Hollywood exhibit on Red Scare
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Feb 2 09:06:56 MST 2002
LA Times, February 2, 2002
'We Behaved as Badly as Anybody'
An exhibit details Hollywood's reaction to the 'Red Scare' of 50
By LYNN SMITH, Times Staff Writer
Amid the faded posters, grainy photographs and yellowed lists of
names on display in the gallery of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences in Beverly Hills is a small booklet affixed with some
dirty, 45-year-old laundry.
Stapled in 1957 over Article 8, Section 1, Paragraph F of the
academy's bylaws, a typewritten revision warns that anyone who admits
membership in the Communist Party or who refuses to testify before a
"duly constituted Federal legislative committee or body . . . shall
be ineligible for any Academy Award . . ."
There's more. The booklet is one of more than 200 items in an
unusually comprehensive exhibit that opened Friday in which the
academy acknowledges its complicity and that of the movie industry at
large in destroying or damaging the careers of hundreds during the
infamous era of the Hollywood blacklist.
"We behaved as badly as anybody," said the academy's current
executive director, Bruce Davis.
The exhibit, which is open to the public and runs through April 21,
is the academy's first detailed presentation of its role in the
events that led to the blacklist and helped perpetuate it. Although
some of those events are now more than half a century old and many of
those blacklisted have died, the academy has had to face the fact
that the blacklist remains a volatile issue, one that continues to
inspire recriminations, accusations and anger.
The exhibit is likely to stir more debate about the blacklist years
in Hollywood. Some in Hollywood think the academy has not gone far
enough to right its wrongs. Others fear that visitors will learn
little about those who cooperated with the House Un-American
Activities Committee, and will leave with an oversimplified
impression of a complex time.
Putting It Together Was a Difficult Task
The exhibit arrives as the war on terrorism has excited a new
nationalism and alerted civil libertarians to watch for government
crackdowns on freedom of speech.
"Part of the reason for doing shows like this is to make it less
likely for it to happen again," Davis said.
Mounting a show about the era was a delicate task. Some people on
opposite sides still won't speak to each other, said the academy's
Ellen Harrington, co-curator of the show with author Larry Ceplair.
One person refused to donate items out of fear that the exhibit would
not give credibility to those who supported the blacklist, Harrington
In 1999, the academy learned just how inflammatory the issue still
was when it presented a lifetime achievement award to acclaimed
director Elia Kazan, who had cooperated with the House committee.
To some, such as blacklisted writer Norma Barzman, Kazan was a symbol
of those in Hollywood who cooperated with the committee and thereby
altered the course of many lives, including her own. She and her
blacklisted husband, Ben, left the United States for Europe in 1949
and lived in France for 27 years.
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 02/02/2002
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