Sixty years ago, Whittaker Chambers’ “Witness,” Ronald Reagan’s favorite book, appeared and garnered the attention of Hollywood producer Walter Wanger. For whatever reason, a cinematic adaption was not made.
It is odd that no major film about the Alger Hiss case was made. The immediate answer is that Hollywood, today dominated by the Left, would view a film about a Soviet spy who had masqueraded as a a New Dealer as the height of political incorrectness.
But that still doesn’t explain everything. There are conservatives in Hollywood have come out of the closet and are major players: Kelsey Grammar (who, with a bit more weight, could make an ideal Chambers), Jon Voight (who has expressed interest in making a film about the case), John Milius (director of “Red Dawn”), Lionel Chetwynd (“The Hanoi Hilton”), Ron Surnow (“24,” “The Kennedys,” which against the prevailing Hollywood consensus, portrayed JFK as a sturdy anticommunist).
All the cinematic themes that Hollywood loves are contained in the case. It was truly a David vs Goliath tale. One lone figure, Chambers, who had the baggage of being a former Soviet spy, was pitted against the establishment. President Truman dismissed the case as “a red herring” and used his Justice Department to try and take the Hiss documents from then-HUAC member Richard Nixon. Future Secretary of State Dean Acheson privately assisted in Hiss’ defense efforts. Supreme Court Justices and future Presidential candidates (Adlai Stevenson) testified on Hiss’s behalf. Even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover attempted to indict Chambers as a former Soviet spy.
Oliver Stone has already made a film with these same themes: “JFK.” He had one figure, Jim Garrison, pitted against the FBI, CIA, a presidential administration, and Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. Like Chambers, Garrison was the target of a government-sponsored smear campaign. A Hiss Case film could be the conservative equivalent of such a film.
There are conservatives in tinsel-town. It remains to be seen now that they are out of the closet if they, like Chambers, will challenge their establishment.