The 60th anniversary of one of the entertainment industry’s darkest chapters, the Hollywood blacklist, was recognized here Thursday in a National Press Club event joined by two members of the infamous list, actress Marsha Hunt and screenwriter Walter Bernstein.
“This is not my favorite topic, but it remains an important one,” began Hunt before recalling November 1947, a time when she was a busy 30-year-old actress who had played in some 50 films. Then came a hearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee where the so-called “Hollywood Ten” were held in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions.
Hunt recalled how her promising career came to a screeching halt as she became embroiled in the anti-Communist witch hunt.
The Press Club panel discussion was hosted by the Writers Guild of America. WGA East prexy Michael Winship moderated the discussion and hosted a reception later on Capitol Hill.
Bernstein recalled his experiences of being unexpectedly included in the anti-Communist roundup. Like many writers, Bernstein continued to find work in film and TV using an assumed name. He said “the grotesquery around being blacklisted” required resilience and a sense of humor to endure.
The panel was also joined by Victor Navasky, longtime editor of the Nation and author of the book about blacklisting, “Naming Names.” Navasky and the other panel members agreed that the episode continues to have relevance, especially with current debates over the suspension of civil liberties for national security reasons.
Bernstein said that while the subject of the debate has changed from Communism to terrorism, the need for vigilance remains the same.