Show Trial

Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist

Thomas Doherty

Columbia University Press

Show Trial

Pub Date: April 2018

ISBN: 9780231187787

424 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $29.95£24.00

Pub Date: April 2018

ISBN: 9780231547468

424 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $28.99£23.00

Show Trial

Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist

Thomas Doherty

Columbia University Press

In 1947, the Cold War came to Hollywood. Over nine tumultuous days in October, the House Un-American Activities Committee held a notorious round of hearings into alleged Communist subversion in the movie industry. The blowback was profound: the major studios pledged to never again employ a known Communist or unrepentant fellow traveler. The declaration marked the onset of the blacklist era, a time when political allegiances, real or suspected, determined employment opportunities in the entertainment industry. Hundreds of artists were shown the door—or had it shut in their faces.

In Show Trial, Thomas Doherty takes us behind the scenes at the first full-on media-political spectacle of the postwar era, a courtroom drama starring glamorous actors, colorful moguls, on-the-make congressmen, high-priced lawyers, single-minded investigators, and recalcitrant screenwriters, all recorded by newsreel cameras and broadcast over radio. Doherty explores the deep background to the hearings and details the theatrical elements of a proceeding that bridged the realms of entertainment and politics. He tells the story of the Hollywood Ten and the other witnesses, friendly and unfriendly, who testified; tracks the flight path of the Committee for the First Amendment, the delegation from Hollywood that descended on Washington to protest the hearings; and chronicles the implementation of the postwar blacklist. Show Trial is a rich, character-driven inquiry into how the HUAC hearings ignited the anti-Communist crackdown in Hollywood, providing a gripping new cultural history of one of the most influential events of the postwar era.
Thomas Doherty’s fans, of whom I am one, know he is a first-rate film historian with a sharp eye for political theater as well as a stylish writer with a knack for turning a phrase. Show Trial gives a thorough, well-contextualized, clear-eyed, and witty account of the 1947 HUAC “Hollywood Ten” hearings, full of pithy characterizations and choice bits of business. J. Hoberman, author of An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War
Thomas Doherty’s Show Trial is a uniquely pragmatic history of the Hollywood Blacklist—a big book on a big topic that ruthlessly defies and confounds orthodoxy at every turn. No book in print provides a fuller accounting of the hearings themselves. And no author to date gives his readers so much room to appreciate and understand who said what and why. Jon Lewis, author of Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles
Doherty is one of the best, if not the best, writers in the American studies world today, and has produced an excellent book that will command a great deal of attention. Show Trial sheds new light on the story of the Hollywood Ten and HUAC and does it in fresh and exciting ways. One of the book’s greatest strengths is that it stays away from familiar academic debates that focus heavily on politics and instead tells a character-driven story using quotes from a wide variety of contemporaneous participants. Doherty places the personalities of the era—left and right—on center stage. This is easily the most comprehensive and comprehensible study of HUAC and the Hollywood Ten to date, and I predict it will become the book to read on this topic. Steven Ross, author of Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America
A thorough and lively chronicle of a shameful episode in American political and entertainment history. Kirkus Reviews
A riveting, exhaustive look at the 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee investigation into Communists in the film industry. . . . In the current era of legislative upheaval, Doherty’s vital, impressive history feels both relevant and urgent. Publishers Weekly
A shameful interlude in American history highly relevant to today’s political divisions. Booklist
Doherty thoroughly chronicles the HUAC circus, with its parade of well-known stars—both defiant (screenwriters Dalton Trumbo) and reluctant (Humphrey Bogart)—and accusers, such as Rep. J. Parnell Thomas. . . . For readers who appreciate both Hollywood's golden age and the postwar politics that animated it. Library Journal
Illuminating. . . . With accessible prose and astute academic insight, Doherty shows us that both the studios and the Hollywood Ten were victims of HUAC. His “Show Trial” is likely to become the standard authority on the genesis of the Hollywood blacklist. Christopher Yogerst, The Washington Post
Program Notes
Thanks and Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Part I. Backstories
1. How the Popular Front Became Unpopular
2. Hollywood’s War Record
3. The Preservation of American Ideals
4. The Magic of a Hollywood Dateline
5. Smearing Hollywood with the Brush of Communism
Part II. On Location in Washington
6. Showtime
7. Lovefest
8. Friendlies, Cooperative and Uncooperative
9. Hollywood’s Finest
10. Doldrums
11. Crashing Page 1
12. Contempt
13. $64 Questions and No Answers
14. Jewish Questions
15. The Curtain Drops
Part III. Backfire
16. The Waldorf and Other Declarations
17. Blacklists and Casualty Lists
18. Not Only Victims
A Bibliographical Note
Notes
Index

About the Author

Thomas Doherty is professor of American studies at Brandeis University. His previous Columbia University Press books include Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930–1934 (1999); Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture (2003); Hollywood’s Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration (2007); and Hollywood and Hitler, 1933–1939 (2013).