The Hollywood blacklist, a list of actors, directors, screenwriters and other U.S. entertainment professionals linked to Communism during the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s, was a professional death sentence. Whether real or merely suspected, those whose names appeared on this list saw their life’s work thwarted, and many of their careers in show business destroyed. Hollywood has been depicting the witch hunt of Communists for decades in films like “Guilty by Suspicion” and “Good Night and Good Luck,” and documentaries like “Yoo-hoo! Mrs. Goldberg” and “Hollywood on Trial” show the anti-Communist campaigns in non-fiction form.
With the 65th anniversary of the Hollywood blacklist nearing, The Hollywood Reporter profiled several of the writers and actors who fell victim to this tragedy. Whether by watching Lee Grant, who admits that even now she can’t refer to her late ex-husband Arnold Manoff as a Communist because it feels like she’s “naming names,” or Cliff Carpenter, who jokes: “I hope nobody’s listening!” as he discusses his political beliefs, it’s plain to see how very real the Hollywood blacklist and its repercussions were.
Leo Penn, Sean Penn’s father, was another casualty of the Communist witch hunt. In a guest piece for THR, the younger Penn details his father’s efforts to protect his country in World War II, his father’s quick rise in Hollywood — and even greater fall.
“What took place in our nation, starting in Washington, was ugly, was unfair, and, for well over a decade, this was neither the Land of the Free nor the Home of the Brave,” says Marsha Hunt, an actress whose career suffered irreparable damages after being blacklisted. Despite this, THR’s interviewees all asserted that, given the chance to turn back time, they wouldn’t have behaved any differently.