Re: Hollywood Ten as Villains - Lardner son's comments

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.past-films
Date: Tuesday, November 18, 1997 7:53 AM

This is part of a series of mine which in turn are my contribution to a thread which elicited numerous responses over the course of one month.  I began the thread when I supplied the link to a page of the Los Angeles Times website when that newspaper ran an op-ed titled "The Hollywood Ten Were Villains, Not Victims," by Michael S. Berliner, Ph.D.  That article can -- as of March 20, 1999 -- can be read online at  Please realize that this link supercedes those mentioned in the original posts.

Christopher Lampton <> wrote in article
> Is this the same piece that appeared a couple of weeks ago in The Washington
> Post, by the son of Ring Lardner Jr. (one of the original Hollywood Ten)?

It's not an article that appeared before, nor was it by the son of Ring Lardner Jr.

> What he didn't seem to understand was that the original Ten had a sense of
> honor in refusing to sell out their brethren, whether they were right or
> wrong in their beliefs. Despite the guarantee of free speech (and, thus,
> freedom of ideas), Americans have never become fully comfortable with the
> concept that ideas alone are not cause for discrimination, either legal or
> contractual.

Yes, the Ten had free speech, and could exercise it in speaking engagements, pamphlets which they wrote and published, and in film productions that they produced themselves (unless such rights are lost to an individual through due process of the law). As for expressing themselves in film productions made by others, they must contend that their rights do not supercede those of the other participants, in this case, the producers and film-studio executives. They too have rights. If the studios regard the writers as bad for business, they owe it to themselves to not produce those writers' scripts. The writers' names had been tarnished in the eyes of the public, and to continue to employ them would be to risk bad box-office receipts not only on their films but on other productions as well. As for contractual discrimination, it should be remembered that standard contracts of the time gave studios the right to terminate contracts of personnel who had filthened their names in the press.

Who is to blame for the bad name given the Hollywood Ten? Why not blame the Ten? An analogy might help: after O.J. Simpson was named in the death of his ex-wife and it became known that he had a police record as a batterer, Hertz terminated his career in their commercials. Hertz stated publicly that they would not have continued to employ him previously if they had known of his pleading no-contest to spousal abuse (or if they had known of the serious degree of it; sources vary on how much they did know). Was Hertz wrong to terminate on grounds of his battery making him unfit as a spokesman? (Let's leave aside the suspicion of murder then not yet proven nor charged.) Or was O.J. at fault for leading the life he did?  Wouldn't you say (as I do) that O.J. was lucky that his terrible secret was not generally known for the many years that he earned a fantastic salary as a spokesman?

The same applies to the Hollywood Ten. They earned fantastic sums as long as the moviegoing public was unaware in the Ten's membership in an organization which the public would not approve of membership in were the membership known of and if the public knew the true nature of.

> The Hollywood Ten are still saints, in my estimation, even if
> they were martyred for the wrong cause.

Mightn't it be that martyrdom was itself an attempt at furthering their ideology once martyrdom became the preferred means of expressing themselves after employment was denied them?

--David Hayes

Re: Hollywood Ten as Villains - cooperation and the culture (was: …Lardner son's comments)

From: David P. Hayes
Date: 1997/11/19
Newsgroup: rec.arts.movies.past-films

FilmGene <> wrote in article
>  It was the Committee which unethically treated
>  silence as an admission of guilt (see "A Man for All Seasons"). It was the
>  Committee which traded on a manufactured public hysteria to tarnish the names
>  of those who would not cooperate with their terminally tainted agenda.

Lillian Hellman refused to testify about anyone other than herself, and she was not cited for contempt.  The contempt sentences went to those who put on a circus performance in the Committee room.
> It is clear that the studios were acting not on the morality of the Ten's
>  stand, but on the deliberate [?] perception of the public that these people and
>  anyone connected to them were dangerous traitors … . And it was a threat
>  I should point out that ended
>  in the sixties when blacklisted writers and others were able to return under
>  their own names without a ripple from the public.

The first years of the Cold War (the years when Russia got the atomic bomb and the U.S. was asking how they got it, etc.) were culturally different from the 1960s.
> At this late date is it really necessary to point out the difference between
>  guilt and guilt by association? Is the Right so desperate for material that
>  they continue to consider this an issue?

I see it as the left that keeps this issue alive.  Here in the Greater Los Angeles area, there are honorary dinners for blacklisted writers with current celebrities, forums on the blacklist, interview panels of blacklistees, stories and profiles in the "Los Angeles Times" painting the events as a tragedy (one story began by telling that David Raksin and Abraham Polonsky are teaching on the same campus but won't speak to each other), etc.  The Berliner article in the "Los Angeles Times" which I linked to this newsgroup accurately described the "outpouring of sympathy and apologies to the 'victims," along with incessant moral lessons… ."  I suppose it may be different where you are.  However, circulated nationally are the film and television documentaries that always (to my knowledge) take the victims' side.

Incidentally, Gene, I do thank you for keeping this discussion on an intellectual level.

[Gene Stavis had been unusual among contributors to this thread inasmuch as he did not resort to name-calling, nor unconscionable distortion of what he was responding.]

David P. Hayes

Follow-up, March 1999, to my statement that "Here in the Greater Los Angeles area, there are honorary dinners for blacklisted writers with current celebrities…": Since my post was made, there has been published a book entitled Hollywood Party by Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley.  It begins and ends by discussing a dinner attended by hundreds of film celebrities, wherein not only was honored blacklisted writers, but where presented were supposed re-enactments of traumatic moments in the lives of Hollywood people of fifty years earlier.  Excluded from participation were high-profile people active in Hollywood politics at the time whose views on the blacklisted writers clashed with the views of the organizers.  (Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra and Elia Kazan were not asked to give their versions of events, which doubtless would have exposed the betrayals of insidious leftists.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A remark made above about Lillian Hellman led to others writing about Lillian Hellman.  Here is my response to one such remark:

Re: Lillian Hellman

From: David P. Hayes
Date: 1997/12/04
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.past-films

In article <>, (FRAJM) wrote:
> Here's an interesting point of departure between the political point of view
>  and whatever mine is, disregarding who's right or wrong here, viz., Mr. Weinman
>  tolds Hellman's 30s politics against her and I feel gratitude and appreciation
>  towards her for her role in being Dashiell Hammett's friend and lover in his
>  last years, nurturing and protecting him after his talent and his life began to
>  run out. For me, that is a lot more important.

Even this is questionable.  Hammett did live in Hellman's home during the three years preceding his death in 1958, but he spent it staring at television, not experiencing the joy he had in being productive.  Hellman would tell guests, "Please keep it down.  There's a dying man upstairs." That scarcely qualifies as nurturing him.  As for being his lover, Hellman ceased having sex with him in 1941, after he demanded sex when drunk.  (Hellman places the cessation at 1945.)

As for protecting him, Hellman knew that Hammett willed his literary rights to his daughters, but Hellman also knew that the rights were seized by the Internal Revenue Service for Hammett's failure to pay income tax.  Hellman and a partner convinced the IRS to put up the Hammett copyrights for auction.  Hellman told Hammett's daughters to allow this and to not bid on the right as then they would be liable for Hammett's back taxes; this was a lie, but it enabled Hellman and partner to acquire the rights for $5,000.  They earned a fortune from television adaptations and book reprints.  Hammett's daughters remained poor until after Hellman's death in 1984, at which time she willed them something.

David Hayes


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