Paul Jarrico

Paul Jarrico

Paul Jarrico was born in Los Angeles, California, on 12th January, 1915. He attended the University of California before moving to Hollywood where he found work as a screenwriter. Early films include No Time to Marry (1937), The Little Adventures (1938), Beauty for the Asking (1939), The Face Behind the Mask (1941), Tom, Dick and Harry (1941), Thousands Cheer (1943) and Song of Russia (1943).

During this period the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened its hearings concerning communist infiltration of the motion picture industry. The chief investigator for the committee was Robert E. Stripling. The first people it interviewed included Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Ayn Rand, Jack L. Warner, Robert Taylor, Adolphe Menjou, Robert Montgomery, Walt Disney, Thomas Leo McCarey and George L. Murphy. These people named several possible members of the American Communist Party.

As a result their investigations, the HUAC announced it wished to interview nineteen members of the film industry that they believed might be members of the American Communist Party. This included Larry Parks, Herbert Biberman, Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., Samuel Ornitz, John Howard Lawson, Waldo Salt, Bertolt Brecht, Richard Collins, Gordon Kahn, Robert Rossen, Lewis Milestone and Irving Pichel.

The first ten witnesses called to appear before the HUAC, Biberman, Bessie, Cole, Maltz, Scott, Trumbo, Dmytryk, Lardner, Ornitz and Lawson, refused to cooperate at the September hearings and were charged with "contempt of Congress". Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The courts disagreed and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison. The case went before the Supreme Court in April 1950, but with only Justices Hugo Black and William Douglas dissenting, the sentences were confirmed.

Others called before the HUAC were willing to testify and the screenwriter, Richard Collins, named Jarrico as a former member of the American Communist Party. Another member of the party, Larry Parks, gave evidence on 21st March, 1951. He admitted that he joined in 1941 because it "fulfilled certain needs of a young man that was liberal of thought, idealistic, who was for the underprivileged, the underdog". At first he refused to name other members of the party: "I would prefer not to mention names, if it is at all possible, of anyone. I don't think it is fair to people to do this. I have come to you at your request. I have come and willingly tell you about myself. I think that, if you would allow me, I would prefer not to be questioned about names. And I will tell you everything that I know about myself, because I feel I have done nothing wrong, and 1 will answer any question that you would like to put to me about myself. I would prefer, if you will allow me, not to mention other people's names.... The people at that time as I knew them-this is my opinion of them. This is my honest opinion: That these are people who did nothing wrong, people like myself.... And it seems to me that this is not the American way of doing things to force a man who is under oath and who has opened himself as wide as possible to this committee - and it hasn't been easy to do this -to force a man to do this is not American justice."

However, Parks did agree to name members in a private session of the HUAC. This included Joseph Bromberg, Lee J. Cobb, Morris Carnovsky, John Howard Lawson, Karen Morley, Anne Revere, Gale Sondergaard, Dorothy Tree, Roman Bohnan, Lloyd Gough and Victor Kilian. Three days later Paul Jarrico, who was due to appear before the HUAC, told the New York Times, that he was unwilling to follow the example of Parks: "If I have to choose between crawling in the mud with Larry Parks or going to jail like my courageous friends of the Hollywood Ten, I shall certainly choose the latter."

Jarrico gave evidence on the 13th April and argued that the treatment of the Hollywood Ten meant that it was impossible for him to cooperate with the HUAC: "Ten of my friends, very dear friends, have gone to jail for coming before this body and saying that Congress may not investigate in any area in which it may not legislate, and since the Constitution of the United States specifically states that Congress shall make no law restricting the freedom of speech, and since countless decisions of the courts have held that this provision of the Constitution means that Congress cannot investigate into areas of opinion, of conscience, of belief, I believe that in asking that those men be cited for contempt of Congress and in successfully sending these men to jail, that this committee has subverted the meaning of the American Constitution."

Jarrico refused to identify people who were members of left-wing groups and after being sacked from his $2,000 a week job with Columbia Pictures, was blacklisted by the Hollywood studios. Jarrico pointed out in 1955: "There is a direct relation between the blacklist and the increasing emphasis of the Hollywood film on prowar and anti-human themes. We have seen more and more pictures of violence for the sake of violence, more and more unmotivated brutality on the screen as the blacklist grew."

The Chicago Tribune (1954)
The Chicago Tribune (1954)

In 1954 Jarrico worked with Michael Wilson, Adrian Scott and Herbert Biberman on Salt of the Earth (1954), a film about a mining strike in New Mexico. Although the film earned critical acclaim in Europe, winning awards in France and Czechoslovakia, it was not allowed to be shown in the United States until 1965.

