On June 8, 1949, Hollywood figures, including film stars Frederic March, John Garfield, Paul Muni, and Edward G. Robinson, are named in a FBI report as Communist Party members. Such reports helped to fuel the anticommunist hysteria in the United States during the late-1940s and 1950s.

Actor Fredric March, his Wife Florence and Martin Dies, Jr. House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in Los Angeles, 1940

Actor Fredric March, his Wife Florence and Martin Dies, Jr.
House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in Los Angeles, 1940

 

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Edward G Robinson Testifys at House Unamerican Activities

Edward G Robinson Testifys at House Unamerican Activities

 

The FBI report relied largely on accusations made by “confidential informants,” supplemented with some highly dubious analysis. It began by arguing that the Communist Party in the United States claimed to have “been successful in using well-known Hollywood personalities to further Communist Party aims.” The report particularly pointed to the actions of the Academy Award-winning actor Frederic March. Suspicions about March were raised by his activities in a group that was critical of America’s growing nuclear arsenal (the group included other well-known radicals such as Helen Keller and Danny Kaye). March had also campaigned for efforts to provide relief to war-devastated Russia. The report went on to name several others who shared March’s political leanings: Edward G. Robinson, the African-American singer; actor and activist Paul Robeson; the writer Dorothy Parker; and a host of Hollywood actors, writers, and directors.

Celebrities Helen Keller, Dorothy Parker, Danny Kaye, Fredric March, John Garfield, Paul Muni and Edward G. Robinson are named in an FBI report as Communist Party members.

Celebrities Helen Keller, Dorothy Parker, Danny Kaye, Fredric March, John Garfield, Paul Muni and Edward G. Robinson are named in an FBI report as Communist Party members.

The FBI report was part of a continuing campaign by the U.S. government to suggest that Hollywood was rife with communist activists who were using the medium of motion pictures to spread the Soviet party line. Congressional investigations into Hollywood began as early as 1946. In 1947, Congress cited 10 Hollywood writers and directors for contempt because they refused to divulge their political leanings or name others who might be communists. The “Hollywood Ten,” as they came to be known, were later convicted and sent to prison for varying terms.

The Hollywood Ten in November 1947 waiting to be fingerprinted in the U.S. Marshal's office after being cited for contempt of Congress. Front row (from left): Herbert Biberman, attorneys Martin Popper and Robert W. Kenny, Albert Maltz, Lester Cole. Middle row: Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornitz. Back row: Ring Lardner Jr., Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott.

The Hollywood Ten in November 1947 waiting to be fingerprinted in the U.S. Marshal’s office after being cited for contempt of Congress. Front row (from left): Herbert Biberman, attorneys Martin Popper and Robert W. Kenny, Albert Maltz, Lester Cole. Middle row: Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornitz. Back row: Ring Lardner Jr., Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott.

 

In response to this particular round of allegations from the FBI, movie tough-guy Edward G. Robinson declared,

“These rantings, ravings, accusations, smearing, and character assassinations can only emanate from sick, diseased minds of people who rush to the press with indictments of good American citizens. I have played many parts in my life, but no part have I played better or been more proud of than that of being an American citizen.”

 

 

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4 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    It was a disgusting time in American History and how horrible McCarthy truly was. Edward r Murrow brought out his “crap” in a televised interview and McCarthy lost all respect after that. So many lesser known stars could not find work for decades (Will Geer for one) and others committed suicide all due to the power & fear mongering of a few. I love it when you wrote “Radicals like Helen Keller and Danny Kaye”. Fear can whip up the mob mentality in a heart beat

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  2. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks. All seems like a terrible nightmare now. But a continual warning for the present. Regards .. Thom

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    • So true. It is like biased broadcasting today. You may think “Who listens to this #$%@&^?” Unfortunately people do and when the lies are debunked later, no one listens.

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