Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist

Thomas Doherty. Columbia Univ., $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-231-18778-7
Hollywood historian Doherty (Hollywood and Hitler, 1933–1939) returns with a riveting, exhaustive look at the 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee investigation into Communists in the film industry. Split into three sections, the book begins by outlining labor disputes in 1930s Hollywood, previewing the political clash to come with the “writers’ wars” between the conservative, studio-backed Screen Playwrights Inc., and the left-wing Screen Writers’ Guild. The second section moves day-by-day through the October 1947 HUAC hearings, and liberal Hollywood’s unsuccessful attempts to fight back with groups like the Humphrey Bogart–fronted Committee for the First Amendment. The third section details the hearings’ aftermath, including the blacklisting of hundreds of Hollywood figures and jailing of uncooperative witnesses, the so-called “Hollywood 10,” including screenwriters Ring Lardner Jr. and Dalton Trumbo. Doherty has a real gift for characterization, both of the Hollywood figures under scrutiny and their congressional interrogators, from studio head Jack Warner, “somehow... gruff and dapper at the same time,” to brawny anticommunist congressman Martin Dies, who “looked every inch the Texas lawman.” In the current era of legislative upheaval, Doherty’s vital, impressive history feels both relevant and urgent. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-231-54746-8
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