For decades now historians have argued about the causes and nature of McCarthyism: about whether it was primarily a top-down phenomenon prompted by the Truman administration's Cold War measures, or more of a 'popular insurgency' with genuine anti-communism agitated by irrational 'status anxiety', similar in some ways to the Populist uprising of the 1890s.74 It has long been acknowledged that Hollywood promoted the politics of McCarthyism, and that its anti-communist output can be attributed in large part to the political pressures the film industry faced during the first decade of the Cold War. Yet our analysis of Walk East on Beacon gives a different side to the story. It demonstrates the increasingly tight, often consensual relationship that developed on and off screen between filmmakers and government agencies during the McCarthy era. As the government's Cold War propaganda machine expanded during the late 1940s and 1950s and the constituent parts of it sought to promote their role in the fight against communism, so the film world's links with the state grew more complex and concrete.
Movies produced during this critical period of the East-West struggle overwhelmingly supported Washington's tough anti-Soviet line, with many venturing, to borrow Senator Arthur Vandenberg's famous line to Truman in 1947, to 'scare the hell out of the American people' about the threat posed by communism.75 Whether cinema-goers did actually fear communism more for having watched movies like Invasion USA, The Red Menace and Walk East on Beacon is debatable. So, too, is the notion that these viewers were more likely subsequently to acquiesce in or push for more draconian anti-communist measures. However, what the production history of Walk East on Beacon and other films suggests about McCarthyism is that the top-down versus bottom-up approach towards understanding the phenomenon is in some respects a false dichotomy. Some films, like The Bell, were produced at 'the top' by government; others, like My Son John, came 'from below', being the result of a director's personal take on the Cold War; others still, like Walk East on Beacon, emerged from above and below, from elements of the industry and state which shared the same political anxieties and, to an extent, political goals.
That Hollywood promoted Cold War orthodoxy so enthusiastically during this period should not surprise us in the light of the film industry's campaign against communism dating back to 1917. Collaboration between the industry and state propagandists was eased by the organisational legacy of the Second World War's Office of War Information, meaning filmmakers and officials in the late 1940s could pick up from where they had left off a few years earlier, updating and finessing the ideas and themes they had used to defeat fascism. This, together with Hollywood's structure being more centralised than that of the press and the country's nascent television service, helps to explain why cinema led the way in establishing the American media's aggressive approach towards the Soviet Union and, after 1949, Mao Tse Tung's China.76
Nowadays, Hollywood's McCarthyite Red-baiters are often offered as antiquated kitsch or camp classics, as curious relics of an era when propaganda was thought to be the same colours as film itself — black and white. Whilst understandable, this can underestimate the role these movies served in helping to set Hollywood's Cold War agenda and to establish enemy stereotyping for the years ahead. Blunt they might have been, but not uniformly, as Beacon attests. Moreover, few viewers would probably have seen the hand of government in what they were watching. For all the FBI's input, even Beacon came across as a regular commercial venture, and no critic bracketed it as an officially inspired film. As the Cold War progressed, the style of Hollywood's coverage of the communist threat might have differed from these hard-hitting movies, but the substance remained essentially the same. In the 1980s, as we shall see later, history repeated itself, as communist fifth-columnism (with an added terrorist twist) returned to the screen with a vengeance.
1 J. Edgar Hoover testimony, Regarding the Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry (Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, 1884 and 2121, 80th Congress, 1st Session, 26 March 1947) (Washington, DC, 1947).
2 On the Lincoln Memorial's iconic place in American films, especially those explicitly about politics, see Scott, Politics, pp. 7—9.
3 My Son John press book, British Film Institute Library, London (hereafter BFIL); J. A. V Burke, My Son John: A Disturbing Film', Focus, Vol. 16, No. 8, August 1953, pp. 185—6.
4 Glen M. Johnson, 'Sharper than an Irish Serpent's Tooth: Leo McCarey's My Son John\ Journal of Popular Film and Television,Vo\. 8, No. 1,1980, pp. 44—9; Whitfield, Culture, pp. 136-41; Michael Paul Rogin, Ronald Reagan, The Movie and Other Episodes in PoliticalDemonology (Berkeley, CA, 1987), pp. 240-6, 250-3.
5 See, for instance, Sayre, Running Time, and David Caute, The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge under Truman and Eisenhower (New York, 1978), pp. 487-520.
