In 1947 Roy M. Brewer was appointed to the Motion Picture Industry Council. At this time the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), chaired by J. Parnell Thomas, began an investigation into the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. The HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood. These people attended voluntarily and became known as "friendly witnesses". During their interviews they named nineteen people who they accused of holding left-wing views.
Roy M. Brewer was interviewed by the HUCA in October, 1947. He claimed that he knew 13 writers, actors and directors he said were involved in communist activities. This included John Garfield and Dalton Trumbo, both of whom had volunteered to act as observers for the studio pickets in the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) strike.
One of those named, Bertolt Brecht, an emigrant playwright, gave evidence and then left for East Germany. Ten others: Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Alvah Bessie refused to answer any questions.
Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The House of Un-American Activities Committee and the courts during appeals disagreed and all were found guilty of contempt of congress and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison.
Larry Parks was the only actor in the original nineteen people named. He was also the only person on the list who the average moviegoer would have known. Parks agreed to give evidence to the HUAC and admitted that he had joined the Communist Party in 1941 but left it four years later. When asked for the names of fellow members, Parks replied: "I would prefer, if you would allow me, not to mention other people's names. Don't present me with the choice of either being in contempt of this Committee and going to jail or forcing me to really crawl through the mud to be an informer."
The House of Un-American Activities Committee insisted that Parks answered all the questions asked. The HUAC had a private session and two days later it was leaked to the newspapers that Parks had named names.
Leo Townsend, Isobel Lennart, Roy Huggins, Richard Collins, Lee J. Cobb, Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan, afraid they would go to prison, were willing to name people who had been members of left-wing groups. If these people refused to name names, they were added to a blacklist that had been drawn up by the Hollywood film studios.
In June, 1950, three former FBI agents and a right-wing television producer, Vincent Harnett, published Red Channels, a pamphlet listing the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed had been members of subversive organisations before the Second World War but had not so far been blacklisted. The names had been compiled from FBI files and a detailed analysis of the Daily Worker, a newspaper published by the American Communist Party.
A free copy of Red Channels was sent to those involved in employing people in the entertainment industry. All those people named in the pamphlet were blacklisted until they appeared in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and convinced its members they had completely renounced their radical past.
Edward Dmytryk, one of the original Hollywood Ten, had financial problems as a result of divorcing his first wife. Faced with having to sell his plane and encouraged by his new wife, Dmytryk decided to try to get his name removed from the blacklist. On 25th April, 1951, Dmytryk appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee again. This time he answered all their questions including the naming of twenty-six former members of left-wing groups.
Dmytryk also revealed how people such as John Howard Lawson, Adrian Scott and Albert Maltz had put him under pressure to make sure his films expressed the views of the Communist Party. This was particularly damaging to those members of the original Hollywood Ten were at that time involved in court cases with their previous employers. If these people refused to name names, they were added to a blacklist that had been drawn up by the Hollywood film studios.
Over 320 people were placed on this list that stopped them from working in the entertainment industry. This included the following: Larry Adler, Stella Adler, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Joseph Bromberg, Alan Campbell, Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copland, Hanns Eisler, Edwin Rolfe, Carl Foreman, John Garfield, Howard Da Silva, Dashiell Hammett, E. Y. Harburg, Lillian Hellman, Burl Ives, Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker, Philip Loeb, Joseph Losey, Dorothy Parker, Anne Revere, Pete Seeger, Gale Sondergaard, Louis Untermeyer, Josh White, Zero Mostel, Clifford Odets, Michael Wilson, Paul Jarrico, Jeff Corey, John Randolph, Canada Lee, Orson Welles, Paul Green, Sidney Kingsley, Paul Robeson, Richard Wright and Abraham Polonsky.
Some blacklisted screenwriters continued to write under assumed names. Two of these writers, Dalton Trumbo, Roman Holiday (1953) and The Brave One (1956) and Michael Wilson, Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957), won Academy Awards for their screenplays.
In 1960 Dalton Trumbo became the first blacklisted writer to use his own name when he wrote the screenplay for film Spartacus. Based on the novel by another left-wing blacklisted writer, Howard Fast, the film that examines the spirit of revolt. Trumbo refers back to his experiences of the House of Un-American Activities Committee. At the end, when the Romans finally defeat the rebellion, the captured slaves refuse to identify Spartacus. As a result, all are crucified. Ironically, much of Spartacus was filmed on land owned by William Randolph Hearst. It was Hearst's newspapers that played such an important role in making McCarthyism possible.