Hollywood Blacklist Launched 75 Years Ago At Waldorf Conference – Deadline

Today marks the seventy fifth anniversary of the Waldorf Declaration, which on November 25, 1947, formally launched the Hollywood Blacklist. On that day, the heads of the key studios, with a number of notable exceptions, agreed after a contentious two-day convention on the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City to ban the Hollywood Ten and to not “knowingly” make use of Communists.

And so started one of many darkest chapters in Hollywood’s historical past.

Just a number of weeks earlier, the Hollywood Ten had denounced and refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee and later had been despatched to federal jail for contempt of Congress.

“We will forthwith discharge or suspend without compensation those in our employ,” the Waldorf Declaration acknowledged, “and we is not going to re-employ any of the ten till such time as he’s acquitted or has purged himself of contempt and declares below oath that he’s not a Communist.

“On the broader issue of alleged subversive and disloyal elements in Hollywood, our members are likewise prepared to take positive action. We will not knowingly employ a Communist or a member of any party or group which advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods.”

See the mimeographed copy of the unique press launch right here, courtesy of the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library:


Fearing that inaction would result in a lack of public confidence and extra authorities intrusion – whereas on the identical time inviting it – the studio bosses had been eerily prescient about what risks lie forward however felt they might management the course of occasions that their declaration had set in movement.

They couldn’t have been extra fallacious.

“In pursuing this policy, we are not going to be swayed by hysteria or intimidation from any source,” their declaration acknowledged. “We are frank to recognize that such a policy involves danger and risks. There is the danger of hurting innocent people. There is the risk of creating an atmosphere of fear. Creative work at its best cannot be carried on in an atmosphere of fear. We will guard against this danger, this risk, this fear. To this end we will invite the Hollywood talent guilds to work with us to eliminate any subversives: to protect the innocent; and to safeguard free speech and a free screen wherever threatened.”

The Screen Actors Guild, the Screen Directors Guild and the Screen Writers Guild all went together with it, permitting their members to be blacklisted whereas on the identical time failing to guard the unfairly accused or safeguard free speech. Hundreds of voices could be silenced and careers ruined.

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Insisting that Hollywood was loyal, the studio heads urged Congress to root out Communists in all walks of life. “The absence of a national policy, established by Congress, with respect to the employment of Communists in private industry makes our task difficult,” they wrote. “Ours is a nation of legal guidelines. We request Congress to enact laws to help American business to rid itself of subversive, disloyal components.

“Nothing subversive or un-American has appeared on the screen, nor can any number of Hollywood investigations obscure the patriotic services of the 30,000 loyal Americans employed in Hollywood who have given our government invaluable aid to war and peace.”

Eric Johnston, then-president of the Motion Picture Association of America, led the clandestine gathering of 48 executives and attorneys from all the key studios and independents, together with Samuel Goldwyn; MGM’s Louis B. Mayer and Eddie Mannix, the studio’s basic supervisor; Columbia Pictures’ chief Harry Cohn; Paramount studio head Y. Frank Freeman and its president Barney Balaban; twentieth Century Fox president Spyros Skouras; Loews Theatres’ Nicholas Schenck; Universal-International’s William Goetz; RKO’s Dore Schary; Warner Bros.’ Albert Warner; and former Academy president Walter Wanger. Also available had been MPAA attorneys Paul McNutt and James Byrnes, former Secretary of State below President Harry Truman.

The meeting was heated, with Schary, Goldwyn, Wanger and Mannix dissenting. But on the finish of the day, the convention launched a declaration alongside the traces proposed by Johnston, who simply 4 days earlier, in a speech to a gaggle of movement image pioneers, wrongly claimed that the Hollywood Ten – screenwriters Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner Jr., Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz and Adrian Scott, and administrators Herbert Biberman and Edward Dmytryk – had achieved “a tremendous disservice to the industry” and “hurt the cause of democracy immeasurably.”

Bryan Cranston scored an Oscar nom for enjoying the blacklisted title character within the 2015 biopic Trumbo.

In his 1979 autobiography Heyday, RKO’s Schary gave what’s believed to be the one written eyewitness account of the Waldorf Conference.

Johnston opened the meeting with a name to ban the Ten and all recognized Communists till and until they cleared their names. “Johnston’s opening salvo was followed by patriotic statements from Messrs. Mayer, Freeman, Skouras, and a few others,” Schary wrote. “Sam Goldwyn was bold enough to suggest that there was an air of panic in the room. Goldwyn, ramrod straight … spoke sarcastically and irritated Johnston, who responded with an angry speech, concluding with the cliché question asking us whether we were mice or men. He insisted that if the motion picture business wanted to earn the respect of the American public, the 10 men who had appeared plus any known, or believed to be, Communists had to be discharged.”

Schary continued:

“That was my cue to talk up. The males concerned on the listening to weren’t but confirmed responsible of something — there was no regulation within the nation denying the correct of any citizen to be a Communist; there was no proof any of those males had advocated the overthrow of the federal government by drive or violence; we had insisted there had been no Communist propagandizing in movies, therefore, the lads in question couldn’t be responsible of that arcane crime; we’d dishonor and never honor our business by an motion that will inevitably result in a blacklist.

