HUAC


Otherwise known as “House Un-American Activities Committee” (HUAC) was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having Communist ties including Hollywood actors and directors and some renowned writers. Reorganized from its previous incarnations as the Fish Committee and the McCormack-Dickstein Committee and with a new chairman, the cantankerous Martin Dies of Texas, HUAC's strident attacks on the Roosevelt administration prior to the outbreak of the war did not suit the political mood of a nation that was largely in favor of FDR’s leadership. All that changed, however, in the postwar atmosphere of fear and contempt for the Soviet Union, at which time HUAC's activities commanded broad popular support and consistently attracted major headlines. HUAC often targeted a lot of people in Hollywood that were supposedly supporting communists. The most known group of this is called the Hollywood 10, look here to see a video about the hollywood 10.
Among those who refused to name names were playwright and screenwriter Lillian Hellman, writer-producer Carl Formen, director Robert Rossen, actor Jose Ferrer and playwright Arthur Miller who, because he did not invoke a constitutional right, was cited for contempt of Congress, fined five hundred dollars, and given a thirty-day suspended jail sentence. Like Hollywood Ten members Rossen and Cobb later reversed their position and named names before the Committee. Among those cooperating with the Committee were actor Larry Parks, director Elia Kazan (was also jewish) and screenwriters Richard Collins and Budd Schulberg. Though they established a blacklist (a list of authors, actors, directors), promoted the production of anti-Communist films (which were typically unprofitable) and created a climate of political fear in Hollywood, the 1947 HUAC hearings revealed very little Communist influence in the content of Hollywood movies the announced purpose of the investigation. Thus the 1951-52 HUAC hearings, under the chairmanship of John Wood, changed the focus to the prestige, position and money that the Communist Party acquired in Hollywood. (This change in strategy came at the suggestion of HUAC's research director Raphael Nixon.)
In these mass hearings (HUAC called 90 witnesses in 1951, almost all of them well known figures) people who had past Communist affiliations were compelled not only to testify about their own activities but also to "name names" of others who had also participated. For example, Martin Berkeley, identified 162 people as past members of the Communist Party. Many witnesses were willing to discuss their own activities but refused to name names. However, after the Supreme Court ruled that individuals could not invoke the Fifth Amendment if they had already testified about themselves, witnesses had to choose between explaining their own past actions and being compelled to implicate other people. Thus a witness's price for using a committee hearing as a forum for defending his or her views was either to inform on friends and colleagues or face a jail sentence.
Otherwise witnesses had to invoke the Fifth Amendment from the outset and thereby lose the opportunity to make their case for themselves. "Fifth Amendment Communists," as Senator Joseph McCarthy labelled them, were routinely denied employment within the entertainment industry.
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Schwartz, Richard. "HUAC." Comptalk. Cold War Culture, 2000. Web. 28 Mar. 2011. <http://comptalk.fiu.edu/huac.htm>.
"House Un-American Activities Committee." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.
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28 Mar. 2011 <http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0824313.html>.