HUAC (The House Committee on Un-American Activities)
IATSE President George Browne, prior to his arrest, had first invited Martin Dies of what was then called the Dies Committee (and would later be called the House Committee on Un-American Activities or HUAC) to investigate Hollywood communists. Herb Sorell commented that the congressman “would do better to investigate Bioff than Communists” (Nielsen Mailes 1995:65). In May of 1947, the House Committee on Un-American Activities came to Hollywood to talk with “friendly” witnesses who cooperated with their investigations (Prindle 1988:52). The committee was comprised of men including J. Parnell Thomas (who would later serve prison time), and Richard Nixon, (who would later have to resign the United States Presidency because of his wrongdoing with regard to the Watergate break-ins) (Henretta et. al. 2002, Cole 1981).
During the 1947 House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) investigations in Washington, D.C., eleven prominent and well-liked members of the Hollywood labor community (who would later be called the “Hollywood Ten,”), refused to answer questions posed by a Congressional committee about their membership in various organizations, including, most importantly, their union affiliation, and they refused to name alleged Communist sympathizers. They were blacklisted by the studios, and were imprisoned for contempt of Congress (Campbell 2007). “Sadly, the Screen Actors Guild, the Screen Writers Guild (SWG) and the Screen Directors Guild (SDG) made virtually no effort to challenge the sacrifice of their members to the blacklist” (Ceplair 1998). In 1951, HUAC expanded the scope of its investigation in Hollywood. When members of above-the-line film unions had appealed to their leadership for help with this “aggressive witch-hunt” (Campbell2007:253), they found none. For example, in 1951, SAG President Ronald Reagan told actor Gale Sondergaard, who had appealed to the Guild for support in responding to HUAC, “all participants in the international Communist Party conspiracy against our nation should be exposed for what they are—enemies of our country and of our form of government” (Davis1982).