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Hardcover Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s Book

ISBN: 0761513760

ISBN13: 9780761513766

Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s

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Book Overview

In the fall of 1997 some of the biggest names in show business filled the Motion Picture Academy theater in Beverly Hills for Hollywood Remembers the Blacklist , a lavish production worthy of an Oscar telecast. In song, film, and live performances by stars such as Billy Crystal, Kevin Spacey, and John Lithgow, the audience relived a time some fifty years before, when, as the story has always been told, courageous writers and actors stood firm against...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

You'll never see this movie made

The fact that it is called the "red scare" or "McCarthyism" says a lot about how the post World War II communist problem is looked at from the modern perspective. From the earliest times I can remember gavels coming down by angry congressmen as meek witnesses calmly express their disagreement with a committee that would make them "name names." The witnesses seemed real pathetic and the committee chairmen all come off as power mad scoundrels looking for a headline. The poor Hollywood Ten went to jail or fled to Europe to write movies under fictitious names.What none of the pictures or narration ever told me was that every member of the Hollywood Ten had been a communist at some point in his life and that half of the Hollywood ten were still communists when they went to jail for contempt of court. Since they weren't making the defense in front of Congress that they had the right to be communists, the event was portrayed as a "witch hunt." These were just misunderstood new deal liberals that wanted more socialism than the House Un-American Activities Committee. What Mr. Billingsley shows in his excellently researched book is that they weren't just a bunch of artistic idealists, but a group of avowed Marxists being funded by and taking orders from Moscow. It's not an open question. They were given orders to get collectivist messages into Hollywood films. They were told not to portray capitalism or businessmen in a good light. Writer Budd Schulberg was criticized by the party because his book "What Makes Sammy Run?" didn't achieve any of the party's goals. Some of these guys were even writing articles for the communist Daily Worker under their own names. Modern Hollywood liberals make the communist party members the victims of some horrible black period in American history without any thought to what Stalin was doing to his people in Russia (or would have liked to have done here). Somehow, the liquidation and forced starvation of millions is nothing compared to a few screenwriters that have to write under an alias. Quick can you name one innocent blacklisted person whose life was ruined? I can only think of the fictional Robert DeNiro character from Guilty by Suspicion. The character had to be fictional in order prove their dramatic point. Had they made the movie about a real person who went through such things he would have had to have been an actual communist. DeNiro plays a clueless liberal that is blacklisted because he was at a few parties. There weren't any of these misunderstandings in real life.Until I read Mr. Billingsley's book I had no idea that Hollywood was plagued by violent strikes in the 1940s whose purpose was bringing all the Hollywood trade unions under the control of communist, Herbert Sorrell. John Howard Lawson was trying to gain control of the Screenwriters Guild at the same time with the overall plan of controlling the content of Hollywood movies. Isn't it a little scary that this was being funded by a to

Untangling Revisionism

We all think we know it, because we've seen the newsreels, we've heard the interviews with the "Unfriendly 10" and read the ghastly legacy of what we assumed was the only "blacklist" that kept Hollywood craftsmen and women out of important films during the 20th century. But with a careful layout of the truth as it shows up in American Communist and Moscow newspapers, citing of interviews of actors who felt that they were "duped" by the Communists to paint HUAC and the US government in general as evil and disregarding craftsmens' rights Lloyd Billingsley creates a credible argument that we do not know the whole story. Perhaps most troublingly, Billingsley systematically cites evidence of American Communists in Hollywood marching strictly to a tune from Moscow, not their own masses: galvinizing the Anti-Fascist (eg Anti-Nazi) effort whole heartedly....until the day Stalin signed the anti-agression pact with Hitler. Suddenly, Pete Seger was singing peace-at-any-cost songs instead of string-the-fuehrer-up songs; Lillian Hellman was silenced when she had been so vocal about our duty to protect what she was heard to call "the motherland". Then, when Hitler invaded Hellman's precious "Motherland", Hollywood elite's communists' tune changed again, as evidenced by The Daily Worker and New Masses....a Communist paper popular in Hollywood. Could there be better evidence that CPUSA was the marionette in Stalin's paws? And what a prize for him! Being able to use Hollywood as his vessel for agit-prop must have made Goebbels a little jealous, talented as Lenni Riehfenstahl was. Aside from the fact that socialist rhetoric often runs amok in 30's and 40's films --- capitalists bad, poor people good----Billingsley lists at least 3 unapologetically pro-Soviet films made during the war, ostensibly to boost understanding of our ally, but laced with untruth. The book is not just a review of the early years of the House Un-American Committee ( another myth dispelled: this was pre-McCarthy, who came onto the committee long after the Hollywood 10 were dispersed for refusing to simply admit they were in the Communist Party....which of course, was not a crime.) It is a survey, through earlier interviews, articles from The Daily Worker and New Masses, and material available for a brief period after the collapse of the Soviet Union that verified the ties between the Soviet and American parties and the US party's dependence on "Moscow gold", which of course made it hard for them to disobey "Moscow's demands". Explanations are given for seemingly popular leaders stepping down suddenly; for Pulitzer Prize winner Walter Santy lying about the Ukranien famine (he was being blackmailed); for people recanting when they wrote articles stating perhaps we shouldn't worry about making sure so much Marxist dialectic gets into our films (other Hollywood elites would lock them in a house and basically "debrief" them until they came to the "right" conclusion....or,until they

