John Swope/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was one of the "Hollywood Ten" writers blacklisted for alleged Communist sympathies amid a House Un-American Activities Committee investigation that began in 1947. As a result he and many others worked under pseudonyms. After 60 years, the Writers Guild and the studio that produced Academy Award-winning "Roman Holiday" posthumously restored his screenwriting credit for that film.
Many Americans admired Russia during the Great Depression and World War Two, when it was an ally against fascism. They - and others who signed petitions and attended meetings for left and liberal causes – aroused suspicion among anti-Communist lawmakers and their allies as the Cold War dawned.
That’s the backdrop for the House Un-American Activities Committee’s investigation of the entertainment industry. Starting in 1947, the committee questioned performers, screenwriters, directors and members of movie and broadcasting unions. The interrogations continued until 1952.
A parade of celebrities on Capitol Hill – including then-Screen Actors Guild president Ronald Reagan - generated publicity. The widely broadcast proceedings bolstered political careers – including that of a young California congressman named Richard Nixon.
The hearings, and the unofficial blacklist that circulated through the industry, also derailed hundreds of entertainers’ careers - some permanently. An intense ideological rift developed in the company town. Some people say it hasn't healed yet.