Jarrico continued to write under assumed names. This included the film The Girl Most Likely (1957). After the blacklist was lifted he write the screenplays for All Night Long (1961), Seaway (1965), Sanctuary (1967) and Avenging Angels (1988).

Paul Jarrico was killed in a road accident on 28th October, 1997.

Primary Sources

(1) Richard Collins gave information about Paul Jarrico's activities in the Communist Party when he testified in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee on 12th April, 1951.

Paul Jarrico visited me and wanted my personal assurance that I would not give any names. I didn't give that assurance. We then had a long political discussion. Paul Jarrico feels the justice of his position, and he went over the situation that he believes the Soviet Union is devoted to the interests of all people and is peace-loving as well.

(2) Paul Jarrico, HUAC (13th April, 1951)

Ten of my friends, very dear friends, have gone to jail for coming before this body and saying that Congress may not investigate in any area in which it may not legislate, and since the Constitution of the United States specifically states that Congress shall make no law restricting the freedom of speech, and since countless decisions of the courts have held that this provision of the Constitution means that Congress cannot investigate into areas of opinion, of conscience, of belief, I believe that in asking that those men be cited for contempt of Congress and in successfully sending these men to jail, that this committee has subverted the meaning of the American Constitution...

I want to make it clear that I am personally opposed to the overthrow of this Government by force and violence and to the use of force and violence. However, President Lincoln said that the people of this country have the right to revolution, if necessary, if the democratic processes are clogged, if the people can no longer exercise their will by constitutional means.

(3) Edward Murrow, CBS radio broadcast from London (27th October 1947)

I want to talk for a few minutes about the Hollywood investigation now being conducted in Washington. This reporter approaches the matter with rather fresh memories of friends in Austria, Germany and Italy who either died or went into exile because they refused to admit the right of their government to determine what they should say, read, write or think. (If witnessing the disappearance of individual liberty abroad causes a reporter to be unduly sensitive to even the faintest threat of it in his own country, then my analysis of what is happening in Washington may be out of focus.) This is certainly no occasion for a defence of the product of Hollywood. Much of that product fails to invigorate me, but I am not obliged to view it. No more is this an effort to condemn congressional investigating committees. Such committees are a necessary part of our system of government and have performed in the past the double function of illuminating certain abuses and of informing congressmen regarding expert opinion on important legislation under consideration. In general, however, congressional committees have concerned themselves with what individuals, organizations or corporations have or have not done, rather than with what individuals think. It has always seemed to this reporter that movies should be judged by what appears upon the screen, newspapers by what appears in print and radio by what comes out of the loudspeaker. The personal beliefs of the individuals involved would not seem to be a legitimate field for inquiry, either by government or by individuals. When bankers, or oil or railroad men, are hailed before a congressional committee, it is not customary to question them about their beliefs or the beliefs of men employed by them. When a soldier is brought before a court martial he is confronted with witnesses, entitled to counsel and to cross-questioning. His reputation as a soldier, his prospects of future employment, cannot be taken from him unless a verdict is reached under clearly established military law.

It is, I suppose, possible that the committee now sitting may uncover some startling and significant information. But we are here concerned only with what has happened to date. A certain number of people have been accused either of being Communists or of following the Communist line. Their accusers are safe from the laws of slander and libel. Subsequent denials are unlikely ever to catch up with the original allegation. It is to be expected that this investigation will induce increased timidity in an industry not renowned in the past for its boldness in portraying the significant social, economic and political problems confronting this nation. For example, Willie Wyler, who is no alarmist, said yesterday that he would not now be permitted to make The Best Years of Our Lives in the way in which he made it more than a year ago.

Considerable mention was made at the hearings of two films, Mission to Moscow and Song of Russia. I am no movie critic, but I remember what was happening in the war when those films were released. While you were looking at Mission to Moscow there was heavy fighting in Tunisia. American and French forces were being driven back; Stalin said the opening of the Second Front was near; there was heavy fighting in the Solomons and New Guinea; MacArthur warned that the Japanese were threatening Australia; General Hershey announced that fathers would be called up in the draft; Wendell Willkie's book One World was published. And when Song of Russia was released, there was heavy fighting at Cassino and Anzio; the battleship Missouri was launched, and the Russian newspaper Pravda published, and then retracted, an article saying that the Germans and the British were holding peace talks. And during all this time there were people in high places in London and Washington who feared lest the Russians might make a separate peace with Germany. If these pictures, at that time and in that climate, were subversive, then what comes next under the scrutiny of a congressional committee?

Correspondents who wrote and broadcast that the Russians were fighting well and suffering appalling losses? If we follow the parallel, the networks and the newspapers which carried those dispatches would likewise be investigated.

