mr. Foreman has surrounded this simple and forceful tale with tremendous dramatic implications is a thing we can’t glibly state in words. It is a matter of skill in movie writing, but, more than that, it is the putting down, in terms of visually simplified images, a pattern of poetic ideas. And how Mr. Zinnemann has transmitted this pattern in pictorial terms is something which we can only urge you to go yourself to see.”

John Wayne, who profoundly disliked High Noon because of its un-American features, proposed Ward Bon and Howard Hawk, all of them right-winded, to make a film about just the opposite: how a sheriff refused the help of his town and faced the problem bravely with very little help, they called that movie Rio Bravo. Wayne loathed High Noon for the representation of his people as cowards, nervous and selfish. He was one of the most cooperative members of the HUAC and made everything he could, so that Carl Foreman was fired from the production of the movie. It is quite surprising that the following year, it was John Wayne who picked up Gary Cooper’s Oscar – because he could not attend the ceremony. In his speech he commented the power, the structure and the wonderful work they had made with High Noon and publicly regretted not to have taken part as the lead actor. So, in the beginning he makes it clear he hates the movie, but then, when the movie happens to be a success, he says he would have liked to be Will Kane. Wayne either lied saying he loved the movie when he was at the ceremony, or worse, he only followed the big MacCarthyism’s wave that said High Noon was very un-American, but had not a clear opinion about this and was just a popular puppet the HUAC could play with.

High Noon was one of the movies with metaphors about MacCarthyism’s situation, but it was obviously not the only one. On the Waterfront, 1954, and Inherit the Wind, 1960, are two good examples of the points of view of the movie makers. On the Waterfront was directed by Elia Kazan – famous for been a friendly witness and naming names – and it was written by Budd Schulberg – who called personally the HUAC, even if he had not been called, to declare his communist past. Inherit the Wind had been directed by Stanley Kramer – the producer of High Noon – and Harold Jacob Smith and Nedrick Young had done the screenplay. Young had been called by the HUAC and had followed Hollywood Ten’s irony and aggressiveness to respond to the questions, on the risk of following their same path.

MacCarthyism’s Effect on Hollywood: Introduction

Lo terminé, se lo mandé al profesor y me puso un 8,1. Me da igual, yo he aprendido y he disfrutado más que nunca, lo publicaré en cuatro o cinco fragmentos, por si a alguien le interesa. Sed bienvenidos a mi dulce Practicum…

What is known as McCarthyism in Hollywood started before Senator Joseph McCarthy was elected in 1946. It is his name which was used to refer to the Hollywood Blacklist, where names of screenwriters, producers, directors, musicians and actors were inscribed with the pretext of association with the Communist Party. It was actually J. Edgar Hoover, FBI’s president from 1924 to 1972, who kept providing information about the supposedly red Americans. The term ‘hooverism’ was also used to refer to this event. According to Reynold Humphreis, McCarthy was the chair of the committee when it regarded Communism, but he never investigated Hollywood. After the Second World War, when the United States was starting to enrich cultural and economically, and as a consequence of the Cold War, the House of Un-American Activities Committee started the so-called witch hunt. Roosevelt’s period was over and social realism, progressive point of view and liberalism came to an end. The power then, belonged to more conservative and traditional ideas, these changes influenced Hollywood’s way of producing films.

Harry Warner, from the Warnerbros Pictures, made a speech in September 1938, attacking Fascism and Nazism, he stated “You might have heard that Communism is uncontrolled in Hollywood and in the film industry. I tell you that this industry has no sympathy with Communism, Fascism, Nazism and any other ‘-ism” that is not Americanism.” (Humphries 2009, 81) Warner made reference to a Troyan horse which would divide and weaker them, he was referring to Germany, but his comment was nevertheless prophetic. He was trying to defend Hollywood (and at the same time his empire), but with this speech, what he makes clear, is that for him, Nazism and Communism were to be equally condemned. It shows the ambiguity of the time and exposes the change of public mind of the post war period. Communism had been having negative propaganda over the 30s and 40s, as it supported racial equality, which was unacceptable at the time. Blacks and whites could not be mixed, much less be considered equals. Racial equality and racial integration was considered ideas directly related to Communism.