“My remarks provoked one other offended outburst from Johnston and one by Skouras. However, Walter Wanger demanded the ground and he barged into Johnston, supporting my record of causes for not dashing right into a maelstrom. Then Goldwyn chipped in once more, this time with anger and an announcement that he wouldn’t be allied to any such nonsense as that proposed by Johnston.

“The largest shock remark got here from Eddie Mannix, the overall supervisor of MGM Studios. Eddie was as soon as a bouncer for the Schenck brothers’ enterprise at Palisades Park. He was a tricky man, bodily and emotionally, had a rugged mood, iron fists, and an unlimited urge for food for liquor and ladies.

“Eddie was a type of who believed it could have been wise for the Allies to activate Russia after Hitler was worn out and end them off whereas they had been in a position available. Therefore, none of us anticipated Eddie to say that he opposed firing the ten males. But Eddie argued that there was a state regulation in California that prohibited an employer from firing anybody due to his political concepts, and Eddie added that he wouldn’t break the regulation.

“It was now time for Jimmy Byrnes to talk up. He doubted that any authorities official ‘would argue with the decision of the industry to get rid of Reds.’ Not solely that – the lads may very well be relieved of their jobs due to the contractual ‘morals’ clause on the idea that their conduct had introduced disrepute on the business.

“That heated up the meeting, with Goldwyn, Wanger, and me offering among the coal. Finally, Johnston, who had been slapping his resort key on the desk as he made his arguments, turned livid and threw his key down as a gage of battle and threatened to stop until the business got here to its senses.

“No vote was ever taken. It was Johnston’s menace plus Byrnes’s argument that had gained the choice to discharge these cited. I stated I’d not be a celebration to the motion – so did Goldwyn and Wanger, however we gained no assist.

“A committee was appointed to draft a statement. Mendel Silberberg, who was chairman, asked that I, as a spokesman for the opposition, be a member. It was an assignment I did not want, but Goldwyn whispered, ‘Do it – maybe they won’t go crazy.’”

The two-page, eight-paragraph assertion, Schary wrote, “is inconsistent, probably because I helped make it so by protesting the first four paragraphs and aiding in writing the last four, in the hope that I could persuade the guilds to form a defense barrier to prevent wholesale firings and investigations. That foggy hope served to make me a target for the right and the left. I should never have listened to Goldwyn.”

“He tried to stop them, but they wouldn’t listen,” Schary’s daughter, creator Jill Schary Robinson, instructed Deadline. “Everyone was so scared. It was a really a tough time. My dad was horrified. He had warned some of the younger writers about what was coming. It was the kind of feeling we have now about Trump, but even more dangerous.”

Twenty-five years in the past, at a star-studded gathering on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – held, fittingly sufficient, on the Samuel Goldwyn Theater – the business commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the blacklist and issued apologies.

“We look back in sadness and in shame that our Guild at that time supported, in effect, the Waldorf Declaration, which committed the industry to the blacklist,” then-WGA West president Daniel Petrie instructed the viewers, which included lots of the remaining survivors of the blacklist. “At one time, the board authorized the guild president to turn over all union records to HUAC. Now I am humbled by the privilege of offering, directly to those seated in the theater who suffered as a result of those actions taken so long ago, and to your families, a pledge on behalf of the Writers Guild of America that we will be out in front of all efforts today, and in the future, to prevent any governmental move to restrict expression and conform thought. It must not happen again. It will not happen again.”

SAG president Richard Masur instructed the viewers: “Tonight, the Screen Actors Guild would like to express how deeply we regret that when courage and conviction were needed to oppose the Blacklist, the poison of fear so paralyzed our organization. The Screen Actors Guild’s participation in tonight’s event must stand as our testament to all those who suffered that, in the future, we will strongly support our members and work with them to assure their rights as defined and guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.”

As a part of the ceremonies, DGA President Jack Shea introduced that the guild had restored Herbert Biberman’s membership and formally returned his title to the record of the guild’s founders, from which he he’d been expunged in the course of the Blacklist.

That evening, an announcement from Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers additionally was learn, during which he wrote: “The member companies of the AMPTP join with the guilds in commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Blacklist Era and hope that these efforts will make amends for those who were scarred by the blacklist hysteria. We likewise believe there is no place in a free society for the blacklisting and censorship which took place 50 years ago.”

Today, all these years later, 102-year-old screenwriter Norma Barzman is believed to be the final survivor of the Hollywood Blacklist.

(*75*) she instructed Deadline. “When all this started, my husband and I and my mother and babies all left for Europe. We did not stay here for that. Our friends went to jail, and we packed up and never went back to our home.”

While in Europe, she wrote the screenplay for Luxury Girls, with screenwriter Ennio Flaiano serving as her entrance. Her husband, screenwriter Ben Barzman, wrote El Cid and a number of other different movies whereas on the Blacklist.

The creator of The Red and the Blacklist: The Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood Expatriate, Barzman tells Deadline that she’s at the moment writing the movie adaptation of her 2006 guide The End of Romance: A Memoir of Love, Sex, and the Mystery of the Violin.

“I’m still working,” she laughed. “I’m still writing.”

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