Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television was an anti-Communist document published in the United States at the start of the 1950s. Issued by the right-wing journal Counterattack on June 22, 1950, the pamphlet-style book names 151 actors, writers, musicians, broadcast journalists, and others in the context of purported Communist manipulation of the entertainment industry. Some of the 151 were already being denied employment because of their political beliefs, history, or association with suspected subversives. Red Channels effectively placed the rest on a blacklist.
In May 1947, Alfred Kohlberg, an American textile importer and an ardent member of the anti-Communist China Lobby, funded an organization, led by three former FBI agents, called American Business Consultants Inc., which issued a newsletter, Counterattack.Kohlberg was also an original national council member of the John Birch Society. A special report, Red Channels: the Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television, was published by Counterattack in June 1950. Its declared purpose was to "expos[e] the most important aspects of Communist activity in America each week."
The three founder members were: John G. Keenan, company president and the businessman of the trio; Kenneth M. Bierly, who would later become a consultant to Columbia Pictures; and Theodore C. Kirkpatrick, the managing editor of Counterattack and the group's spokesman. A former Army intelligence major, Francis J. McNamara, was the editor of Counterattack. The introduction to Red Channels, running just over six pages, was written by Vincent Hartnett, an employee of the Phillips H. Lord agency, an independent radio-program production house, or "packager." Hartnett would later found the anti-Communist organization AWARE, Inc.The 213-page tract, released three years after the House Un-American Activities Committee began investigating purported Communist Party influence in the entertainment field, claims to expose the spread – by means of advocacy of civil rights, academic freedom, and nuclear weapons control – of that influence, in radio and television entertainment. Referring to current television programming, the Red Channels introduction declares that
[S]everal commercially sponsored dramatic series are used as sounding boards, particularly with reference to current issues in which the Party is critically interested: "academic freedom," "civil rights," "peace," the H-bomb, etc ... With radios in most American homes and with approximately 5 million TV sets in use, the Cominform and the Communist Party USA now rely more on radio and TV than on the press and motion pictures as "belts" to transmit pro-Sovietism to the American public.
The introduction to Red Channels described how the Communist Party attracts both financial and political backing from those in the entertainment industry:
No cause which seems calculated to arouse support among people in show business is ignored: the overthrow of Francoist Spain, the fight against anti-Semitism and Jimcrow, civil rights, world peace, the outlawing of the H-Bomb, are all used. Around such pretended objectives, the hard core of Party organizers gather a swarm of "reliables" and well-intentioned "liberals," to exploit their names and their energies.
Red Channels served as a vehicle for the expansion of the entertainment industry blacklist that denied employment to a host of artists it considered sympathetic to "subversive" causes, attempted to forestall criticism by claiming that the Communist Party itself engaged in blacklisting, seeing to it that "articulate anti-Communists are blacklisted and smeared with that venomous intensity which is characteristic of Red Fascists alone."
Red Channels listed 151 professionals in entertainment and on-air journalism whom it clearly implied were among "the Red Fascists and their sympathizers" in the broadcasting field.Each of the names is followed by a raw list of putatively telling data, with the sources of evidence varying from FBI and HUAC citations to newspaper articles culled from the mainstream press, industry trade sheets, and such Communist publications as the Daily Worker . For example, under the heading for Burgess Meredith, identified as Actor, Director, Producer—Stage, Screen, Radio, TV, the first three of a total of seven data points read:
Reported as: American Committee Signer of letter. Letter, 10/23/45. for Yugoslav Relief Chairman, Winter Clothing Campaign. Letterhead. 10/23/45. Committee for First Signer. Advertisement in protest of Wash- Amendment ington hearings. Hollywood Reporter , 10/24 47, p.5 Un-Am. Act. in California, 1948, p.210 Coordinating Com- Representative individual. House Un-Am. mittee to Lift the Act. Com., Appendix 9, p.670 Embargo Against Spanish Loyalist Government
Jean Muir was the first performer to lose employment because of a listing in Red Channels. In 1950 Muir was named as a Communist sympathizer in the pamphlet, and was immediately removed from the cast of the television sitcom The Aldrich Family , in which she had been cast as Mrs. Aldrich. NBC had received between 20 and 30 phone calls protesting her being in the show. General Foods, the sponsor, said that it would not sponsor programs in which "controversial persons" were featured. Though the company later received thousands of calls protesting the decision, it was not reversed.
