Blacklisting in the entertainment industry by some over-zealous, self-appointed, would-be patriots during the 1940s, 1950s, and into the 1960s caused terrible destruction of life, wage-earning ability, and confidence in the substance of the American Way.
One horrendous example of blacklisting stood out: Red Channels, a publication that attacked radio and television artists only, including Artie Shaw, Arthur Miller, Lena Horne, Zero Mostel, Leonard Bernstein, Pete Seeger, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, John Garfield, Norman Corwin, and Orson Welles.
The victim’s stories are retold from the viewpoint of many of those most affected by the war of guilt by innuendo that had no real facts to back up the claims made against them.
44 chapters. Bibliography. Index.
About the author: Jason Hill, a media historian with experience as a broadcaster of relevant programming in that field, has also published Life in the Past Lane (Volumes 1, 2, and 3), and a variety of poetry.
“Things that they would think up had no value. The would print them and then the sponsors and the networks wouldn’t hire you if your name was even mentioned in one of those rags. You were thoroughly blacklisted.”
“They ruined a lot of lives. It was a terrible, terrible thing.”
“Counterattack people and many others were making it hard on nearly everyone.”
“Writers had to use a front because they couldn’t get hired. After all, they had families to support.”
“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, America dies.”
Edward R. Murrow
The McCarthy-era accusations of Communist sympathies and allegiances was a dark time in broadcasting history and a working knowledge of the events is extremely helpful in developing a broader understanding the post-war years of radio. Not having ever read one of the numerous volumes dedicated to the this topic, it was with considerable interest that I cracked open Jason Hill's most recent volume, Red Channels. Hill's book focuses strictly on "Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television," published in 1950 by American Business Consultants. Chapters one through ten focus on
individuals, organizations, and documents that claimed, hinted, or vaguely insinuated that certain men, women, and groups were actively or at least passively supporting Communist movements in the United States. Some of these "instigators" include Ted Kirkpatrick, Ken Bierly, John Keenan, the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, and the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee.
Chapters 11 through 38 focus on some of the 151 individuals named in the Red Channels publication who subsequently had their careers damaged if not ruined. Among those Hill profiles are lreene Wicker, William N. Robson, and Howard Duff. The final part examines John Henry Faulk's libel suit against
Aware, Inc., an organization that "cleared" individuals accused of Communist leanings.
For readers interested in a brief, easy-to-read overview of the early-1950s Blacklist era, Red Channels fits the bill. The language is conversational and avoids the wordy and dense style favored by more academic-oriented authors. The volume lacks a strictly linear structure, allowing the reader to skip around and read in the order of one's own choosing. Its real strength is comments and insights gleaned by Hill from numerous interviews and correspondence with victims over the years.
-- Ryan Ellett/Radio Recall