6 Motion Picture Herald, 26 April 1952; Stefan Kanfer, A Journal of the Plague Years (New York, 1973), pp. 56-7,189-92.
7 Weekly cinema attendance figures in the United States reached an all-time high of 81 million in the mid-1940s, dropping to 16 million in 1970, then rising slightly to just over 20 million in the late 1980s, when the Cold War ended. Maltby, Hollywood, p. 124.
8 According to the Catalog of Soviet Feature Films, between 1946 and 1953 the USSR produced a total of 165 films. Peter Kenez, Cinema and Soviet Society, 1917-1953 (Cambridge, 1992), p. 227. For the extent to which the Cold War figured in these movies, and for the pressures imposed on Soviet filmmakers by Stalin's cultural overseer in the late 1940s, Andrei Zhdanov, see Films in Review, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 1953, pp. 7-14; Films in Review, Vol. 4, No. 2, February 1953, pp. 64-73; Sarah Davies, 'Soviet Cinema and the Early Cold War: Pudovkin's Admiral Nakhimov in Context', Cold War History, Vol. 4, No. 1, October 2003, pp. 49-70; Graham Roberts, 'A Cinema of Suspicion or a Suspicion of Cinema: Soviet Film 1945-53', in Rawnsley (ed.), Cold War Propaganda,pp. 105-24.
10 Ceplair and Englund, Inquisition, p. 109. On the Popular Front in Hollywood see Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (London, 1998).
11 On the degree to which television and the press acted as unofficial state propagandists or beat the conservative drum during this period see Bernhard, Television News, and James Aronson, The Press and the Cold War (Boston, MA, 1973).
12 Sayre, Running Time, pp. 31-78; Dore Schary, Heyday (Boston, MA, 1979), pp. 162-3.
13 John Cogley, Report on Blacklisting, 2 vol (New York, 1971; reprint of 1956 edn.); Ceplair and Englund, Inquisition; McGilligan and Buhle, Tender Comrades.
15 On the bloody union battles in Hollywood in the late 1930s and 1940s, which formed an important backdrop to the Red-Scare-era blacklist, see Gerald Horne, Class Struggle in Hollywood, 1930-1950 (Austin, TX, 2001).
16 Ceplair and Englund, Inquisition, pp. 211-16, 258; Sayre, Running Time, pp. 18, 50; May, Tomorrow, pp. 177, 191. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and Tobacco Road (1941), both directed by John Ford and scripted by Nunnally Johnson, had sympathised with poor white farmers suffering at the hands of either bankers or capitalism generally. Ford's films earned considerable respect in Soviet film circles for their ability to raise universal human values. Davies, 'Soviet Cinema', p. 55.
17 Ceplair and Englund, Inquisition, pp. 204, 392; Thomas Doherty, 'Hollywood Agit-Prop: The Anti-Communist Cycle 1948—1954', Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 40, No. 4, Fall 1988, pp. 15-27, esp. pp. 18-19.
18 Navasky, -Naming; Robert Vaughn, Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting (New York, 1972); Walter Goodman, The Committee: The Extraordinary Career of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (New York, 1968). George S. Kaufman's The Senator Was Indiscreet was a gentle satire that spoofed a bumbling and unabashedly corrupt American senator, played by William Powell. Senator Joseph McCarthy called the film 'traitorous', while a representative of the Allied Theatre Owners asserted it would be 'highly recommended by Pravda. See Sayre, Running Time, pp. 54-5.
19 Leab,'The Iron Curtain.
20 Dorothy B. Jones, 'Communism and the Movies: A Study of Film Content', in Cogley, Report on Blacklisting. Vol. 1: The Movies, pp. 215, 282.
21 Russell E. Shain, 'Hollywood's Cold War', Journal of Popular Film, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1974, pp. 334-50, 365-72.
22 On Korean War movies see Julian Smith, Looking Away: Hollywood and Vietnam (New York, 1975), pp. 35-64, and Robert J. Lentz, Korean War Filmography: 91 English Language Features through 2000 (Jefferson, NC, 2003).
23 On these competing judgements see John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, 'The Historiography of American Communism: An Unsettled Field', Labor History Review, Vol. 68, No. 1, April 2003, pp. 61-78.
