Re: Hollywood Ten as Villains - the O.J. analogy

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.past-films
Date: Tuesday, November 18, 1997 11:22 PM

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
<64u0ip$59g$>, beginning with a quote from me:
> >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.
> Gee, I don't remember the government pressuring Hertz to fire O.J. That's
> was a corporate decision

I never said that the government did--on the contrary, I indicated that BOTH Hertz and the movie studios of the 1940s chose firing.

> A lot of us suspect -- okay, we might be wrong --
> that O.J. practically severed a woman's head from her spinal column. Which
> makes him a drag on the market, endorsement-wise.

Again, you should look at just the reason Hertz gave, the revelation of the battering charges, charges that had been established in court (unlike the murder, which at that early date had not yielded enough evidence for news-followers to make a reasonable guess).

> >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.
> So, should the credits have read: "Ring Lardner Jr., communist"?

No. Look again at what I wrote. Prior to the hearings, the studios no more paid attention to communist affiliation than they would have cared about a writer's height. Afterward, labeling or no labeling, the writers had tarnished names. As I said in the previous posting, the previous writing credits were not at issue.

When I wrote "the moviegoing public was unaware in the Ten's membership in an organization which the[y] would not approve… membership in were the membership known of and if the public knew the true nature of," the key subject was the normal absence of knowledge, AND that anyone who keeps secret a fact about himself that would be unpalatable to others, runs the risk of that truth becoming known in the normal course of events.

> Similarly,
> one can imagine a credit that would have read "George Cukor, homosexual".

George Cukor had the good fortune of his secret never becoming public during his lifetime. Charles Laughton was not so lucky. (Laughton was arrested soliciting a homosexual.) Some never see their secrets revealed and others do, and while prudence can increase one's avoidance of bad publicity, it comes down to chance just as much as natural disasters and automobile accidents (which can be averted to some degree by making intelligent choices) strike even the best-prepared people at random. We've all seen movies and news stories about adulterers who thought they were discreet but then unluckily were in an accident or at the scene of a street-murder and consequently (as a by-product) found their relationship no longer were secret. Bad luck happens. Writers have to accept that just as the rest of us do in daily life.

> the script (or the directing or the acting) is good, I can't see why the
> public would give a damn.

The public didn't give a damn in the case of Robert Mitchum. Some thought his career was over when he was busted for marijuana, but his antihero image and his appeal to a like-minded audience help him make it through.

It was different for Ingrid Bergman. Her conceiving a child by a man other than her then-husband, subjected her to the wrath of her audience. She didn't make an American movie for seven years. Her acting may have still been good, but the stigma got in the way of entertainment. When we see movies, the numerous elements on the screen can release in our minds thousands of associations, memories, emotions, evaluations. If the sight of that particular actress made audiences think "sin" or "a fallen nun" (inasmuch as Bergman had played nuns) to the detriment of the story being told, then entertainment is defeated.

The same applies to the writing of the Hollywood Ten, as I argued in a previous post.

--David Hayes


Return to Table of Contents

Go to next article