The Hollywood Reporter addressed then editor-in-chief Billy Wilkerson's role in fomenting a Red Scare in Hollywood, as his son apologizes for his father's fury
The Hollywood Reporter addressed on Monday its role in setting off a Red Scare in the industry 65 years ago, when its then-editor penned a column naming near a dozen alleged communists.
In a lengthy feature story published on the Reporter's site, the trade magazine analyzed its longtime publisher and editor Billy Wilkerson's campaign to expose suspected communists in Hollywood in July 1946.
And Wilkerson's son, W.R. Wilkerson III, apologized in a separate op-ed for what he called Hollywood's "Holocaust."
In his piece, Wilkerson's son said his father, who before founding THR was a producer, felt snubbed by the studio executives and fueled his "maniacal quest" to dethrone them by jumping on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's bandwagon.
The publication also profiled six people whose careers crumbled in the Blacklist's wake — screenwriters Walter Bernstein and Norma Barzman and actors Cliff Carpenter, Lee Grant, Marsha Hunt and Jean Rouverol. A video of the interviews appeared on THR's site Monday (see below).
"This is not an issue that concerns merely a few hundred writers," the elder Wilkerson wrote in his front-page 1946 column, TradeViews. "It concerns millions of readers who must depend upon the free trade of ideas … It concerns still more millions of children — who can't read yet — but who were born with the right to hope for a free world."
In addressing the issue Monday, Gary Baum and Daniel Miller, who share a byline on the story, wrote: "THR's own role in fomenting the Blacklist has long been overlooked: obscured by scholars and, out of shame, for decades never properly addressed in this publication's pages."
"Wilkerson's key advocacy," they wrote, "is at most a footnote in the definitive book-length histories of the period, yet his unsparing campaign, launched early on and from the heart of the movie colony — the front page of one of its two daily trade papers — was crucial to what followed."
"In the wake of this emerging hysteria surrounding communism, the easiest way to crush the studio owners was to simply call their actors, writers and directors communists," Wilkerson's son wrote in his apologoy. "Unfortunately, they would become the collateral damage of history. Apart from being charged with contempt, for refusing to name names, none of these individuals committed any crimes."
The Blacklist branded those like "Spartacus" screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and "Casablanca" co-writer Howard Koch as left-wing communist sympathizers, prompting legal investigations and virtual exile from the movie business during a time when McCarthy was crusading against communist thinkers in the United States.
Wilkerson's son said the 11 men named in the column were caught in his father's crosshairs, and that eight of them were banned from Hollywood because of the article.