24 Schrecker, McCarthyism, pp. 16-19.
25 Variety, 10 September 1952, p. 6; Film Daily, 17 February 1958, p. 11; Variety, 11 February 1953, p. 6; New York Times, 25 September 1954, p. 10; Variety, 30 July 1952, p. 6; Film Daily, 12 January 1950, p. 6. The directors of these films were, respectively, Robert Parrish, Harmon C. Jones, Lew Landers, Frank Lloyd, Lew Landers and Mikel Conrad.
26 Variety, 19 September 1949, p. 3; New York Times, 3 May 1951, p. 34; Variety, 27 August 1952, p. 6; Hollywood Reporter, 12 February 1951; Motion Picture Herald, 21 June 1952, p. 1418. The directors of these films were, respectively, Robert Stevenson, Gordon Douglas, Edward Ludwig, William Beaudine and Boris L. Petroff.
27 Variety, 8 April 1953, p. 6; Hollywood Reporter, 15 October 1952, p. 3; Variety, 1 July 1959, p. 7. The directors of these films were, respectively, William Cameron Menzies, William Witney and Alfred Hitchcock.
28 Lawrence Suid (ed.), Film and Propaganda in America: A Documentary History. Volume IV: 1945 and After (New York, 1991), pp. 116-41; Lucas, Freedom's War, pp. 101-3,126.
29 Hollywood Reporter, 22 September 1958, p. 3; Variety, 30 November 1955, p. 6; Time, 29 June 1953; Variety, 20 April 1955, p. 6.
30 Hollywood Reporter, 11 August 1954, p. 3; Variety, 17 December 1952, p. 6; New York Times, 26 December 1951, p. 19; Saturday Review, 28 March 1953.
31 New York Times, 28 April 1950, p. 26; Sayre, Running Time, pp. 151-72.
32 William Johnson (ed.), Focus on the Science Fiction Film (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1972), p. 7; Biskind, Seeing, pp. 123-36.
33 Leonard Quart and Albert Auster, American Film and Society since 1945 (New York, 1991), p. 52; Stuart Samuels, 'The Age of Conspiracy and Conformity: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)', in John E. O'Connor and Martin A. Jackson (eds), American History/American Film: Interpreting the Hollywood Image (New York, 1979), pp. 204-17. On the left-wing views of Body Snatchers' director and scriptwriters see Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner, Hide in Plain Sight: The Hollywood Blacklistees in Film and Television, 1950-2002 (New York, 2005), pp. 72-4.
34 John H. Lenihan, Showdown: Confronting Modern America in the Western (Urbana, IL, 1980), p. 25; New York Times, 6 June 1953; Film Daily, 20 January 1950.
35 David Eldridge, 'Hollywood and History, 1950-1959', PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, October 2001, pp. 127-31.
37 At the same time during this period Hollywood also refurbished the image of pre-Cold War Germany. With West Germany now a vital member of the anti-Soviet alliance, films presented its citizens overwhelmingly as victims of Nazism rather than its accessories. Critic Dwight MacDonald marvelled in 1957 at how segments of the German population in these films were 'transformed from cowardly accomplices of one kind of totalitarianism into heroic resisters of another kind'. Cited in Daniel J. Leab, 'Hollywood and the Cold War, 1945-1961', in Robert Brent Toplin (ed.), Hollywood as Mirror: Changing Views of 'Outsiders' and 'Enemies' in American Movies (Westport, CT, 1993), p. 127.
38 Karel Reisz, 'Hollywood's Anti-Red Boomerang', Sight and Sound, Vol. 22, No. 3, January-March 1953, pp. 132-7, 148; Biskind, Seeing, pp. 3, 162; Daniel J., Leab, 'How Red was My Valley: Hollywood, the Cold War Film, and I Married A Communist, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 19, 1984, pp. 59-88; Leab, 'The Iron Curtairi.
39 Sayre, Running Time; Jowett, Film, p. 368; Shain, 'Hollywood's Cold War'; Caute, Dancer, p. 177.
40 John E. Haynes, Red Scare or Red Menace? American Communism and Anticommunism in the Cold War Era (Chicago, IL, 1996), pp. 179-80.
41 Kenneth O'Reilly, Hoover and the UnAmericans (Philadelphia, PA, 1983), pp. 76-82.
42 StevenJ. Ross,'Introduction', in Ross (ed.), Movies,pp. 7-8;'Communist Infiltration into the Motion Picture Industry', FBI Report submitted 16 February 1943, in Daniel J. Leab (ed.), Communist Activity in the Entertainment Industry: FBI Surveillance Files on Hollywood, 1924-1958, microfilm collection (Bethesda, MD, 1991), 1:10.
