Hollywood Blacklist Launched 75 Years Ago At Waldorf Conference –

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Waldorf Declaration, which officially launched the Hollywood Blacklist on November 25, 1947. That day, the heads of the major studios, with a few notable exceptions, agreed after a controversial two-day conference at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City to ban the Hollywood Ten and not “knowingly” employ communists. .

And so began one of the darkest chapters in Hollywood history.


Just weeks earlier, the Hollywood Ten had denounced and refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee and were later sent to federal prison for contempt of Congress.

“We will immediately terminate or suspend our employees without compensation,” the Waldorf statement said, “and we will not rehire any of the 10 until they are acquitted.” Jata does not clear himself of defamation and declare under oath that he is not a communist.

“On the broader issue of alleged subversive and disloyal elements in Hollywood, our members are also prepared to take affirmative action. We will not knowingly employ a Communist or a member of any party or group that, by force or Advocates the overthrow of the United States government by any illegal or unconstitutional means.

View a mimeographed copy of the original press release courtesy of the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library here:


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Fearing that inaction would lead to a loss of public confidence and further government intervention – at the same time inviting it – the studio owners were well aware of the dangers that lay ahead but felt that they can control the events that his declaration dictated. movement

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Following this policy, we will not be swayed by hysteria or intimidation from any source,” his statement said. “We clearly recognize that such a policy involves risks and dangers. There is a risk of harm to innocent people. There is a risk of creating an atmosphere of fear. Creative work is not carried out at its best in an atmosphere of fear. We can. We will avoid this threat, this threat, this fear. To this end we will invite the Hollywood talent guilds to work with us to eliminate any subversive elements: of the innocent. to protect; and to protect freedom of expression and a free screen wherever threatened.

The Screen Actors Guild, Screen Directors Guild and Screen Writers Guild all went along with it, allowing their members to be blacklisted while unfairly failing to protect the accused or protect freedom of expression. . Hundreds of voices will be silenced and careers destroyed.


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Insisting on loyalty to Hollywood, studio heads urged Congress to root out communists in all walks of life. “The absence of a national policy established by Congress regarding the employment of Communists in private industry makes our work difficult,” he wrote. “We are a nation of laws. We urge Congress to enact legislation to rid American industry of subversive, disloyal elements.

“Nothing subversive or un-American has appeared on the screen, and no Hollywood investigation can obscure the patriotic service of the 30,000 loyal Americans employed by Hollywood who have served our government in war and peace. It has provided invaluable assistance.”

Eric Johnston, then president of the Motion Picture Association of America, led a secret meeting of 48 executives and attorneys from all the major studios and independents, including Samuel Goldwyn; MGM’s Louis B. Mayer and studio general manager Eddie Mannix; Harry Cohen, head of Columbia Pictures; Paramount Studio head Y. Frank Freeman and its president Barney Balaban; 20th Century Fox President Spyros Skouras; Loews Theatres’ Nicholas Schenck; William Goetz of Universal-International; RKO’s Dore Schary; Warner Bros. Albert Warner; and former Academy President Walter Wanger. Also present were MPAA attorney Paul McNutt and James Burns, former Secretary of State under President Harry Truman.

The meeting was heated, with Schary, Goldwyn, Wanger and Mannix disagreeing. But at the end of the day, the conference issued a declaration along the lines suggested by Johnston, who, just four days earlier, in a speech to a group of motion picture pioneers, had falsely claimed that Hollywood Ten – Screenwriters Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner. Jr., Alva Bassey, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, and Adrian Scott, and directors Herbert Bieberman and Edward Dmytryk—had done “tremendous damage to the industry” and “immeasurably damaged the cause of democracy.” “


Bryan Cranston won an Oscar for playing the title character in the 2015 biopic Blacklist. Trumbo

In his 1979 autobiography hi dayRKO’s Schary gave what is believed to be the only written eyewitness account of the Waldorf conference.

Johnston opened the meeting by banning ten more known communists until they cleared their names. “Johnston’s opening salvo was followed by patriotic speeches by Messrs. Mayer, Freeman, Skouras, and a few others,” Schary wrote. “Sam Goldwyn was bold enough that there was an atmosphere of panic in the room. Goldwyn, Ramrod straight up… sneered and infuriated Johnston, who responded angrily, and finally answered the question, ‘Are we rats?’ Are or men. He insisted that if the motion picture business wanted to earn the respect of the American public, the 10 men who had come forward and any known, or believed to be, Communists be fired.”

Sherry continued:

“That was my cue to speak. The men in the hearing had not yet been convicted of anything—there was no law in the country denying any citizen the right to be a Communist. There was no evidence that any of these men advocated the overthrow of the government by force or violence. We insisted that there was no communist propaganda in the films, so the men in question were guilty of this violent crime. We would dishonor and disrespect our industry with a practice that would inevitably lead to blacklisting.