From 1930 until 1960, Catholic priests decided what would be shown on screen. Daniel Lord, a priest, wrote the Production Code which stated what was considered acceptable content in Hollywood movies. From 1934 until the beginning of the 50s, Lord’s Code was severely imposed in the Production Code Administration (PCA), without taking into account the protests of producers, writers, directors and the studios. The PCA represented the first step of the depuration process in which all Hollywood movies were put to the vote. When movies were approved, they were sent to New York, where copies were made and distributed, but before this happened the PCA and the Catholic Legion of Decency had to watch the final version. The PCA and the Legion worked side by side and very often joined forces to avoid the studios’ offending of Catholic sensitivity. But the Legion was always ready to condemn any film they considered immoral. Hollywood was angry and scared of them because, theoretically, Catholics were forbidden, threatened by mortal sin to go and watch the movie that had been condemned. And the Catholics were 20 million people, so Hollywood could not play against them because any movie theatre that would show an ‘undesirable’ film would become the target of Catholic organizations. The industry believed that the combination of negative publicity and Catholic boycott would make any movie condemned by the Legion to obtain profit. Producers preferred to yield to the Legion’s censorship before risking their studios to lose money. They edited the ‘offensive’ material in the copies that were sent around the Earth. It is this way that the Legion’s point of view reached the international market. But it was not only the Catholic Church that wanted to control and omit certain scenes and music from the cinema. The keepers of the moral virtue of all political and religious tendencies had been scared of the cinema for some years. They knew that it had the capacity of communicating not just a simple love story, but of spreading political beliefs and change people’s moral capacity.

The screenwriter’s trade union had some problems during the 1930s and this did not help its members. Most of them wanted the same thing, but by dividing themselves, they were only damaging their future. The House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) had started investigating the Communism matter in 1940. Right before the Second World War ended, the MPA (Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals) was created in 1944, which was a rightwing expression of anticommunism. United States was convinced that they had to fight against the Soviet Union and its ideas, and so this is the reason why all those new pro-American groups were created. It was not until the end of the 40s when liberals concluded that HUAC and MPA could be dangerous. In the beginning very few people were against the HUAC. In February 1944, when MPA announced its beginning, they did it through The Hollywood Reporter and they said that they were against all forms of totalitarianism, but stated “We are uncomfortable with the urging feeling that this industry is composed, and rules by communists, radicals and nuts.” (Swartz, 1982, p.206) So, it was clearly about anticommunism and not totalitarianism as they wanted the readers to believe, with that statement they betrayed themselves. In 1947 the leaders of the trade unions were forced to sign a declaration due to the Taft-Hartley law affirming they were not communists. If they refused to do it, they could not attend the National Workplace Relations Committee, and not even be the judge if there was a problem between the employer and the employee. Anti-communism became the most important ideology and very soon it would become the ruling policy.

Martin Dies, a Democrat from Texas, who became famous when he said that Hollywood was a place of ‘premature anti-fascist’, which means he was not against fascism until it came knocking to his country’s door for war. Dies had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan, as had the president of HUAC: J. P. Thomas in 1947. While they were looking for communist actors, the FBI was behind the HUAC looking for evidence inside the U.S.A. J. Edgar Hoover, was scared not of the cultural attacks coming from the outside, but the attacks originated in the inside. He was convinced that the movies against fascism and pro-Soviet stated that the Communist Party was influencing Hollywood. In 1943 FBI agents entered illegally the offices of the Communist Party in LA and made a copy of their members. For four years they kept breaking into the houses of the members to check if they were still supporting the party. In October 1947 (when the sessions began) they knew that “47 actors, 45 actresses, 127 screenwriters, 8 producers and 15 directors” were communists. (Theoharis, 2002, p.155)

The FBI made a list of who they thought would cooperate in Hollywood and who would not. There are several theories of why that list was composed with those names: one possible cause is because most of them were Jew, and hence, none had done a military service. It would not look good to reprimand a war veteran. The screenwriter Alvah Bessie was the only one who fought in the Spanish Civil War supporting the Republican party. The bottom line is that the federal government had given permission to Hollywood’s most relevant stars, directors and writers not to go to war, so they would still be creating commercial movies as a patriotic gesture. They had been trapped in their own freedom. When the filmmakers were called for the sessions of 1947, they were asked if they had joined the Communist party. Most of them did not answer, as they were protected by the first amendment. The director of the HUAC, Thomas, considered that answer Communist argumentation. During the trials, he favoured more the list of people who were cooperative – friendly witness-, than the list of unfavourable.

