1955: Hollywood blacklists and muffles democratic values; movies get worse; public seeks other entertainment …

In the movie industry, by 1955, 106 writers, 36 actors, and 11 directors testified, took the Fifth Amendment and then were blacklisted (Prindle 1988:61).  HUAC and the industry did not stop there.  The persecutions, with the studio executives’ active help, had the effect of silencing not just communist voices, but also liberal voices in American moviemaking.  There was also a cost to the content of films after progressives had been “purged” from the ranks of Hollywoodworkers, in part through the crushing of the CSU, in part with the help of the Taft Hartley Act and in part through HUAC.  According to actress Karen Morley, who was blacklisted,

“Movies just got worse. Movies have always been fairly violent but in the old days writers tried to express human values.  They tried, for example, to explain why a kid turned violent—he had been poor, his family was wretched, his boyhood was terrible.  There was a motivation other than just evil.  The violence had to be motivated sensibly.  This was a streak, I believe, of progressive thinking.

“All that kind of treatment pretty much went by the board during the blacklist.  Now violence became an art, a cult, and with it came the passive women.  The beautiful, strong ladies went away, and the weak, beautifully built women took their place, actresses chosen more for their figures than for their faces or for their characters…  The passivity is what I found most distressing” (McGilligan and Buhle 1997:478).

There are many reasons, during the next few years, that Americans turned away by the millions from the motion picture cinemas and sought entertainment elsewhere (many of these reasons are discussed in the next dissertation).  Here is another: when Hollywood muffled its democratic and progressive voices, the films may have lost a quality that made many people want to see them.

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