Many other well-known artists were named, including Hollywood stars such as Edward G. Robinson and Orson Welles (who by then, due to tax problems, was in Europe),literary figures such as Dorothy Parker and Lillian Hellman, and musicians such as Hazel Scott, Pete Seeger and Leonard Bernstein. Ex-leftist and HUAC informant J. B. Matthews claimed responsibility for providing the listings; he would also work for United States Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). By 1951, those identified in Red Channels were blacklisted across much or all of the movie and broadcast industries unless and until they cleared their names, the customary requirement being that they testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and name names, which the vast majority refused to do.
One libel lawsuit was filed against Red Channels, by actor Joe Julian, who charged that Red Channels was responsible for his income plummeting from $18,000 the year it was published to barely $1,500 three years later. The case was dismissed on the basis of the tract's care in not making overt claims about specific individuals and its brief disclaimer: "In screening personnel every safeguard must be used to protect genuine liberals from being unjustly labelled."
CBS radio personality John Henry Faulk also sued. Faulk was a favorite target of Hartnett, who proudly proclaimed himself a coauthor of Red Channels. In 1953, Hartnett started AWARE, Inc., an anti-Communist organization with its own bulletin focused on the entertainment industry. The bulletin said that, in the 1940s, Faulk had sponsored a pro-Communist peace rally, entertained at pro-Communist clubs, appeared at Communist front activities, and addressed a "Spotlight on [Henry] Wallace" event in "'the official training school of the Communist conspiracy in New York'" (p. 232). CBS fired Faulk a bit over a year after he filed his lawsuit. In 1962, a jury awarded Faulk $3.5 million in damages. Although the award was later reduced, the verdict marked the effective end of the blacklisting era.
McCarthyism is the practice of making unfounded accusations of subversion and treason, especially when related to communism and socialism. The term originally referred to the controversial practices and policies of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin), and has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting from the late 1940s through the 1950s. It was characterized by heightened political repression and persecution of left-wing individuals, and a campaign spreading fear of alleged communist and socialist influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents. After the mid-1950s, McCarthyism began to decline, mainly due to Joseph McCarthy's gradual loss of public popularity and credibility after several of his accusations were found to be false, and sustained opposition from the U.S. Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren on human rights grounds. The Warren Court made a series of rulings on civil and political rights that overturned several McCarthyist laws and directives, and helped bring an end to McCarthyism.
A Red Scare is the promotion of a widespread fear of a potential rise of communism, anarchism or other leftist ideologies by a society or state. The term is most often used to refer to two periods in the history of the United States which are referred to by this name. The First Red Scare, which occurred immediately after World War I, revolved around a perceived threat from the American labor movement, anarchist revolution, and political radicalism. The Second Red Scare, which occurred immediately after World War II, was preoccupied with the perception that national or foreign communists were infiltrating or subverting U.S. society and the federal government. The name refers to the red flag as a common symbol of communism.
John Henry Faulk was a storyteller and radio show host. His successful lawsuit against the entertainment industry helped to bring an end to the Hollywood blacklist.
Robert Rossen was an American screenwriter, film director, and producer whose film career spanned almost three decades.
Harvey Job Matusow was an American Communist who became an informer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and subsequently a paid witness for a variety of anti-subversion bodies, including the House Un-American Activities Committee, before eventually recanting the bulk of his testimony. These activities led to his own perjury conviction and a prison sentence. His McCarthy era activities overshadowed his later work as an artist, actor and producer.