Excellent Insight

I cannot give enough praise for this book. For those like me who were born after the 1950's, and have no personal recollection of the "McCarthy Era", it is too easy to blindly follow the standard Hollywood version of what actually happened; lunatic McCarthyites attacking innocent people for no particular reason. But while it is true that McCarthy's tactics ruined lives and did more harm than good to the American way of life, this is too often used to overshadow the other side of the picture; that Communists were indeed battling for control of the motion picture industry in the 30's and 40's.In "Hollywood Party", Billingsly provides exhaustive documentation and reference to show the Communist takeover of the labor unions, the distortions by the Communist Party propaganda machine in Los Angeles, the hypocrisy of the wealthy who preached Communism while shamelessy living in the lap of luxury (something which persists to this day), and in some cases the mere naiveté of well-meaning liberals who were used by the Communist organizers, and who later faced disillusionment after Kruschev's revelations about Stalin's reign of terror and murder.My advice to anybody of my generation; if you think you've got this topic all figured out, be sure to read this book. It will balance out your understanding with the rest of the picture. This isent "red-hunting" propanda, conjecture and hearsay. it's all documented.Some are critical of Billingsly's book because it seems that he ignores or glosses over the McCarthyism of the 50's. But please remember, this book illustrates the Communist issues in the 30's and 40's something rarely done by Hollywood, whereas Hollywood has already hacked the McCarthyite 50's to death. It's been done.

Hollywood's blacklist and reality

We have been educated in the myth. During that reign of terror known as the McCarthy era, congressional witch-hunts of Hollywood led to blacklisting that shattered the lives of thousands of innocents.A recent book, "Hollywood Party," is an effective antidote to the prevailing Leftist version of what happened 50 years ago. Author Kenneth Billingsley details the Communist-Hollywood connection.Lenin himself recognized the power of cinema, saying "Communists must always consider that of all the arts the motion picture is the most important." His successor Stalin viewed film as "not only a vital agitprop device for the education and political indoctrination of the workers, but also a fluent channel through which to reach the minds and shape the desires of people everywhere." Communist infiltration of the American motion picture industry began in the trade unions. Expanding into the ranks of actors, writers, directors and producers wasn't terribly difficult. One writer for the Communist Daily Worker claimed that the established view among party leaders was that 99 percent of movie people were "political morons." Judging by the antics of today's Hollywood personalities, that figure hasn't improved.During the 1930s Communist opposition to the Nazi threat attracted substantial support from film stars and other influential folks from Hollywood. They ignored the obvious similarities between these two faces of Leftism - the mass murders and torture, the secret police, the suppression of the most basic rights, the intimidation, the focus on government rather than the individual, the total ignoring of man's spiritual side - and contributed their fame, money and time to Communist front organizations.Red influence in Hollywood was pervasive. One former Communist screenwriter noted that there were a number of "awful writers" who managed to get jobs only because they belonged to the party. For many Hollywood luminaries, anyone who opposed Hitler was their friend. Being a Communist was considered the same as being a Republican or Democrat or Prohibitionist or Vegetarian. It was simply a matter of which party you felt best represented your interests. The problem with that theory is that Communism was never just another political party; it was the only one directed from a foreign country. It was the only one that would have shredded the Constitution and immersed the U.S. into the subhuman slavery of totalitarian terror. It was the only one that considered Stalin, who made Hitler look like a piker when it came to slaughter, a god.Of course, not everyone joined the party or one of its many fronts purely for philosophical reasons. One actor told a potential recruit that "you will make out more with the dames" if he'd sign up. So he did.Throughout the 30s many in Hollywood, encouraged by comrades, agitated for America to assume an active role in crushing Nazism. Rallies, ad campaigns and fundraisers were held. America had a moral o

Lifts the veil on a murky historical episode

This book lifts the veil on a murky historical episode with an incredible level of detail. For the first time the full background and context of the "Hollywood Ten" controversy is laid out in an even-handed way. The stunning list of stars and celebrities who fell for the Communist lure should prompt reflections on why creative and artistic people are attracted to certain forms of ideology in such large numbers. With the immediate drama and conflict of the Cold War era already receding in popular memory, this book is a valuable contribution to the record of a time that will seem increasingly bizarre and incomprehensible to future generations.
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