cover image HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT: The Hollywood Blacklistees in Film & Television, 1950–2002

HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT: The Hollywood Blacklistees in Film & Television, 1950–2002

Paul Buhle, David Wagner, Dave Wagner, . . Palgrave, $27.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-1-4039-6144-0

This encyclopedic, riveting study of the Hollywood blacklist's impact follows the careers of targeted individuals to explore the blacklist's effects on the arts in America and Europe in the last half-century. As Buhle and Wagner (coauthors of Radical Hollywood) demonstrate, expulsion from the mainstream took these artists and their crafts in new directions. Directors like Joseph Losey and screenwriters like Norma and Ben Barzman fled to Europe to work, where aesthetics like neorealism and the subversion of traditional genres (e.g., the western into the "spaghetti western") opened new modes of expression. Many blacklisted artists who didn't emigrate started working in New York's television industry, which was eager for quick, low-priced talent. Thus, as Hollywood restricted itself to "safe" topics, TV started exploring themes of "the outsider" (Maverick, The Fugitive), multiculturalism (The Dick Van Dyke Show) and social justice (The Defenders). By the late 1970s, "the subtle articulation of politics as ethical sentiment" was now "the very oxygen of liberal television." Besides sitcoms and kids' shows, leftists went into B movies, particularly science fiction and horror genres, where themes of human mutation, nuclear holocaust and alien invasion served as (sometimes clunky) vehicles for political messages. The authors conclude with in-depth looks at several blacklistees, including Carl Foreman, Jules Dassin, Dalton Trumbo and Lillian Hellman. Still, is it all just history, as mainstream Hollywood recites its mea culpas, and the key players all die off? No, Buhle and Wagner conclude; Hollywood's potential as a "democratic art form returning the embrace of its vast audience" remains. (Aug. 27)

Forecast:This book might do well among left-leaning movie buffs if booksellers display it with Norman Barzman's excellent The Red and the Blacklist (Thunder's Mouth), which was published earlier this year.