“My remarks provoked another fury from Johnston and Skouras. However, Walter Wanger demanded the floor and he broke into Johnston, and espoused my reasons for not getting into a fight. His Goldwyn later retorted with anger and a statement that he would not be associated with any of the nonsense suggested by Johnston.

“The most surprising comment came from Eddie Mannix, general manager of MGM Studios. Eddie had once been a bouncer for the Schenck Brothers’ enterprise in Palisades Park. He was a physically and emotionally tough man, tough-tempered, iron-clad. fist, and had an immense appetite for wine and women.

“Eddie was one of those people who thought it would have been wiser for the Allies to turn on and eliminate Russia after Hitler was wiped out while they were in that position. So, none of us Eddie It was not expected that he opposed the firing of the 10 men. But Eddy argued that California has a state law that prohibits an employer from firing someone because of their political views. And Eddie adds that he won’t break the law.

“Now it’s time for Jimmy Burns to speak. He lamented that any government official would ‘dispute the industry’s decision to get rid of reds.’ Not only that – the ‘ethics’ clause in the contract could have men fired from their jobs on the grounds that their behavior brought the industry into disrepute.

“He warmed up the meeting by supplying Goldwyn, Wanger, and me with some coal. Eventually, Johnston, who had been slapping his hotel key on the table as he made his arguments, got angry and threw his keys away. threw down as war and threatened to quit unless the industry came to its senses.

“No vote was ever taken. It was Johnston’s threat, plus Byrnes’s argument, that won the decision to discharge those cited. I said I would not be a party to the action — so did Goldwyn. And so did Wanger, but we got no support.

“A committee was appointed to draft a statement. Mendel Silberberg, who was the chairman, said I was a member of it as the spokesman for the opposition. It was an assignment I did not want, but Gold ‘Do it – maybe they won’t go mad,’ whispered Wayne.

The two-page, eight-paragraph statement, Shari wrote, “is contradictory, perhaps because I protested the first four paragraphs and helped write the last four, hoping to convince the guilds to form one.” I could convince. A defensive barrier to prevent wholesale firings and investigations. That faint hope struck me left and right. I never should have listened to Goldwyn.

“He tried to stop them, but they wouldn’t budge,” Schary’s daughter, author Jill Schary Robinson, told “Everybody was very scared. It was a really difficult time. My dad was nervous. He had warned some of the young writers about what was coming. That was the feeling we have now about Trump, but from Even more dangerous.

Twenty-five years ago, at a star-studded gathering at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — held, appropriately, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater — the industry commemorated the 50th anniversary of The Blacklist and issued an apology. .

“We look back with sadness and shame that our guild supported the Waldorf Declaration at the time, blacklisting the industry,” then-WGA West president Daniel Petrie told the audience. told, which included many others. Survivors of the blacklist. “At one time, the board authorized the guild president to turn over all union records to HUAC. Now I have the privilege of presenting directly to the people sitting in the theater who took these actions so long ago. suffered as a result, and to your families, a pledge from the Writers Guild of America that we will walk out in the face of all efforts today, and in the future, to limit expression and conform thought. Also to prevent government action. This must not happen again. It will not happen again.”

SAG president Richard Masur told the audience: “Tonight, the Screen Actors Guild would like to express how deeply we regret that when it took courage and conviction to oppose the blacklist, fear “The poison has so crippled our organization. The Screen Actors Guild’s participation in tonight’s event should stand as a testament to all those who have faced it that, in the future, we will continue to serve our members.” Will strongly support and work with them to ensure their rights as defined and guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

As part of the festivities, DGA President Jack Shea announced that the Guild had reinstated Herbert Biberman’s membership and officially returned his name to the Guild’s list of founders, from which he was excluded during the blacklist.

That night, a statement from Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, was also read, in which he wrote: “AMPTP member companies join guilds in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Blacklist Era. It is hoped that these efforts will reform those affected by the blacklist hysteria. We likewise believe that the blacklists and censorship of 50 years ago have no place in a free society. Is.

Today, all these years later, 102-year-old screenwriter Norma Barzman is believed to be the last survivor of Hollywood’s blacklist.

“It was scary. It was very scary,” she told “When this all started, my husband and I and my mom and kids all left for Europe. We didn’t stay here for that. Our friends went to jail, and we packed up and never went back home.

While in Europe, he wrote the screenplay for it Luxury Girls, with screenwriter Ennio Flaiano serving as his front. Written by her husband, screenwriter Ben Barzman LCID And many other films are blacklisted.

Author of The Red and the Blacklist: The Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood ForeignerBarzman told that she is currently writing the film adaptation of her 2006 book. The End of Romance: A Memoir of Love, S*x, and the Mystery of the Violin.

“I’m still working,” she laughs. “I’m still writing.”

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