Certain government agencies, such as the State Department and the Atomic Energy Commission, are confronted with a real dilemma. They are obligated to maintain security without doing violence to the essential liberties of the citizens who work for them. That may require special and defensible security measures. But no such problem arises with instruments of mass communication. In that area there would seem to be two alternatives: either we believe in the intelligence, good judgment, balance and native shrewdness of the American people, or we believe that government should investigate, intimidate and finally legislate. The choice is as simple as that.

The right of dissent - or, if you prefer, the right to be wrong - is surely fundamental to the existence of a democratic society. That's the right that went first in every nation that stumbled down the trail toward totalitarianism.

I would like to suggest to you that the present search for Communists is in no real sense parallel to the one that took place after the First World War. That, as we know, was a passing phenomenon. Those here who then adhered to Communist doctrine could not look anywhere in the world and find a strong, stable, expanding body of power based on the same principles that they professed. Now the situation is different, so it may be assumed that this internal tension, suspicion, witch hunting, grade labeling - call it what you like - will continue. It may well cause a lot of us to dig deep into both our history and our convictions to determine just how firmly we hold to the principles we were taught and accepted so readily, and which made this country a haven for men who sought refuge. And while we're discussing this matter, we might remember a little-known quotation from Adolf Hitler, spoken in Konigsberg before he achieved power. He said, "The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it will force those who fear it to imitate it."

(4) Paul Jarrico, interviewed on 28th January, 1955.

There is a direct relation between the blacklist and the increasing emphasis of the Hollywood film on prowar and anti-human themes. We have seen more and more pictures of violence for the sake of violence, more and more unmotivated brutality on the screen as the blacklist grew.

(5) Paul Jarrico was interviewed by Elizabeth Farnsworth in 1997.

Elizabeth Farnsworth: Paul Jarrico, tell us how you came to be blacklisted.

Paul Jerrico: Well, I was pretty well known as left of center, considerably left of center. There was no secret about my political orientation, and I, in fact, produced a film about the "Hollywood Ten," called the "Hollywood Ten" in the summer of 1950, on the eve of their going to prison. So I was not at all surprised when the committee began its new hearings in the spring of ‘51 as the ten were, in fact, coming up to be called.

Elizabeth Farnsworth: So you were called and then were you automatically blacklisted? How did you know? When was the moment you knew you’d been blacklisted?

Paul Jerrico: Well, I knew I was blacklisted the moment I arrived at RKO Studio in my car and was barred from the lot, but that was before I testified. That was the morning after I had been served a subpoena and had said to some of the reporters who accompanied the marshal and who asked me what stand I would take, I had said I wasn’t sure but if I had to choose between crawling in the mud with Larry Parks or going to prison like my courageous friends, the Hollywood Ten, you might--you could be sure I would choose the latter. And that was in the papers the following morning, and I was barred from the lot within an hour or two of that.

Elizabeth Farnsworth: Paul Jarrico, once you found out you were blacklisted, once you could no longer work in Hollywood, what did you do? How did you manage to produce Salt of the Earth.

Paul Jerrico: The hard way. I and Herbert Biberman and Adrian Scott, both of whom were - had been members of the Hollywood Ten and were blacklisted, of course, formed a company to try to use the growing pool of talent of the blacklistees. And we had several projects underway with - that is to say being written and came across - I came across by coincidence - this strike and in New Mexico in which Mexican-American zinc miners were on strike, the company got an injunction, saying that company - that striking miners may not picket - the wives said the injunction doesn’t say anything about their wives - we’ll take over your picket line, and the men were reluctant to, as they put it hide behind women’s skirts. But there really was no other alternative. The women found themselves on the picket line being attacked by force, arrested in droves.

Elizabeth Farnsworth: And did people try to stop you from making this film?

Paul Jerrico: Well, of course. There was a concerted effort to stop the making of the film after it became known that we were making the film. We had started the film in quite a normal fashion with contracts with Pate Lab to develop our film and rental of the equipment from Hollywood, people who supplied such things. A whistle was blown by Walter Pigeon, the then president of the Actors Guild, and the FBI swung into action and movie industries swung into action and we found ourselves barred from laboratories, barred from sound studios, barred from any of the normal facilities available to film makers, and we found ourselves hounded by all kinds of denunciations on the floor of Congress and by columnists.

The public was told that we were making a new weapon for Russia, that since we were shooting in New Mexico, where you find atom bombs, you find Communists, and every kind of scurrilous attack - vigilante attacks - on us while we were still shooting developed.

Our star, who had come up from Mexico to star in the film - LeSoro Regueltos - was arrested and deported before we were finished shooting her role. We had difficulty getting permission to shoot the remaining scenes with her in Mexico, which we absolutely had to have, and so on.