Explore BrainMass

Truman, HUAC and Hollywood at the altar of patriotism.

This essay describes the 1947 activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee HUAC).

Hollywood communism hunts

This essay describes the 1947 activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee HUAC).

(My question is). Do you think it was a smart move to investigate those in Hollywood?

(My thoughts are). From a tactical standpoint, these actors and film writers had a big influence on many people. If they wanted to get a message out to a large audience, they could have done so through film. I also assume that arresting and finding those found to have communist ties served as a lesson to the rest of the population in a way proving that there was no tolerance for communism support in the US.

(My question is). Do you think that punishment for those were less harsh than for ordinary citizens found guilty, as it is the case in other crimes today?

(My question is). Do you think Truman enacted the anti Communist acts because it was in the best interest of the country or more because he had something to prove?

Solution Preview

Smart move?

HUAC was not an agency of the Justice Department, nor an arm of law enforcement in any way. It was a committee of the House of Representatives, with the supposed aim of creating legislation. Its true aim was to gain publicity, smear enemies, and established lesser-known politicians as defenders of democracy against communism. So, was the persecution of the Hollywood Ten a "smart" move? If it was meant to stop subversion or expose communists, the answer is a definitive NO. HUAC's grand service to the nation was advancing the careers of RFK, Nixon, McCarthy and J.Edgar Hoover. In that sense, the Hollywood witch hunt was a smart move, as it effectively gained publicity for the Committee, which soon became a club for those hoping to prove their anti-communist views to the voting public. As a deterrent to subversion, it was fairly useless, as the Hollywood machine was much larger than a few screenwriters, and any subversive images or ideas could have easily been placed by directors and producers, greatly overshadowing these ten in power, influence and sheer numbers.

So HUAC went for the writers----

Of the original ten, NONE were popular actors of the time. Imagine accusing Bogey or John Wayne of being un-American. The Herculean task would have been enough to divert the efforts of Reagan, McCarthy, Nixon and Thomas, (then head of HUAC, later imprisoned for misuse of funds) all of whose names have been stained with corruption. The common denominator in this answer seems to be power. Orson Welles said that the industry was about power, not money. Taking this into account, the studio-contracted actors would have very little influence over the finished product to be presented to American audiences. Therefore, HUAC would target those who would be able to insert "subversive" ideas into the films. Fear drove the engines of government to create camps, accuse innocents and execute spies. Not unlike today's "terrorist" hunts, fear brings about quick, un-thinking and inhumane treatment. Abu Ghraib and Gitmo spring to mind, not to mention the trampling of the Bill of Rights by the Patriot Act.
Okay, back to business.

If you were looking to single out Hollywood influence, you wouldn't pick on American icons who had ...

Solution Summary

The communist hunt of the late 1940s is discussed, with special attention given to President Truman's political motivations. The subsequent sentencing of the Hollywood Ten is analyzed, in light of growing fear of communism and the edification of political careers.