The Cold War and the Movies


During the Cold War, the fear of Communism took the United States by storm. Americans were swept into a mass hysteria, and began making irrational judgments and decisions in response to the threat of Communism entering the states. The film industry in particular, was used to fuel the fire of this “Red Scare.” Hollywood used the Cold War to its advantage and produced many films with propaganda intertwined in the plotlines, which caused much commotion among government workers as well as civilians.

HUACThe House Un-American Activities Committee, (HUAC), led by Parnell Thomas, was responsible for performing investigations, and removing Communist influence or activities from all industries in the United States. The committee's most common and publicized victim was the movie business. The committee had hoped to expose any Communist members of the Screen Writer's guild, as well as the anti-Democracy messages that they snuck into their many films. Because of the committee's numerous false claims that there was communist influence in Hollywood, many of the most talented workers ended up leaving the industry. The Hollywood TenThe HUAC held hearings in which non suspected people would testify and respond to questions and accusations of communist activity in the movie business. These twenty four people were known as "friendly witnesses," and they were willing to provide all they information they knew about communism in Hollywood. Another group of eleven people, called "unfriendly witnesses" were called to testify. One of these witnesses left the United States and resettled in East Germany. The other ten became known as the "Hollywood Ten." They would not answer any questions that the committee had regarding Communism, or about their own political affiliations. They claimed their Fifth Amendment rights, as well as protection under the First Amendment. Because of their failure to testify, the ten were jailed with sentences ranging anywhere from six months to a full year. Upon returning from their sentences, the ten men were blacklisted, meaning that they would be condemned and prohibited from publishing or releasing any of their works. Many of the men came up with aliases in order to keep their jobs and continue selling their work.
The Hollywood 10: Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Lester Cole, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornitz, Ring Lardner Jr., Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott, & their attorneys
The Hollywood 10: Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Lester Cole, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornitz, Ring Lardner Jr., Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott, & their attorneys























Committee for the First AmendmentAs a response to the HUAC rulings, a group of liberals joined together in Hollywood to form the Committee for the First Amendment, (CFA). This group, led by actor Humphrey Bogart, planned to travel to Washington to support the Hollywood Ten during their trials. This committee began to unravel however, when the Ten began answering rudely and aggressively to their questioners. The committee, as well as some of the blacklisted men were extremely embarrassed by how the testimonies were handled.
CFA Protest
CFA Protest
CFA Protest
CFA Protest
Propaganda FilmsMany films of this time were caught in the HUAC madness that was overtaking the nation and its movie industry. They were suspected to have some form of Communist affiliation. The film High Noon, for example, has been viewed in the White House many, many times. To many people, it is a typical Western film. To the HUAC, it had a pro-Communist message, and most people involved in its production were blacklisted.
High Noon movie poster
High Noon movie poster