43 John A. Noakes, 'Bankers and Common Men in Bedford Falls: How the FBI Determined that It's a Wonderful Life was a Subversive Movie', Film History, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1998, pp. 311-19; O'Reilly, Hoover and the Un-Americans, p. 82; Athan Theoharis, Chasing Spies: How the FBI Failed in Counterintelligence but Promoted the Politics of McCarthyism in the Cold War Years (Chicago, IL, 2002), p. 155. Red Channels first appeared in 1950 as a special report by the magazine Counterattack, which was published by American Business Consultants in New York, a corporation formed by three former FBI agents. The publication was widely used as the basis for unofficial blacklisting within the television and radio industries, and targeted many individuals who also worked in Hollywood.
44 Raymond Fielding, The March of Time, 1935-51 (New York, 1978); Ephraim Katz, The International Film Encyclopedia (Basingstoke, 1998), p. 361; Leab, 'The Iron Curtail, p. 158; Daniel Leab, IWas a Communist for the FBI (University Park, PA, 2000), p. 80.
45 Christian Science Monitor, 30 December 1950; author's correspondence with Borden Mace, 28 March 1998; de Rochement to Nichols, 22 May 1951, Louis de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, American Heritage Centre, Laramie, Wyoming (hereafter AHCW).
46 Hoover to de Rochement, 11 September 1942, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 3, AHCW; author's correspondence with Borden Mace, 28 March 1998; de Rochement-Hood correspondence, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 26, AHCW.
47 A Day with the FBI, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW; author's correspondence with Borden Mace, 28 March 1998.
48 De Rochement-Ford Foundation correspondence, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 20, AHCW; Mace to Paul Lazarus, 6 March 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW. On the Ford Foundation's connections with the US government see Saunders, Who Paid the Piper?, pp. 139—44.
49 'The History of Communism', de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 217, AHCW It is unclear whether this film was completed.
50 De Rochement to Hood, 25 August 1950, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 26, AHCW; author's correspondence with Borden Mace, 28 March 1998.
51 Murphy to de Rochement, 6 June 1950, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, AHCW. Klaus Fuchs was a German-born, British-educated nuclear physicist who in January 1950 confessed to passing top-secret information to the Soviet Union while working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos in 1944—5. In February 1950 he was sentenced in London to fourteen years' imprisonment. Later that year, Harry Gold, a Swiss-born naturalised American who worked at Philadelphia's General Hospital, was sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment for being Fuchs' courier. He in turn implicated a Los Alamos atomic bomb machinist, David Greengrass, who in turn implicated his sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs were the only two American civilians to be executed, in June 1953, for conspiracy to commit espionage during the Cold War. On the publicity these spy revelations excited in the United States see Caute, Fear, pp. 62—9.
52 De Rochement to Hoover, 13 July 1951, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 217, AHCW; author's correspondence with Borden Mace, 28 March 1998. Hoover apparently chose not to take this money, thinking it would damage his reputation if he was seen to be profiting from his position as FBI Director. No such inhibition prevented his sharing with other Bureau officials the proceeds of other ventures, including Masters of Deceit. See Athan Theoharis and John Stuart Cox, The Boss (Philadelphia, PA, 1988), p. 207. Walk East on Beacon was titled Crime of the Century overseas.
53 Bernard F. Dick (ed.), Columbia Pictures: Portrait of a Studio (Lexington, KY, 1992), pp. 15-16; Eldridge, 'Dear Owen', pp. 162-3,180-1; Variety, 15 November 1950, p. 18; Variety, 10 December 1952, p. 6; Hollywood Reporter, 8 May 1953, p. 3.
55 Albert Hemsing, 'The Marshall Plan's European Film Unit 1948-1955: A Memoir and Filmography', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 14, No. 3,1994, pp. 269-97. For more on the Marshall Plan film campaign in Europe in the late 1940s and 1950s see www.marshallfilms.org/mpf.asp (2 February 2006) and www.sellingdemocracy.org (21 June 2006).
