This Day in History

Nov. 24, 1947: Hollywood 10 Held in Contempt of Congress

Time Periods: Cold War: 1945 - 1960
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, Labor, Media

On Nov. 24, 1947, Congress voted to hold the “Hollywood 10” in contempt. The following day the Motion Picture Association of America announced that the “Hollywood 10” directors, producers, and writers who had refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) would be fired or suspended.

The Hollywood 10 were Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Samuel Ornitz, Ring Lardner Jr., Lester Cole, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Edward Dmytryk, and Robert Adrian Scott.

The ABA Journal notes,

Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan, then president of the Screen Actors Guild, testified before the [HUAC] committee, as did other famous actors. Others actively organized against the investigation as an attack on freedom of speech. And 19 witnesses subpoenaed by HUAC—many of them important Hollywood writers and artists—said they would not provide testimony implicating colleagues in Hollywood.

Hollywood 10 | Zinn Education Project

Farewell at the Los Angeles Airport on June 8, 1950 as many of the Hollywood 10 head to jail. Among those in the photo are Lester Cole, 3rd from left; Dalton Trumbo, 4th from left; Alvah Bessie; Nicole Trumbo; Christopher Trumbo; Cleo Trumbo; Ring Lardner Jr., 4th from right; and Herbert Biberman, 2nd from right. Two of Trumbo’s children stand next to Trumbo, holding a picket sign calling for their father’s release from jail. The man lighting the cigarette, standing 3rd from right, is attorney Ben Margolis who defended the Hollywood 10 during their lengthy and unsuccessful legal fight to overturn their convictions.

This censorship impacted popular culture for years to come, as noted by screenwriter Allen Rivkin in Jewish Currents,

Movies of the 1950s did not display any evidence of the populist spirit which infused some of the more notable ‘30s and ‘40s films. On the contrary, studios complacently turned out hundreds of movies which… debased women, ignored Blacks and other minorities, and exalted war and imperialism…

Read more in This Day in Alternate History.