The Front is a 1976 drama film set against the Hollywood blacklist in the 1950s. It was written by Walter Bernstein, directed by Martin Ritt, and stars Woody Allen and Zero Mostel.
The Committee for the First Amendment was an action group formed in September 1947 by actors in support of the Hollywood Ten during the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). It was founded by screenwriter Philip Dunne, actress Myrna Loy, and film directors John Huston and William Wyler.
Lionel Jay Stander was an American actor in films, radio, theater and television. He is best remembered for his role as majordomo Max on the 1980s mystery television series Hart to Hart.
Margo was a Mexican-American actress and dancer. She appeared in many American film, stage, and television productions, including Lost Horizon (1937), The Leopard Man (1943), Viva Zapata! (1952), and I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955). She married actor Eddie Albert in 1945 and was later known as Margo Albert.
Hannah Weinstein was an American journalist, publicist and left-wing political activist who moved to Britain and became a television producer. She is best remembered for having produced The Adventures of Robin Hood television series in the mid-to-late 1950s.
Laurence A. Johnson was an owner of four supermarkets in Syracuse, New York. Johnson and his daughter Eleanor Johnson targeted film and television people whom he targeted as suspected Communists during the McCarthy Era. Eleanor assisted her father with mimeographing, mailing, and contacts. In 1951, he and his daughter had a talk with the members of the American Legion Post in Syracuse. With the help of the post Johnson and his daughter soon became a force felt throughout radio and television. He embarked on a one-man "Syracuse Crusade" in the 1950s to force television advertisers to cancel sponsorship of programs in which "suspect" actors appeared. Johnson's pressure tactics were a manifestation of McCarthyism and the Hollywood Blacklist. Their tactics cost untold numbers of television and film their jobs and even their entire careers.
Oliver Crawford was an American screenwriter and author who overcame the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy Era of the 1950s to become one of the entertainment industry's most successful television writers. Shows that Crawford wrote for include Star Trek, Bonanza, Quincy, M.E., Perry Mason and the Kraft Television Theatre.
The Hollywood blacklist was the colloquial term for what was in actuality a broader entertainment industry blacklist put in effect in the mid-20th century in the United States during the early years of the Cold War. The blacklist involved the practice of denying employment to entertainment industry professionals believed to be or to have been Communists or sympathizers. Not just actors, but screenwriters, directors, musicians, and other American entertainment professionals were barred from work by the studios. This was usually done on the basis of their membership in, alleged membership in, or even just sympathy with the Communist Party USA, or on the basis of their refusal to assist Congressional investigations into the party's activities. Even during the period of its strictest enforcement, from the late 1940s through to the late 1950s, the blacklist was rarely made explicit or easily verifiable, as it was the result of numerous individual decisions by the studios and was not the result of official legal action. Nevertheless, it quickly and directly damaged or ended the careers and income of scores of individuals working in the film industry.
The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA), popularly dubbed the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and from 1969 onwards known as the House Committee on Internal Security, was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives. The HUAC was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having fascist or communist ties. When the House abolished the committee in 1975, its functions were transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Martin Berkeley was a Hollywood and television screenwriter who collaborated with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950s by naming dozens of Hollywood artists as Communists or Communist sympathizers.
Counterattack was a weekly subscription-based, anti-Communist, mimeographed newsletter, which ran from 1947 to the 1950s and was published by a "private, independent organization" of the same name and started by three ex-Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.
Louise A. Fitch was an American actress best known for her work in old-time radio.
The Fund for the Republic (1951–1959) was ancreated by the Ford Foundation and dedicated to protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties in the United States. In 1959, the Fund moved from New York City to Santa Barbara, California, and changed its name to the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI).
The Joint Committee Against Communism, also known as the Joint Committee Against Communism in New York, was an anti-communist organization during the 1950s.