The Hollywood Reporter has published an article by Willie Wilkerson (son of THR founder Billy Wilkerson) apologizing for his father and the trade paper’s involvement in the Hollywood Blacklist. First published in 1947 and spurred on by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Blacklist destroyed the careers and lives of hundreds of directors, writers and actors who were believed to have Communist affiliation.
In his apology, Wilkerson writes that he hopes that his father would have eventually seen the error of his ways had he lived longer. “On behalf of my family, and particularly my late father, I wish to convey my sincerest apologies and deepest regrets to those who were victimized by this unfortunate incident.”
Wilkerson refers to the Blacklist as a “Hollywood Holocaust,” and writes that his father played a role in the fear-mongering in order to exact revenge on the studio bigwigs he felt rejected him when he too wanted to found a studio in the late 1920s. After World War II, Wilkerson Sr. used the paper as a platform for editorials attacking Communist sympathizers. Wilkerson does not specifiy which studio titans in particular his father went after, nor the specific individuals who were hurt in the process.
The quickest route to the heart of the studio moguls was via their talent. By calling contract players, writers and directors Communists, Wilkerson had created a technique to drain the studios of bankable assets — and to leave artists cut off from an industry that was their life support.
Wilkerson Sr. died in 1962, only two years after the Blacklist was broken by actor-producer Kirk Douglas, who insisted on giving proper screen credit to Blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo in Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus.”
November 25 will mark the 65th anniversary of the first Blacklist’s publishing.