HUAC and the Red Trilogy of World War II

by Dan Georgakas
  1. A famous exception to that rule came in a comedy titled No Time to Marry (1938). Lionel Stander was asked to whistle a tune as he waited for an elevator. He whistled The Internationale as a gag, but the director and subsequent editors didn’t recognize the tune, and it made its way into the film. Capitalism survived. Stander has the distinction of being twice blacklisted. See his interview in Patrick McGilligan and Paul Buhle (editors), Tender Comrades, NY: St. Martins Press, 1997, pp. 607-625.
  2. General discussion of this topic is found in Clayton R. Koppes and Gregory D. Black, Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics Profits and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies, New York: Free Press, 1987. Worth noting is that in the late 1930s right-wing radio ministers such as Father Coughlin had millions of listeners for broadcasts filled with scorn for the foreign born, Jews, and trade unionists.
  3. A detailed look at the comparable situation in radio is found in Howard Blue, Words at War, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002. There is discussion of specific scripts and the advice regarding scripts from the Roosevelt administration.
  4. Examples often cited are A Guy Named Joe (1943), Sahara (1943), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944, Objective Burma (1945) Action in the North Atlantic (1943), and Pride of the Marines (1945).
  5. Larry Ceplair and Steve England, The Inquisitions in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community:1930-60, Urbana: Illinois University Press, 2003 paper edition of 1979 original, p. 151. This quote occurs in a chapter that deals with Communist-liberal relations in considerable detail.
  6. Ibid, page 181.
  7. How Green Was My Valley, an homage to Welsh coal miners, garnered ten Oscar nominations and won in five categories. Mrs. Miniver, a celebration of English gallantry at the time of Dunkirk, had twelve Oscar nominations and six wins. The Hamilton Woman, an account of the heroism of Lord Nelson, had four nominations and one win.
  8. I was one of the participants in that show.
  9. Milestone is characterized in Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia, NY: Dutton, 1994, p. 605, as a skilled craftsman who could artfully utilize the technical and aesthetic tricks of the trade in a style marked by visual flamboyance. On the other hand, later in his career, he was often just a journeyman director content to get the picture done as quickly and cheaply as possible. His reputation was based on his early films such as All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), The Front Page (1931), and Rain (1932). Thereafter, most of his films were standard Hollywood fare with the possible exceptions of The General Dies at Dawn (1936) and A Walk in the Sun (1945). After working mainly in television in the 1950s, Milestone directed Ocean’s Eleven (1960) and replaced Carol Reed on the remake of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
  10. Walter Duranty, the Times correspondent in Moscow, later would be accused of deliberately obscuring the facts in the Ukraine.
  11. The NTA changes are outlined in an AP press release of Oct. 29, 1957 that is in a file on Lillian Hellman in the performing arts library of the New York Public library.
  12. New York Sun, October 25, 1943, Amusement pages.
  13. New York Post, November 8, 1943, p. 46.
  14. John Rosenfeld, “Russians in War Too Hollywood Discovers,” Dallas Morning News, January 23, 1944, Section Four, p. 1.
  15. Andrew Sarris, “Revivals,” The Village Voice, February 2, 1976, p 119. Even at this late date, the issue of the Ukrainian famine is not raised, most likely because it was still not broad public knowledge.
  16. The other films selected by the USSR for its domestic audience in 1943 and 1944 were: Bambi, Sun Fuehrer, The Old Mill, The Hurricane, and Charlie’s Aunt.
  17. Jarrico ultimately wrote most of the script. He certainly was well aware that the USSR deplored religion and secularized or destroyed numerous Christian churches.
  18. Taylor, who would be a friendly witness for HUAC and had strongly conservative views, obviously would not have taken a lead role in a film he considered a leftist work of art.
  19. Robert Mayhew, “MGM’s Potemkin Church Religion in Song of Russia’ American Communist History, Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2002, pp. 91-103, offers a succinct critique of the film’s fallacious images about religion in the USSR. Robert Mayhew, Ayn Rand and Song of Russia: Communism and Anti-Communism in Hollywood , Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005, offers a comprehensive account of the making of this film, its historical errors, and its reception. Ayn Rand’s critique of the film was not particularly detailed or specific, but it strongly reflected her anti-Soviet views.
  20. In the documentary Battle of Russia made for the government’s Why We Fight Series, Frank Capra had omitted mention of the Purge and other actions that he decried. He considered this “sin of omission” excusable due the needs of the war and extraordinary bravery of the Russian people.
  21. At the last moment, footage from the Battle of Stalingrad was inserted, an unscripted inclusion only made possible by the war’s rapidly changing dynamics.
  22. David Culbert, Mission to Moscow, Madison: U of Wisconsin Press, 1980, page 252-256. This volume contains the script of Mission to Moscow, excellent commentary by Culbert, and excerpts from the HUAC hearings. The volume is distinguished by correspondence initiated by Culbert to determine just who was responsible for various aspects of the film. Most important are the comments of Robert Buckner, the producer.
  23. Ibid. In the book Mission to Moscow, Davies had expressed mixed feelings about the guilt of the defendants. His insistence that the film take a different line seems to be yet another reflection of his inordinate fears about displeasing the Soviets.
  24. Ibid, p.29.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ronald Radosh and Allis Radosh, Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony’s Long Romance with the Left, San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2005. Leyda’s supposed role in Mission to Moscow is discussed on pp. 98-107.
  27. “Afterword” in Frank Krutnik, et. al. (editors), “Un-American” Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, Press, 2007, p. 271.
  28. Radosh, Red Star, p. 96. asserts “prominent actor Walter Houston “ portrayed Stalin. On page 100, the authors further assert Davies was angry at Houston for not using the proper makeup to physically evoke his Stalin character. One error of this kind might be attributed to poor editing, but two strong assertions about a character in almost half the scenes suggests the Radoshes are more interested in the film’s politics than its actual structure, content, and production history..
  29. Culbert, Mission, pp. 257-60 contains the full statement and the names of all the originators of the statement.
  30. Appendix to Culbert, p. 266.