Nolte: Hollywood and National Media Are Now Justifying the 1950s Hollywood Blacklist

Bleecker Street Media

About 15 years ago, while I was still living in Los Angeles, my wife and I went to a special screening of Spartacus (1960), and not just to see it on the big screen. The real allure was having the classic introduced by its star, Kirk Douglas.

Douglas died almost exactly a year ago at age 103, so he was close to 90 then, and in he strolled, right on time, full of energy and vim. His speech was short and to the point, his speaking voice was slurred due to a 1996 stroke, and his words were crystal clear. He told the capacity crowd that there was nothing in his professional life he was more proud of than his role in breaking the 1950s Hollywood blacklist.

There he was, a bona fide living legend, a man who raised himself from nothing to become one of the silver screen’s biggest stars (when that still meant something), the rare star who was also a successful independent producer, a man who won too many awards to count, who starred in countless classics… And what was he proudest of? Breaking the Hollywood blacklist by giving blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo an on-screen credit for Spartacus.

This is something Douglas had every right to be proud of, and his claim was no boast. He was indeed one of the first, if not the first producer to give a blacklisted screenwriter screen credit. His stand on the issue was the beginning of the end of a terrible era that saw Americans silenced, fired, canceled, ostracized, and destroyed by private companies (studios, sponsors, production companies) over their political beliefs.

From the time of that blacklist, straight through to the year 2015, Hollywood and the media have railed rightly against this era by producing one cautionary tale after another: Just to name a few of the movies…

  • Chaplin (1992)
  • The Front (1976)
  • Guilty by Suspicion (1991)
  • Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
  • Trumbo (pictured, 2015)
  • The Majestic (2001)
  • The Way We Were (1973)
  • The Crucible (1957)
  • The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

That list doesn’t even begin to count the memoirs, novels, TV shows, documentaries, newspaper, and magazine articles.

For decades, Hollywood and the media were obsessed to the point of self-obsession with ensuring this could never happen again, that Americans could never again have their free speech rights destroyed by private companies.

Well, what a difference a few years makes. If you take even a cursory look around, you will now find Hollywood and the national media making arguments in defense of the 1950s Hollywood blacklist.

Just one example is how actor Sacha Baron Cohen has made a cottage industry out of blacklisting President Trump, a man who represents half the country. On top of that, we have, on a nightly basis, Late Night comedians openly cheering the blacklisting of Americans, as well as the idea of making those Americans unemployable. We have so-called journalists openly calling for Trump supporters to be made unemployable and for alternative media voices to be removed from the airwaves and Internet.

But in doing this, by way of their terrible rationales, each of them is now firmly on the side of defending and justifying the 1950s Hollywood Blacklist, and are doing so in a single sentence…

Here’s a perfect example from a far-left Hollywood trade. In a piece published this week, Deadline’s Dominic Patten dismissed and mocked Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and media titan Rupert Murdoch for daring to push back against the open blacklisting of Trump supporters:

Murdoch is more than aware that freedom of speech is not actually something private companies like the social media giants or his own News Corp and Fox Corporation have to guarantee – only governments.

And there it is… that’s the rationale these neo-McCarthyites hide behind… “Private companies” are under no obligation to “guarantee” free speech.

Well, that’s all the 1950s blacklist was — private companies (studios, sponsors, producers) refusing to do business with people who held certain political beliefs they believed to be a danger to America and American democracy. The government had nothing to do with it.

So just like that, after six decades of cautionary tales, the left is now justifying the 1950s Hollywood blacklist, outright defending red-baiting and McCarthyism.

So the next time you watch The Front or The Way We Were or Trumbo or Guilty by Suspicion, remember who the true villains are: not the heroic “private companies” who refuse to work with people whose politics they disagree with, but those who believe there’s something wrong with “private companies” silencing people based on their political beliefs.


Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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