Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
WASHINGTON—A full-dress investigation to learn the extent of Communist infiltration of the Hollywood film industry and whether Federal officials or agencies encouraged production of motion pictures with anti-American doctrines was arranged today by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the wake of a subcommittee report which charged “White House pressure” was responsible for “some of the most flagrant Communist propaganda films.”
That not-so-distant thunder you heard was an airplane from Washington landing in Los Angeles, carrying California’s newly minted congressman for a visit home. Over the next few days, he will be speaking to groups like the Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions clubs in places like El Monte’s Civic Center and be honored at the Town House Café, 900 W. Santa Anita, in San Gabriel. The major event is a dinner at the Los Angeles Breakfast Club, 3201 Los Feliz Blvd., where he will discuss fighting Communism by “Selling American Business.”
But there’s more to this trip. As a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Rep. Richard M. Nixon (R-Whittier) announces that he has come to Los Angeles to interview witnesses to testify in Washington about Red infiltration in the film industry. The House committee plans to subpoena 30 unidentified industry figures to testify later in the year.
The rumblings have been building for months. In March, movie director Cecil B. de Mille endorsed loyalty standards for Federal workers that could easily be extended to the local level. By the end of the month, Rep. John E. Rankin (D-Miss.) alleged that Hollywood writers and actors were contributing $3,000 a month to the Communist Party.
Angry readers wrote letters to The Times, saying they were boycotting movies with Red influences. And in May, a subcommittee convened at the Biltmore to hold 10 days of closed hearings on Communists in the studios. First on their list was composer Hanns Eisler, 23868 Malibu Beach, brother of Gerhard Eisler, already indicted for contempt of Congress and described in news accounts as a leading Communist.
On May 14, Robert Taylor told the committee that in 1943, his appointment to a Navy commission was blocked until he finished a pro-Soviet movie at MGM, “Song of Russia.” (Other frequently cited movies with Red influences are “Mission to Moscow” and “North Star”). Adolphe Menjou told the panel that Hollywood is a leading center of Communist activity. Soon the hearings were picketed by American Youths for Democracy, based at 1201 S. Alvarado.
Now it’s Nixon’s turn. He attacks the head of the American Federation of Musicians. At the end of the press conference, he receives a telegram from Rep. J. Parnell Thomas (R-N.J.), head of the HUAAC, informing Nixon that he will be supplied with the names of 30 producers, directors, writers and actors to appear before the committee. No word on who’s being subpoenaed. This time, it’s Nixon who isn’t naming names.
The story gets darker and more complicated throughout the year until it becomes grim indeed.
Other spots on the Hollywood-Communist sightseeing tour:
The People’s Educational Center, 524 S. Broadway and 1717 N. Vine. Frequently cited as a Communist front, the center offered classes during the war, some of them taught by UCLA professors, others by Hollywood writers. 524 S. Broadway looks like the Roxie Theater, but I don’t remember that particular historical nugget being pointed out in the L.A. Conservancy’s tour of old theaters….. hmmm.
Eisler’s music has enjoyed a recent revival. And yes, he did write the East German anthem. A website devoted to his works is at http://www.hanns-eisler.com.
sources: Los Angeles Times, Jan. 20, 1944; Jan. 4, 1946; Feb. 7, 1947; Feb. 16, 1947; March 26, 1947; April 1, 1947; April 27, 1947; May 9, 1947; May 10, 1947; May 14, 1947; May 15, 1947; May 16, 1947; May 27, 1947; May 29, 1947; May 30, 1947; Oct. 22, 1947