The sessions started to be out of control and a journalist wrote “the sessions resemble much more to the Russian courts of purge than to American legal procedure” (Toledo, Ohio, Blade, 28th October). In the Chicago Sun a prophetic quote was published “That is the least American of all things; the quiet intimidation, the deaf pressure to adapt oneself, the official persecution to control thoughts. Until recently a very basic feature of Americanism was that a man could think and say what he wanted. Someday, when all this hysteria will disappear, maybe I will believe in it again.” In the Times, in Ashville, North Carolina (29th October) they wrote that “it is probable that these investigations will lead into a witch hunt, aware of causing irreparable damage in completely innocent individuals.”

The Hollywood Ten (as later did some of their other colleagues who had been called by the HUAC) instead of relying on the First Amendment – which is about denying to speak about one’s political ideas – they evoked the Fifth Amendment – which consists on not answering on the grounds of not incriminating oneself. So, they all went to prison but not because they were – presumably – communists, but because they had committed contempt of the court by not answering the questions. It is true that they had all been part of the Communist Party, but it was because at the time, during the 1930s, Communism was the only political power that seemed to be doing something for the people and fought against Fascism.

In 1953, President Eisenhower said that all the employees of the administration who could take refuge in the Fifth Amendment, would be fired. If the accused was from Hollywood, he would go directly to the black list. And to be blacklisted did not only mean not receiving job offers, no matter how good and creative the person was, it meant the impossibility to work anywhere on the creative ground, where they knew what they were doing. Some screenwriters were fired from their jobs just because they had been called by the HUAC, as would happen to High Noon’s screenwriter.  Budd Schulberg, the screenwriter of On the Waterfront, stated that the blacklisted moviemakers could have find jobs as playwriters, book writers or book publishers and editors, because those were not blacklisted, but it was not exactly true as Angus Cameron, working for the publishing house Little, Brown & Co., was included in that list and could not find a job. Several men wrote to quite a few publishing houses, and none answered. It was a path with no happy ending.

The Waldorf statement declaring that communists had to be expelled from Hollywood said: “We will forthwith discharge or suspend without compensation those in our employ and we will not re-employ any of the Ten until such time as he is acquitted or has purged himself of contempt and declares under oath that he is not a Communist. We will not employ a Communist or a member of any party or group which advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States by force or through any illegal or unconstitutional method.” Later on, J. Pegler said “Ten less, we’ve got a hundred more” (Citizent-News of Hollywood, 15th December 1947). After this period, even the liberals started to be scared about the repression the Ten were suffering, and began to distance themselves from them. The Hollywood Ten were convicted of contempt, forced to pay 1.000 dollars and spend one year in jail. They went to prison in 1950, and found freedom again in 1951 when the HUAC was having the second round of sessions. Those ten people had to start looking for another job, or start to write under another name, which was against the values of the country.

In the documentary of The Legacy of the Blacklist there is a part in which Humphrey Bogart explains his point of view. He had gone to see the trials and could not believe what he was witnessing: “This is Humphrey Bogart speaking. We have been sitting in the hall of the Committee and we have heard what happened. We have seen it. We said: this cannot be happening here. We watched how the representatives elected by the people denied the right to speak to American citizens. We watched the police remove citizens from the witness stand as if they were criminals after they had been denied the right to defend themselves. We watched the President of the Committee’s gavel interrupt the statements of free American citizens. The sound of that gavel, Mister Thomas, bangs all over the United States, because every time you bang it, you do it over the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”