56 Louis de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, AHCW. Freeman was the Vice-President of Paramount Pictures, directing studio operations from 1938 to 1959. He also held the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Association of Motion Picture Producers from 1947 until 1966. In 1953, Freeman joined an advisory committee of Hollywood executives and directors, chaired by Frank Capra, to cooperate with the USIA in producing 'healthy propaganda' for overseas consumption, and to screen story material that was potentially harmful to America's image abroad. Hollywood Reporter, 8 July 1953. DeMille was a vastly experienced movie director who in 1953 was appointed as a special consultant to the USIA on cinema. On Freeman's government connections see Eldridge, 'Dear Owen', pp. 168, 186. For more on DeMille see Chapter 4.
57 De Rochement memo, August 1951, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 217, AHCW; Nichols to de Rochement, 16 July 1951, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, AHCW; Mace to Paul Lazarus, Columbia Pictures, 7 April 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW; press release, September 1951, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 217, AHCW; de Rochement memo, 22 March 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 217, AHCW; Mace memo, undated but probably May 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 217, AHCW
58 Applebaum-de Rochement correspondence, February-March 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 217, AHCW.
59 De Rochement inter-office memo, 8 May 1951, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW.
60 Weingarten to de Rochement, 11 July 1951, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 217, AHCW; Breen to Martin Maloney, 17 July 1951, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW
61 Borden Mace-Shirlee Weingarten correspondence, 13 August 1951, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, AHCW; de Rochement to Nichols, 9 July 1951, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, AHCW; Walk East on Beacon Advertising, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 10, AHCW; Nixon in Senate, 26 June 1952, Congressional Record—Appendix, A4240. In 1953-4, Murphy served as Chairman of the Republican National Convention, and in 1964 was elected a Republican Senator in California.
62 Mace to Paul Lazarus, Columbia Pictures, 6 March 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW. On the 1953-6 television series I Led Three
Lives, based on Philbrick's recollections, see Thomas Doherty, Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture (New York, 2003), pp. 140-9.
63 Mace to Leo Jaffe, Columbia Pictures, 20 June 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW; Hoover to de Rochement, 19 March 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, AHCW
64 Borden Mace's suggestion that publicity for Walk East on Beacon should exploit this space theme to tie in with the current vogue for science-fiction movies fell on deaf ears at Columbia. The studio felt it would mislead the audience and detract from Beacon's politically factual format. Mace-Lazarus correspondence, March 1952 de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW
65 Hoover viewed with deep scepticism those films like Gordon Douglas' I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951) which highlighted the role of the Bureau's celebrity super-counterspies over the agency's collective efforts. Leab, I Was a Communist, p. 81.
66 In 1954, the critic Pauline Kael referred to Hollywood's prodigious remodelling of Nazi SS guards as Soviet secret police agents during the period thus: 'The film-goer who saw the anti-Nazi films of ten years ago will have no problem recognizing the characters.' Pauline Kael, I Lost it at the Movies (Boston, MA, 1965), p. 318.
67 Thomas Doherty, 'Frank Costello's Hands: Film, Television, and the Kefauver Crime Hearings', Film History, Vol. 10, No. 3,1998, pp. 359-74.
68 De Rochement to Reverend Robert H. Dunn, 11 April 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, AHCW
69 Variety, 30 April 1952, p. 6; Hollywood Reporter, 30 April 1952, p. 3; New Yorker, 7 June 1952.
70 BoxOffice, 3 May 1952; Cue, 3 May 1952; Motion Picture Herald, 26 April 1952, p. 1329; Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in Mace to Nichols, 22 May 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, AHCW; New York Daily Mirror, 29 May 1952.
71 ADL memo, 7 May 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW; Mundt in Senate, 5 May 1952, Congressional Record, p. 4831; Nixon in Senate, 26 June 1952, Congressional Record - Appendix, p. A4240.
72 Hoover to de Rochement, 3 June 1952, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 49, AHCW.
73 Variety, 7 January 1953, p. 61; J. Raymond Bell to Mace, 28 October 1952, and L. H. Morine to de Rochement, 8 April 1953, de Rochement Collection, 5716, Box 44, AHCW; Sayre, Running Time, p. 91.
74 For a concise overview of this debate see Schrecker, McCarthyism.
75 Walter LaFeber, The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad since 1750 (New York, 1989), p. 453.
76 Only 9 per cent of American households had television in 1950. By 1959, that figure had risen to 85.9 per cent. Cited in Bernhard, Television News, p. 47. On the press see Aronson, Press, esp. pp. 39-102.
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